Katsuk Peak (8680')
Mesahchie Peak (8795')
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Climbing anything along ragged ridge is committing and I would implore people to think of it as such. When I set out to climb Mesahchie Peak and Katsuk Peaks I blew off other reports as exaggerated and I paid the price. It is one of the worst ridge-lines I have walked in my life and one I will never be taking on again. If that does not scare you away, and you have obtained your backcountry permit, then read on.
From the top of Easy Pass, follow the trail down to the end of the first switchback. From here you will see a faint climbers trail that leads off onto Ragged Ridge. It is hard to spot, but at the end of that first switchback, you will want to head off-trail whether you see it or not.
I wish I could give other climbers a pleasant description of the route down Ragged Ridge. You know the typical “turn left here, look for this marker there” kind of description. But, the best I can tell you is to figure it out. As you work along the ridge there will be one gulley after another. They are all filled with loose rock and require some sort of scrambling to navigate.
One or two spots I encountered were class 4. Most of the gullies were more like a 2 or 3. Work along the ridge and aim for the obvious basin below Mesahchie peak. I wish you luck in the endeavor. Even the other party I encountered once I was in the basin had found a completely different route than me. Their report was no better than what I had experienced. So, if you go, expect the worst and hope for the best…
Once you have made it to the basin the camping available is excellent. There are only two workable sites I could find, but, the permitted capacity reflects this lack of flat ground. The best part of the first day was setting up my tent. Realizing the view from camp and the solitude of this place is magnificent. It made me smile for the first time in hours. Of course, looking up the hill at my two objectives for the day quickly dampened my spirits.
My first goal was to take on Katsuk Peak. From camp, there is a clear route to the small pass below it. I headed off to find that the fun of Ragged Ridge does not end. All the way up to the pass is covered with even more loose rock making for a long way to the base of the peak. By the time I reached the start of the route, I was starting to question my own sanity. Looking uphill I could see that the day held, you guessed it, more very loose rock.
The scrambling of Katsuk Peak was not that difficult. However, the sharp rock and the fact that everything is loose makes some class 3 moves feel like a 4 or 5. There is no obvious path and you will need to find your own. I did encounter a few cairns but they did little to mark a trail. Instead, seeing them served as a reminder to me that someone else had been here.
If you come up here, know your route finding skills. Be comfortable with some very steep scrambling on loose rock. The climb of Katsuk Peak was not for the faint of heart. I am glad I made it, but, before leaving the summit block I questioned whether doing Mesahchie on the same day was a reach. After staring at its flanks for 30 minutes I decided it was going to happen and headed for it.
From the summit of Katsuk, the west flank of Mesahchie Peak looks near vertical. Studying it from afar I resolved that several of the gullies on the right-hand side are the best bet. With that in mind, I headed for the traverse between the two peaks.
As I approached, the optical illusion of the peak changed dramatically. I was relieved to find the gullies on Mesahchie Peak to be far easier to scramble than they appear. Though if you are going, do keep in mind easier is a comparison. Between these two peaks, I would take the sides of Mesahchie Peak over Katsuk Peak any day. The gulley is still incredibly loose and every handhold requires testing. Yet, Katsuk was worse hands down.
My favorite part of the day was the final ridge line at the top of Mesahchie Peak. It has a huge amount of exposure, is very narrow, and was the only time in the day where the climbing felt fun.
If I am being vague about a lot of this climb, I have done so intentionally. If you don’t have route-finding skills or high-level scrambling skills you do not belong on these peaks. If you do, then you will figure it out like I did. Best of luck if you try, and, in all seriousness think safety first. The rock up here is dangerous. The scrambling is tough because of the rock quality. The ridge is a monstrosity that I hate now.
I will add that I had intended to make the trek all the way down the ridge to Kimtah and Cosho. But, after walking about halfway to Kimtah I realized how little fun I was having. For this reason, I abandoned the route and went home for a beer. I will come back for the other two but will use the Fisher Creek Approach. Nothing can be worse than that ridge. The waterfall route sounds inviting in comparison.