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[TR] Mt. Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier 5/21/2017

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Trip: Mt. Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier


Date: 5/21/2017


Trip Report:

Climbed the Ice Cliff Glacier on Mt. Stuart on Sunday May 21st with my climbing partner Aaron. I found the route to be high quality and varied, with a remote and committing feel, and significant objective hazard. While the climbing is probably easier than Triple Couloirs, the location, objective hazard, and more difficult descent made it feel a bit more serious (although definitely less sustained).


Approach via Mountaineers creek took us about 5 hours from the parking lot. Still decent snow cover in the woods, we mostly walked on top, some occasional postholing.




We camped at the end of the meadow below the moraine. Good access to water, close to the route, and safe from hazard. Here is the view from camp, Ice Cliff on the right, descent via Sherpa on the left. Lots of debris from recent wet slides due to the warming weather.




We left camp around 3:45 AM, due to warm temps on the forecast. Easy approach, huge debris field below the ice cliff from icefall and slides coming from the upper glacier.




We elected to climb the ice cliff directly, instead of skirting around the left side to the second step. In hindsight this cost us some time and there's probably no reason to make this route harder than it already is. I found the pitch to be WI3 or WI3+ and pretty hard brittle ice. Not easy!




Second step was a lot easier, standard AI2, good fun. Above the second step I belayed off a deadman and brought Aaron up:




Aaron then led off through the upper icefall, where we climbed between a few of the big blocks to avoid a sketchy crevasse crossing into the easier ground on the left.






This brought us to the upper plateau. Slide debris had filled in the center of the schrund so we went right up the middle, with some simulclimbing and some quick belays for the crossing(s). There was a decent amount of ice/rockfall through here, the obvious groove is cut by shit coming down off the upper mountain, and we almost got clobbered by a couple baseball-sized rocks whizzing by. As soon as we were past the schrund we hopped out of the groove and headed for the left side of the couloir.




Aaron led a long simul block through here, placing some spare rock and ice pro. We elected to go through the left exit (contrary to the guidebook), as the right exit had a massive cornice and was in the sun, resulting in rockfall and spindrift avalanches at regular intervals. I led a fun short pitch of thin ice and mixed, and then Aaron led the last pitch over the top where the cornice had fallen off, providing an easy exit.






We took a break to eat and hydrate, and elected to skip the summit traverse due to poor snow quality on south-facing slopes. The downclimb on the Sherpa was long and tedious but not overly difficult, and there is an awesome cave with running water that we used to refill our bottles. We saw a few more small avalanches here, so we chose to stay out of the bottom of the groove for safety. A good snow bridge led across the schrund, and we turned around and walked down the rest of the way (felt like forever). We ate some food, packed up the tent, and it took about 4 hours to walk back to the car.


Gear Notes:

2 pickets, 4 screws, half rack of nuts, 2 hexes, 70m half rope, 2 tools each.


Approach Notes:

Yikes. Cross the log, bushwhack, posthole.

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