Tonga Ridge + Mount Finn by Mount Sawyer via Foss River Road / 東加脊

  • Reading time:8 mins read

Tonga Ridge, Mount Sawyer, and Mount Finn border Alpine Lakes Wilderness above Fisher Lake. The former overlooks Deception Creek Valley to the east. Then the latter marks the ridge’s western high point above Foss River.

The final stretch on Tonga Ridge
The final stretch on Tonga Ridge

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Tonga Ridge and Mount Finn at a Glance

Access: NF-6830/310
Round Trip: 11.3 miles
Elevation Range: 3840′-5596′
Gear: snowshoes, microspikes
Route Info: Redwic on SummitPost.org
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

The two times I ran into car problems on the way to a climb, both were on Tonga Ridge. Our first attempt in the dead winter resulted in a losing fight with slush. But thanks to a group of offroaders who dug us out of the mess.

Then four years later, the SUV became stuck in the snow en route to Mac Peak. After hours of digging with an ice ax and Ann’s help, we turned around and went to Mount Sawyer. So today, I was happy not to drive in the snow.

NF-6830/310 junction
NF-6830/310 junction

See more trip photos here.

Foss River Road (NF-68) to Tonga Ridge Trailhead

The bumpy drive was just as long as I remembered. The one big rock on Road 68 was passable; otherwise, it’d be a deal breaker. Then the windfall with a smashed trunk near our starting point on Road 6830 was also avoidable.

Constant snow started right before the 6830/310 fork. I began walking with microspikes for traction but soon switched to snowshoes as the snow softened. We reached the trailhead after 1.5 miles of an uneventful stroll in the clouds.

This way to Tonga Ridge
This way to Tonga Ridge

See more trip photos here.

Tonga Ridge Trail

Beyond the trailhead was a clear path before snow showed up, where we started scrambling. Once on the crest, we followed the trail before it soon faded. Then we walked past the fork to Mount Sawyer over dry ground.

We were able to follow the summer trail despite the snow. Beyond the meadow, the path was snow-free for a while until below Tonga Ridge’s west saddle. Then we left the trail and went up on the west ridge.

Through the snowy meadow
Through the snowy meadow

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Traversing the West Ridge

Because of the snow, traversing the crest was smooth and straightforward. We also didn’t need to contend with outcrops en route. But we’ve missed seeing Beckler Peak and Mount Sawyer on this cloudy morning.

We went out into the clearing from the first ridge bump and soon reached the second knob. Before long, we were going toward the forested summit in reduced visibility. But past the trees was an opening facing the east.

Today's Tonga Ridge crew
Today’s Tonga Ridge crew

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Tonga Ridge Summit Views

Views, what views? There was none! We would likely see Surprise Mountain and Spark Plug Mountain across Deception Creek Valley on a good day. But we only stayed a few minutes before leaving in the whiteout.

An open area below the summit had some big rocks along the edges. There the views would likely include Shroud Mountain and Terrace Mountain. I’d perhaps even see Mount Daniel and Mount Hinman behind them.

The ghostly Mount Sawyer
The ghostly Mount Sawyer

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Outro

Even though Mount Finn wasn’t on the menu, I decided to pay a quick visit. So back at the meadow, we went up the steep incline to the southeast ridge. Then we walked up to the peak with Mount Sawyer’s ghostly silhouette in the mists behind us.

Other than retracing our steps after a pitstop, we didn’t make any more stops. It was a cold day, with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to mid-40s. Then we enjoyed a quiet 1.5-mile walk back to the car.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

See more trip photos here.

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