Peak(s):  North Star Mtn  -  13,614 feet
Date Posted:  07/27/2014
Date Climbed:   07/26/2014
Author:  rajz06
 If Polaris were a Mountain  

Starting Point: Hoosier Pass (11,500')
Peak Climbed: North Star mountain (13,614')
Route: East ridge
RT Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,600 feet
Group: Solo

Weather forecasts were again rather dicey in all the ranges. Given the 50% chance of thunderstorms, the only way I could safely execute a day hike including the drive would be if I picked a relatively close peak and a short approach, so North Star Mountain in the Tenmile range got the vote. I started the hike from the summit of Hoosier pass, setting off at 8:30 a.m.

Hoosier pass

The 4WD road CR-2 goes all the way to 12,100' leading to the base of North Star's southeast shoulder.

4WD road

I can't imagine hiking up a road is anyone's idea of fun, but the views on this route certainly made up for it. The lush valley to the west dropping into Lincoln amphitheater and the Mosquito 13ers in the distance were a sight for sore eyes.


As the road meandered and passed above the last of the pines, I got a view of Montgomery reservoir behind me to the south.

Montgomery Reservoir

The road ends at the base of a gentle grassy knoll leading to North Star's southeast ridge.

Road ends at this saddle

I followed a broad trail up the grassy hill avoiding the private property to the right in the next picture looking down the mound.

Looking down the grassy knoll

At the top of the grassy knoll, there are two main options shown by the red and blue arrows in the picture below:

Couple of route options

The easier option follows the broad trail (shown in blue) that switches back and forth through tundra and rocky terrain and skirts the lower part of the east ridge before climbing the slope at a later point to gain the ridge. I had already decided that I wanted to gain the ridge at the earliest opportunity just to make things a bit more interesting so I chose the other option (in red) and climbed the boulder field up the southeast shoulder.

Climbing directly toward ridge

The next shot taken halfway up the southeast slope shows my route and the other trail that stays below before climbing to gain the ridge.

Climbing on talus

What isn't obvious in the last shot is that the majority of the elevation gain happens on this slope. Over 800 vertical feet still remained between me and the ridge as I aimed for the highest point on the slope ahead.

Aiming for ridge crest

Grassy terrain

The tundra soon transitioned into rocky terrain and I boulder-hopped up the slope straight toward a large cairn on the ridge.


The next shot looks down the southeast slope from close to the top of the ridge. Both my tracks as well as the trial route that parallels the ridge can be seen.

Looking back down the boulder field

I was soon acquainted with the cairn that adorned the east end of the ridge and I paused here briefly to enjoy the views.

Atop the ridge

Tenmile Range

I hadn't encountered anyone on the hike thus far and that wouldn't change until I was well below the ridge on my descent when I would cross paths with a couple of hikers making their way up. The surrounding fourteeners had clearly taken the lion's share of visitors and that wouldn't be any different on any other day.

What looks like tiny hairs on the back of an elephant are hikers lining up the east ridge to the summit of the most popular of all Tenmile peaks, Quandary.

Quandary will never be lonely

And a similar picture on the summit of Lincoln to the south and the connecting ridge to Cameron.

Visitors atop Lincoln and Cameron

From my vantage point on the ridge, I could see most of the remaining traverse to North Star's summit.

Ridge traverse

The summit is only a couple of hundred vertical feet above this point but the ridge leading to it is over 1.3 miles long and has two saddles in addition to numerous bumps that add to the elevation gain. But there are few things more rewarding to most high country hikers, yours truly included, than an airy ridge traverse.

Airy ridge

Whether there's a trail that can be run or whether there are towers that need to be climbed, the reward is the ridge itself.

Bumps along the way

The next shot looks back on the ridge traverse and shows the route that took by ascending the ridge early versus the trail that meanders up the slope to attain the ridge farther west.

Looking back at my route vs. the trail

The ridge posed no technical challenges; the next shot shows the narrowest section of the ridge which can be climbed head-on.

This is as bad as it gets

The most stable rocks on that section were on the ridge so this was the best option.

Looking back at that section

This was immediately followed by a small rock outcropping that also posed no difficulty as I climbed directly over it.

Staying on ridge proper is a bit more fun

The next shot lends some perspective to how long the traverse to the true summit is.

Still a ways...

I dropped down to another saddle and surveyed the remaining route to the summit.

Remaining traverse

From this vantage point, it was a sheer drop of 1,400 feet to Monte Cristo creek.

That's a drop!

But the upside of an airy ridge is that great views can be had all around without even having to reach the summit.

Another lush valley

Looking ahead, a few more minor bumps needed to be handled before the ridge would mellow out for the final pitch.

A few more bumps to go...

Ridge eases out after this

The summit traverse alone took me a yawning 55 minutes but for once, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I took in more of the views. To the southwest, the gentle Mosquito 13ers formed the backdrop to the beautiful valley in which nestled Wheeler Lake and another small tarn still fed by snow melt.


To the far north, another trio of 13ers belonging to the more rugged Tenmile range - ones I hope to visit later this season.


Just north of my spot, the Tenmile monarch rose above Blue Lakes and the trailhead that is the staring point for the approach to its gnarly west ridge.

Quandary and Blue Lakes

I dropped a little farther west along the ridge to get a closer look at jagged Wheeler Mountain, another one on "the list".

Traverse to Wheeler

The ridge obviously connected to Wheeler and has been traversed successfully by numerous skilled climbers and, I suspect, a few sure-footed four-legged denizens of the high country but this would not be my approach. I do like to live to tell the tale!

I spent about 30 minutes on the summit enjoying the sights while keeping an eye on the clouds that I knew would unleash eventually, just a question of when. For the descent, I stayed on the ridge crest through the initial part and then took the trail to avoid some of the bumps farther down. The best part of my descent was a short glissade on a snow field at the bottom of the southeast slope. I generally hike with a smile but I believe I was grinning ear to ear after this - the icing on the cake!

Glissade Glee

Yours Truly

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Nice report!
07/28/2014 04:04
I did this a few weeks ago and was racing some angry clouds across that lengthy ridge. I thought North Star would be a snoozer, but it was surprisingly scenic, and that rocky ridge is a fun traverse.


07/28/2014 17:53
It's weird to see this popular snow route in dry summer conditions. Still looks fun. Nice work!

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