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Mount Washington: North Ridge

An alpine rock route to a summit smack in the middle of the Central Cascades.

Alpine Climbing Moderate

13 km
925 m
925 m
Low Point
1.4 km
High Point
2.3 km
Mount Washington: North Ridge Map

Mount Washington is a highly eroded volcano of the Central Cascades with an impressive summit. Most of the mountain has been ground away, leaving just its central plug craning toward the sky. This near-vertical pinnacle allows one reasonable route to the top, however, via the mountain’s north ridge. With moderate terrain to a worthy summit, and with relatively easy access, Mount Washington is one of the more popular alpine climbs in the region. Note that a permit is required and must be reserved in advance, per the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system, new in 2021.


The hike begins at Big Lake, then follows the Pacific Crest Trail for some distance before branching off and gaining a ridge of the mountain. A well-worn climbers trail snakes up the ridgeline, bypassing outcrops here and there but more or less following the crest. It’s all straightforward hiking, albeit with lots of boulder hopping, until the base of a blocky gully that leads to a notch in the ridgeline. Some parties choose to rope up here, using large gear or simply slings for protection among the angular boulders.

Once in the notch, assess the next section to find a left-leaning ramp with moderate scrambling and exposure. There may be two ways that look acceptable, but one comes with less exposure than the other. This is perhaps the crux section, and if there’s one place to rope up this is it. Confident climbers may be comfortable leaving the rope packed until the summit, however. Above the ramp, more 4th and easy 5th Class lead up a blocky headwall and through several short chimneys for a few hundred feet. Horns and blocks provide ample placements for slings and medium-sized gear. Note the rappel anchor at one particularly large block, which will be useful on the descent.

The summit is a rock-strewn spine with room to move around, and has one cleared spot with a windbreak. The view of course is phenomenal, of Cascade volcanoes marching on toward the north and south horizons. The descent is by the same route, and most parties choose to rappel at least once on the way down. Bring extra slings to replace any suspect anchors. An important note about Mount Washington is that it’s known for loose rock. Hazard is high all along the upper part of the route, especially with other climbers above or below, so use special caution.

Sources: https://www.summitpost.org/north-ridge/155816 https://www.mountaineers.org/activities/routes-places/mount-washington-north-ridge-oregon



May involve slightly more complex glacier hikes, easy but possibly long rock ridges and steep snow up to 45 degrees. Equivalent to PD, PD+

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Much of the route is difficult to protect and a fall could be disastrous at certain points.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between April and November

Equipment required

  • Quickdraws
  • Wires and Friends

Guidebooks in this area