Johannesburg Mountain 8200 East Ridge via Doug’s Direct / 約翰尼斯堡山

  • Reading time:19 mins read

Johannesburg Mountain above Cascade Pass divides the Cascade River into three forks. It boasts several hanging glaciers and is notable for the northeast buttress. But East Ridge via Doug’s Direct is the least challenging of all known routes.

Johannesburg Mountain from the Mixup Notch
Johannesburg Mountain from the Mixup notch

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Johannesburg Mountain at a Glance

Access: Cascade Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: 10.8 miles (14.5 miles from the trailhead)
Elevation Range: 3480′-8200′
Gear: helmet, microspikes, rope
Route Info: Jim Brisbine @ trailcatjim.com
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

The Preface

I saw Johannesburg Mountain eight years ago under a blanket of December snow. At the time, friends and I tried going up Cascade Pass, though we never made it. But over the years, I’d marvel at the mountain from other places.

I returned to Cascade Pass after a long day on Booker Mountain and slept by a tiny pool. At night, I awoke to find clouds in the area. But knowing it’d be sunny for the days ahead, I went back to sleep.

Morning reflections
Morning reflections

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Johannesburg Mountain

My partners, Sue and Andy, and I tried climbing the mountain two weeks ago. But we came out on day two because of the terrible weather. Sadly, it was one of the few places on my list still accessible this season.

Since Booker Mountain and Johannesburg Mountain are “almost” neighbors, I wanted to try climbing both to avoid repeating Cascade Pass. After reviewing my limited options, I used the long weekend for this outing.

Johannesburg Mountain in the clouds
Johannesburg Mountain in the clouds

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Cascade Pass to Mixup Notch

I avoided the 3.7-mile walk from the car by staying on the pass. Then at 7 AM the next day, I started hiking to Cache Glacier as the sky cleared. If everything worked out, I could reach the top by sundown and bivvy.

After crossing the broad gullies, I was at the glacier’s edge. Then I traversed the slabs to the key gully and went up the broken ledges on the right. Soon, I took a break on Mixup notch and began the grueling drop on the south.

Ode to Johannesburg Mountain
Ode to Johannesburg Mountain

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5800′ Buttress Bypass

I was optimistic about the weather despite hovering clouds. Compared with the weather two weeks ago, it was like night and day. Back then, we saw nothing, but Johannesburg Mountain was in full view today.

Like before, the annoying talus and slick heather awaited my arrival. Only this time, I didn’t go as low before going to the rock steps by the buttress. Then I dropped to 5800′ more quickly via the ledges. But first, blueberries!

Heading for Johannesburg Col
Heading for Johannesburg Col

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En Route to 6760′ Johannesburg Col

I was low on water but glad that the tiny stream was still intact. So I filled the bottle before going up to the 6200′ camp. Then I took time to savor the stunning south view, knowing we couldn’t see any of it.

I didn’t bring crampons, knowing I could bypass the snow via the rocks. But as I walked up the annoying scree, I knew the gear could’ve helped a great deal. Soon, I left my poles and microspikes on the col–big mistake.

South view from Johannesburg Col
South view from Johannesburg Col

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Johannesburg Mountain East Face to East Gully

The east face had many solid holds over the steep terrain. From there, I had the surreal sighting of Cascade River Road. Seeing the anchor atop the rocks was a relief. Then I carefully traversed sideways over the heathered ramp.

I went straight up through more slick terrain from the end of the ramp. Soon, I saw the snow patch landmark above the talus. From there, I hugged the cliffs to keep sliding and entered the east gully for the actual climb.

Heading up the east gully
Heading up the east gully

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East Gully to East Ridge

This part was quite tiring, and some places felt vertical. Luckily, the excellent rocks in the gully let me go up in a straight line while avoiding the bad ones. Soon, I passed an anchor halfway up the route that’d be my second rappel spot.

Atop the gully was another anchor that’d be my first rappel spot the next day. As I went above the impressive deep dike to the north, I glanced into the Cascade River drainage. Then I turned to make my way up to the snow ramp.

The key snow finger
The key snow finger

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White Rock Gully to False Summit

Soon, I side-traversed on steep, hard dirt to reach the snow. I stayed high, worked through the shallow moat, then filled my bottle with tiny drips. But I had hoped for more snow between the two summits to fill the pouch for the night.

This part was another arduous effort, but it had solid holds like the east gully. Decent rocks constantly served up to reach the 8040′ false peak. Soon, joy overcame me when the actual summit was within my grasp after these years,

Johannesburg Mountain's summit awaits
Johannesburg Mountain’s summit awaits

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Johannesburg Mountain East Ridge

The ridge traverse was about to become sketchy in the clouds. I went down to the snow atop the steep north slopes from the false peak and melted some for tonight. Later, I bypassed the steep terrain by climbing over the ridge bump.

