Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  07/21/2012
Date Climbed:   07/20/2012
Author:  Hungry Jack
 Democrat North Ridge  

Smokey and I summited Mt. Democrat via its north ridge from Montgomery Reservoir on July 20. I will post a few pics soon.

We started from the reservoir lot below the mill at 7am, and reached the summit at 11:30am. Thankfully the monsoon eased and we enjoyed clear skies the entire trip.

The jeep trail route up to the approach ridge running northeast off Point 13460 on the Democrat/Traver saddle is easy enough to follow. Once we hit the end of the jeep trail around 12,500, we took a line that followed ridge, well to the left of the drainage from the upper basin. We gained altitude quickly, but were soon rewarded with a lengthy slog through talus and boulders as we hugged the ridge. It might have been easier to follow the drainage up.

The approach to Point 13460 required 3 hours--an hour more than expected. Being on the north ridge energized us, and soon we were facing the "fin" tower from the first notch and trying to pick a line. I think the middle line of the three for ascending the tower looked the best, but we decided to skirt the tower to the west as we were unfamiliar with this route and what lay behind the fin.

Rounding the base of the tower brought us to the gully with the "bridge stone" wedged over it. We ascended the gully about 25 ft, and then Smokey led the way by ascending a hole under the bridge stone that put us back on the ridge.

Not much later we encountered the large black slab that descends a good 50ft from the ridge. I knew there was a ledge high on the slab, but I could not spot it. We opted for safety and descended and traversed the base of the slab.

Most of our route after this involved a climbing traverse on the west side of the ridge. It soon became clear that there was much less talus and better rock just off the ridge crest, so we stayed high on the ridge as we made our way to the mine ruins.

The climber's trail was a welcome reprieve from loose rock, and we followed it until the final wall just below the summit, where a simple 8ft climb brought us face to face with about 20 hikers from Kite Lake.

We descended the Democrat/Bross saddle. From the north ridge we had spied a climber's trail traversing the face, and thought it would be our best option (we had also considered descending via the Lincoln Amphitheater). After following this trail a bit, we decided another climber's trail to our left that took a direct line down the gully looked more promising as it offered the chance to "ski" some scree and gravel.

The descent from the saddle was a chore, but within an hour we were down in the upper basin and traversing grassy slopes toward the jeep road. Inevitably we had to cross a wall of willows near the creek. But some fortuitous route finding soon had us across the creek and back to the turnoff where the side jeep trail leaves the main jeep trail that heads up to Wheeler Lake.

From that point, it was 2.5 miles to the trailhead with the sun pounding us from above. We soon caught up with a parade of jeeps that were descending the trail. It was obvious that we could walk faster than these vehicles could negotiate the rocks, and we all got a laugh when we passed the jeeps about a mile from the trailhead.

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