I have explored the Alpine Lakes Wilderness a fair amount over the last 10 years that I have managed to make it up some of the popular peaks. Ingalls is considered an easy peak and the Mountaineers club regularly takes large groups of beginners up the South Ridge of the North Peak. The climb is 3 pitches and rated 5.4. I figured it was time to cross this one off and there were no Mountaineers trips scheduled for the weekend so it looked like a go.
I drove down to Seattle Friday to meet my girlfriend, we packed up her car and drive out I90 to Cle Elum where we turned off onto the Teanaway Road. This area is very popular with Washington hikers and there are lots of campsites along this road. After bumping down the potholed road almost to the end we find a campsite for the night and turn in early, planning an early start hoping to avoid crowds on the climb.
After getting over the shock of being torn from my deep sleep at 5am, I curse modern society and their rigidness about time. (I made a personal pledge at the beginning of the year to stop using an alarm clock, this is the second violation). We pack up our tent, eat some food and drive the last short bit to the trailhead. 30 cars here, with 8 being Subaru(it's a Washington thing). Shoulder our packs and start hiking. Annie has been here before several times and I did this trail once almost 10 years ago when I climbed Mount Stuart, so we know the way.
Immediatly I notice it is hot and very dry here. In typical Washington style the trail is wide, mostly smooth and climbs gradually. I find these trails a little boring and my mind drifts until we arrive at Ingalls Pass. We traverse around the basin passing a few tents and people in various morning activities.
Pic 1: Morning light on Esmeralda Peak
Pic 2: Some of the MANY goats in the basin, they are not scared of people at all.
The trail has many options as we traverse but we keep going and arrive just above Ingalls Lake and get a view up to the climb. Annie even sees a party already up there.
Pic 1:Ingalls Lake
Pic 2:Looking up at Ingalls South, North and East peaks left to right, North peak the highest
Pic 3: Looking up the slabs and snow that we have to scramble to reach the base of the climb, the climb starts right of the "dogtooth" rock in the saddle.
We scramble up the rock and snow aiming for the dogtooth, there are a few tracks in the snow that we can follow. The snow is very firm but passable without crampons. We make the base of the climb just as the second climber from the other party starts up. Its quite clear that she is inexperienced. We gear up for our climb taking our time to let the other party get ahead a bit. I tie into the end of a 8mm half rope and start scrambleclimbing up the crack in the slab, only pausing once to throw a #2 camalot in the crack. I reach the top of the slab and the angle eases a little and Annie lets me know there is plenty of rope left so I run it out almost the full 60m to a large block with many rappel slings around it. I put Annie on belay and bring her up, then wait around a bit while the other party works their way up pitch 2.
Pic 1: Me belaying from the top of pitch 1.
Pic 2: The view back to the saddle.
Annie decides since she has led this whole climb several times in the past that I can lead the whole thing so I slowly start up pitch 2. I sew up this pitch by placing 1 cam and 1 nut. The girl is still at the pitch 2 anchors so I hang out in a small scoop in the rock while she clears her anchor and starts up. I hop up to the ledge and clove hitch into the bolts and bring Annie up. Now the other party has finished the climbing and are hiking up the last bit to the summit so I climb up pitch 3. Having only brought 4 cams and 1/2 a set of nuts I don't have the right size to protect where I want so I overcam a .5 camalot and head for the anchors. The last move before I pull over the top is the hardest on the climb but still quite easy. Annie starts up then pauses at the cam for a while. Then she asks " do I have another of this size at home?" Not a good sign, I knew the cam was tight but I don't want to leave it behind. Annie works for a while and manages to work the lobes with her nut tool and frees the cam. She's shorter than me and has to work a little harder to do the last moves but still easily climbs over the top. We untie and hike the last little ways to the summit.
Pic 1: Me on the summit
Pic 2: Looking down on Ingalls Lake
Pic 3: A friendly neighbourhood volcano
A quick snack, a few photos and we see more parties heading to the climb and as the descent is rappelling the climb we want to get off before they are on the route. Down pitch 3 to the bolts, pull the rope and it gets stuck in the crack. I reach over with the rope and give the rope a big whip and it luckily comes out easy. Pitch 2 rappel we know is the going to be tricky as it is a 35m rappel and the rope will only get us 30m. I go first and the end of the ropes puts me on a bit of a ledge just above easy terrain. I wait while Annie rappels then spot her as we downclimb the last 5 meters. Then 2 more easy rappels and we are back at our packs just as the next party starts up the climb.
A bit of bootskiing for me down the snow while Annie plungesteps down, back down the slabs to the lake where we refill our water bottles and take another food break. Then down the neverending trail, passing many people back to the car and we`re done. I counted 85 cars in the lot and down the road on our way out, this is a busy area!! A great day out even if the climbing was easy.