I checked out the photos from a report from the notch and looked for the ramp on the south side. Mostly, I followed what looked like a footpath there. Soon, I went in and out of numerous ribs and gullies in the mists.

Creepy traverse south of the crest
Creepy traverse south of the crest

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Going up the Wrong Summit

Cairns showed up midway, and I went up several tricky spots with class 4 moves. I sometimes moved up and down to bypass cliffs with an overall elevation gain and loss of 30 feet. But it would’ve been more enjoyable on a clear day.

The rocks improved farther west. Soon, I saw the deep gully with the summit above it, and I went on top after some tricky moves. But the excitement soon diminished when something taller loomed in the misty west. “F**k, the summit.” then I left shortly.

The real high point in the mix
The real high point in the mix

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Johannesburg Mountain Summit Euphoria

In the mists, I neared the peak after going through more ribs. The ditch here was much more profound and broader, and I bypassed it from the top. One final challenging move and I was on the breezy summit one hour before sunset.

I was euphoric as the clouds lowered; it felt good to unload everything. Then one glance around, I saw several bivvy sites. It’d been blowing south wind, so I picked the spot north of a big rock that looked the most comfortable.

Johannesburg and me
Johannesburg and me

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The Evening Flow

The stunning evening lights had strewn across the sky above. By sunset, the clouds assembled to the west as they shifted around. But the best part was seeing the sun on the horizon after a hazy approach.

The last time I slept on top of a peak was on Goode Mountain. But I’d forgotten the exhilaration of being above all the chaos below. Soon, the sky had turned cloudy under the last light.

Kodak moment on Johannesburg Mountain
Kodak moment on Johannesburg Mountain

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A Night on Johannesburg Mountain

I awoke a few times before midnight to find an overcast sky. But at 1 AM, as if on command, all the clouds had suddenly dropped onto the valley floors. Yippee, it was a starry night at last!

Glad there were no rodents here. After photographing the stars, I fell asleep to the sounds of a few planes and had a restful night. But I couldn’t wait to see what the following day had in store.

Johannesburg Mountain's dreams
Johannesburg Mountain’s dreams

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A Beautiful Morning on Johannesburg Mountain

Well, hello, my sweet Cascades! Even though it was tough to get up this morning, I wiggled out of the sleeping bag before sunrise. Clouds stayed in the valleys while it was nearly bluebird up high.

O.M.G.! Eldorado Peak, Forbidden Peak, Mount Torment, Goode Mountain, Booker Mountain, Spider Mountain, and Spire Point were breathtaking. But where even to begin the name-that-peak game?!

NCNP panoramic view
NCNP panoramic view

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Leaving Johannesburg

The views were ever so gorgeous, and the air smelled remarkably fresh. I left the top at 8 AM, one hour behind schedule like always. Then from the false summit, I downclimb in the white gully using the solid holds.

Meanwhile, stunning views constantly shifted around me as I moved from place to place. I retraced my steps down by the moat through the hard dirt above the dike. Soon, I was atop the east gully by the belay station.

Southeast panoramic view
Southeast panoramic view

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Returning to Johannesburg Col

Two 60m rappels in the gully brought me down to the more manageable terrain. Soon, I retraced my steps to the heather ramp and the anchor. Then I downclimbed class 3-4 rocks to the Johannesburg Col. BIG whew!

Ugh, whatever, you animals! Rodents had stopped by after I left behind the trekking sticks and microspikes. So they chewed through the wrist straps on the brand new poles. They even nibbled on the rubber harnesses on the spikes.

View of Middle Cascade Glacier and peaks
View of Middle Cascade Glacier and peaks

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Outro

After finishing the hard part, it was just a long way to return to Cascade Pass. But en route, I stopped several times to enjoy the field full of blueberries and savor the incredible landscape. Ugh, I effing love this place.

I looked up at Johannesburg Mountain below Cascade Pass. Then I asked myself the age-old question: “Did I just come from there?!”. Later, I met two out-of-town visitors and chatted our way back to the parking lot.

Thanks for a memorable and rewarding trip
Thanks for a memorable and rewarding trip

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jefferson

    Looks amazing!

  2. Laurel G.

    John – Beautiful trip and spectacular photos! I am glad the weather turned out great, despite brining in the fog when you needed clear views of the route. That bivy looks amazing. I loved looking at the photos of the other peaks in the morning sunlight.

  3. onehikeaweek

    Thanks, Laurel. It’s a beautiful area, indeed!

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