Rock Mountain by Mount Howard on Nason Ridge via Highway 2 / 石山

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Rock Mountain is the second tallest peak on Nason Ridge after Mount Howard, before Labyrinth Mountain. Of the two standard routes, the Highway 2 trail rises more steeply at 1300′ per mile. But it’s the more scenic way to the top in all seasons.

Rock Mountain of Nason Ridge up ahead
Rock Mountain of Nason Ridge up ahead

See more trip photos here.

Rock Mountain at a Glance

Access: Rock Mountain Trailhead
Round Trip: 6.6 miles
Elevation Range: 2640′-6840′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

It’s our final holiday scramble before returning to work and before high avalanche danger goes into effect. Our previous trips on Rock Mountain had taken place in the summer months and late fall. So it was our first winter ascent here.

The mountain makes an excellent winter scramble for seeking solitude. Ski tracks, when available, are helpful as skiers draw long switchbacks on steep terrain. And more often than not, they skin up to the top also.

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Rock Mountain Trail

Today I parked at the Highway 2 pullout west of the stop sign, below the summer parking. Despite the low temperatures, we started in sunny weather under a clear sky. It would go as low as 10°F in the shade.

The recent foot traffic allowed me to put on snowshoes below the start of summer trail at 3000′. The pups and I then followed days-old tracks up the steep terrain. We later reached the 4800′ shoulder on partly continuous snow.

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Point 5490

Snowshoe tracks dwindled there, but ski tracks continued up the ridge west of Schilling Creek. By then, the temperature had gone up to the low 30s. Thanks partly to the north wind, the mountain’s south side was very calm.

Bypassing Point 5490 outcrop from the east on steep snow was tricky. An ice ax would benefit, but mine stayed on my pack. Only the top of the mountain was visible. But I mistook south peak for the actual summit every time.

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The Final Stretch

At 5900′, the summer trail would usually go north to 6200′ before turning west. Then it’d make its way toward Rock Mountain’s south peak. But we cut northwest through the peak’s east ridge at 6300′.

Soon, we went across the east slopes and skipped the Nason Ridge Trail fork. Then we went up to the south ridge at 6640′. Shortly, we finished with a short walk west of the ridgeline away from cornices.

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Rock Mountain Summit Views Plus Exit

It switched to the west wind in the afternoon. The average temperature stayed around 35°F, above the freezing point. High clouds gave us great views everywhere except to the northeast.

We spent an hour on top while avoiding the wind behind a big snow pile. Plunge-stepping was possible because of the fresh powder. So going down took less than half the time to reach the top.

See more trip photos here.

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