While climbing the East Couloir of Mt Mills with Ken, I couldn't ignore how much snow still covered the North Face of Mt Dade (13,600'). It looked fantastic, and I knew the Face was best climbed in early summer conditions. So I recruited my friend Paul to come back for a day-trip, and on Saturday, 26 June, we left the house early and headed up to Rock Creek.
The trail up to Ruby Lake went by quickly, and we used crampons and ice axes to make quick time across the snow to Mills Lake and the Abbot-Dade Basin.
We picked the North Couloir for our climb, an aesthetic line that climb the right side of the North Face to a deep notch between the Cat's Ears. From there, according to the guidebook, it was 4th class. Climbing the couloir was straightforward, but we were sinking up to our belts in the soft snow. After the bottle-neck we found firm snow in the wet-slide chute that had formed, which allowed us to make quick time to the Notch.
Above the notch we failed to take a lot of photos. First we tried what looked like the most obvious line - a corner system maybe 35 feet tall that lead from the furthest end of the notch up and over a south-side rib. It felt a lot more like 5th class, and at the top we found a rappel anchor. We tried to down-climb into the sandy gully, but the climbing quickly exceeded Paul's and my individual comfort zones. So we tried climbing up from the rappel anchor with the same result. Perplexed, we started back down to the notch.
I reached the ground first and as I waited for Paul I noticed a sweeping ramp that lead up and left - across the opposite side of the ridge that we had been attempting. I figured it couldn't hurt to try it out, and 100' turned the corner. "Paul!! This is It!!" I called down to my partner - I could see across 3rd class terrain to the summit!
Another short 4th class step (again, on the left side) left the ridge and gained the summit tower. We took time to enjoy the view, snap a lot of photos, and sign the register before we headed back to the notch the way we climbed up. Rather than down-climb the couloir, we looked for away to get around the other Cat's Ear to reach the Abbot-Dade Col. A 3rd/4th class ledge traverse across the north side and reached the western ridge, where 2nd/3rd class ledges led down to the col. Plunge stepping and glissading got us back down to the basin.
Rather than traverse over a mile in knee-deep snow to Ruby Lake, we decided to take advantage of the deep snow and glissade down to Treasure Lakes, where we could find the old, unmaintained trail back to Long Lake, and continue down the main trail to the car. It had been a great day out!