North ramp has been on my radar for a while, and this season I wanted to finally climb it. Luckily, in a car ride back from some other VOC trip, Thomas Morrissey also mentioned that he wanted to do it. It was only natural to join forces. It was still early December, so we needed to wait for the route to come in.
Naturally, we couldn’t wait very long, and on December 16th, we thought we had a shot at it. There had been some snow in the past few weeks, and the avy forecast was looking decent. Admittedly, it was very early season and nobody in the Facebook groups had reported being up there. But, we decided to have a go anyways and see how high we could safely get. When we got to the trailhead that day, there was a little bit of wet snow coming down. Enough to want to put on your shell, but not enough to actually do it. Not being too bothered by the snow, we made short work of the approach and geared up. The snowpack was a bit thin, but the important bits seemed to be covered.
The lower part of the ramp was uneventful besides a short ice step. But the ice was good, and we got over it without too much trouble other than some cold fingers. The early season conditions really started showing when we got to a third of the way up though. We came to a fork with a rock band on the right, and a tighter, but filled in gulley on the left. Neither of us had actually climbed the ramp before, and the GPS track looked like it veered a touch left, so that’s where we went. Thomas broke trail at lightning pace and within 30 min he had reached a flat part near the top of the gulley. His observations were rather grim: cliffs on all sides. No other option but to downclimb. Once we reached the fork, we surmised that we should have gone right, over the rock band – a grim task in itself. After poking around for a few minutes, we couldn’t find an easy way up. Not being eager to practice our mixed climbing, the decision was to retreat for now.
By late January, the season was not so early. We saw a weekend where freezing levels were forecast to drop and avalanche conditions were green across the board. We decided to give it a shot that Sunday. This time the ramp looked much better.
Everything was filled in, and someone had already set a track the previous day. We geared up and started climbing. Conditions were perfect. There was no ice step anymore, and the rock band was well covered. We made fast progress with another party hot on our tail.
We were in no rush though, so we took lunch on a flat step before the infamous traverse. We had brought a rope and were ready to protect the traverse. But, it didn’t look that bad when we got to it, so we decided to solo.
After that, there was only a short, partially treed section remaining. If anything, this was the crux for me because my picket got caught on a branch and I had to work to untangle it. The branch was quickly defeated and soon we were at the top, where we were treated to panoramic views of the north shore mountains.
We basked in the sun and had some snacks before working our way down the trail. The way down was mostly uneventful, but extremely icy near the snow line. This prompted me to put my crampons back on, only to take them off five minutes later. After that, we got back to the car without too much trouble. The conditions on our climb had been absolutely perfect. The day was an extremely satisfying conclusion to our North Ramp saga.