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|Weather||Bits of everything|
|Mailed to WacList||08/29/2007|
Einar (a non-WACer I met through Joe Sambataro) and I climbed the full North Ridge of Stuart last weekend, approaching from and descending the N side. We’d both done the upper NR route last year, but the prospect of fondling 2,600 vertical ft of stellar granite on the full ridge drew us back to Stuart again.|
If you want to avoid the following long-winded TR, here are the pics:
We drove to the Stuart Lake TH Friday night and, after a brief but comfy TH bivy in Einar’s van, hit the trail around 4:20am. The N side approach to the base of Stuart’s NR is very reasonable. There are some minor navigational challenges when you cross boulder fields after leaving the Stuart Lk trail at the first switchback, but we were able to reach the ridge base in about 4 hrs of hiking at a moderate pace. There’s water near the ridge base, too, so we began the approach w/ only 1 L apiece – less weight to carry!
At the base we ate a bit and topped-off our water – 3L each. This was enough for us given the cool temps we were climbing in, but if you’re expecting hot weather prepare to melt snow or suffer; our next water stop would be on the descent from Sherpa Pass (about 2pm the next day). We decided not to bring a stove, so melting snow wasn’t an option.
Einar started up the first pitch, which has a fun but awkward 5.8 slot, at 9am. The second pitch is an excellent 5.8-9 thin hand crack. You can bypass it on 5.6-7 terrain to the right, but you’d be missing a great pitch! We belayed one more short pitch of easier climbing, then halved the rope and switched to simul-mode. Unfortunately Einar was bonking a bit at this point (he hasn’t found a trail food that inspires him to keep eating while on the go). The upside for me was I got to lead the simuling all the way up to the mid-ridge notch (the start of the upper NR route)!
We reached the mid-ridge notch around 12:30, and Einar was feeling even worse. He had serious doubts about his ability to keep up a pace that would get us to the summit before dark, which would set us up for a hideously long day on Sunday. He wondered out loud if we should bail, but I was able to convince him to eat, rest a bit, and sack up!! The prospect of bailing to a descent of the Stuart Glacier w/o axes or crampons seemed a lot worse than finishing up the NR by headlamp. We just needed to get past the crux gendarme pitches before dark . . .
I started us off on the next simul-thon about 1pm. As we’d both done the upper ridge before, navigation wasn’t an issue (the route on the upper ridge is pretty obvious anyway!). At last Einar started feeling a bit better, and asked to take over the helm for the last section of simuling up to the gendarme, which we reached around 2:30pm. Things were looking up!
We briefly rested and ate at the gendarme, but clouds were rolling in and the temp was dropping significantly at this point – we didn’t dally to long. We decided to haul our packs on the two gendarme pitches – I lead up on the center of the rope, clipping one half and trailing the other for the haul line. Luckily I like the first gendarme pitch; I got to climb it a second time when I realized I’d left my helmet at the base – doh!!
I’d hoped that Einar would be feeling up to the second gendarme pitch – his huge hands (he’s ~ 6’4”!) deal w/ its off-width much more effectively than the rattly fist jams that I get. Unfortunately he was still feeling off-kilter, so I thrutched my way up it, sobbing for Mamma all the way. I brought up the packs and belayed Einar up, and he led the final 5.8 pitch to the top of the gendarme.
The weather had definitely taken a turn for the worse at this point, but we knew we’d make it to the summit by dark as it was only about 5pm now. We put on all our clothing and I set off for the final stretch of simuling to the summit.
We reached the summit about 7pm, shortly after ice crystals began blowing around and settling on the rock. After a brief summit photo shoot we settled into a perfect bivy nook just below the summit (where the register is kept, in fact!). I highly recommend this bivy spot – especially if you luck out and have good weather! Luckily for me Einar planned ahead for a quality bivy and was willing to share. Left to my own devices I’d have been choking down yet another energy bar, but we feasted like kings on Einar’s smoked mussels, sardines and cheap Canadian whisky. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
We soon fell asleep, hoping to get an early start on our descent in the morning. Stuart wouldn’t let us out that easy, though. We woke around 6am in thick clouds, with a 1/4” layer of snow/graupel on us and all the rock around. Damn. We remained huddled in our bivy sacks, hoping the weather would break a bit as forecasted, but finally gave up on this fantasy at 8:30.
It was an effort to remove ourselves from warm sleeping bags, but we began our slow descent into the gloom about 9am. The descent off the summit was a bit tedious. Our plan had been to follow the standard descent into the Cascadian Couloir (traverse under the false summit and descend the snowfield below it). But between the poor visibility and snow-glazed rock we got off track and had to do a couple quick dulfersitz raps before we finally entered the Cascadian.
Once we were in the Cascadian visibility improved and our path got back on track. We descended to maybe 6,300 ft (?) on the Cascadian, then began an Easterly traverse to get to Sherpa Pass. The traverse went fairly well, with only one more dulfer-rap and some minor backtracking.
We reached the Pass at around 2pm, and from there our path was clear – descend North into the drainage through scree, boulders and finally forest w/ blowdowns until you hit the Stuart Lk Trail again. This all went smoothly until I tried to wrestle with a downed tree and punctured my leg. Luckily we were just 5 minutes from the trail when this happened. Limping down the last few miles of trail was slow and painful, but it could’ve been a lot worse!
We reached the car at 6pm, and after toasting to a great climb w/ our miraculously still-cold beers, we headed to Leavenworth for some bratwurst and sauerkraut – mmmmm!! Thanks, Einar, for the awesome experience. This route is a classic!
60 meter 9.4 mil single rope – worked well as a single for the first few pitches, and halved for the rest.
12 cams to 3.5 inches
Set of nuts
12 single and 3 double slings
Maybe 25 biners and 3 lockers
Water refill spots are available along the approach until you get to the ridge. From there to the summit you’d need to melt water. We didn’t see any running water on the descent, either, until we were North of Sherpa pass – though you’d probably find more water earlier in the year.