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Blake

first ascent [TR] Mt. Stuart - Gorillas in the Mist - IV 5.11 7/8/2009

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Trip: Mt. Stuart - Gorillas in the Mist - IV 5.11

 

Date: 7/8/2009

 

Trip Report:

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Mt. Stuart is one of the Cascades' most iconic and complex peaks. With such prominence, fame, and extensive development, one might think that all significant new routes have been climbed. However, excellent routes do at least remain unfinished. Inspired by the pictures from an attempt by Mark Allen and Mike Layton, as well as a desire to climb or unearth a new hard route on the Enchantment's premiere peak, Sol Wertkin and I were excited to give the West Stuart Wall a go.

 

Work and anniversary obligations had cut Sol's available climbing time down to one day, so I contacted Jens Holsten to see if he wanted to head up to the peak with me on day one, in order to fix the first few pitches and have Sol meet us on day 2. Jens was stoked to join the team, but insisted we could go alpine style. Of course Jens also insisted it would be 90 degrees on the summit and we didn't need to bring backpacks. Caveat Emptor when getting beta from Mr. Holsten. NOAA was predicting breezy and cool conditions, so we all brought along windshirts. It's summer right?

 

We left the trailhead at 5am and after a few hours ended up at Goat Pass, near the start of the West Ridge. The West Stuart Wall rises up maybe 900' from the snow... but where the hell was it?

 

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The face had seen various activity in the past, and we found 2 bolted anchors (stamped '1993') as well as runners low on the route. Perhaps it was a rappel route, perhaps it was someone's unfinished (or aided) project, or perhaps it had already been sent in its entirety. We didn't know and didn't really care. Roping up at the base, we knew we'd have some solid, memorable, and steep climbing. Edited/explained down below - after contact with the 1993 folks, it sounds like this climb was a new route to the top of the wall and the peak

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Jens led off pitch one, following the OBVIOUS clean hand crack, mantle, and chimney to a belay on the right. This pitch was probably the crux of the route at 5.11- and would see nearly constant traffic if it were located at a crag in the icicle. Steep, with solid rock and great gear, it set the perfect tone for the wall.

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Top of P1

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The next pitch headed up and left across 2 bottomless corners and hanging aretes, 5.9 with positions to keep the adrenaline going.

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Jens' final lead was the mental crux for us, but shouldn't deter future parties. He headed up and left from the belay, past a 4" crack, and shouted "Watch me" as he launched into the unknown.

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Sol and I, unable to see the climber, witnessed a large handhold get ripped from the wall, and the simian sounds of grunting and vomiting as Jens styled the 'monkey traverse.'

 

Did you throw up?

 

No way man... just a little dry heaving

 

Jens would go on to finish the pitch in style.

 

The followers both cleaned out the hand traverse crack, and future parties should find no shortage of solid gear all along this pitch. 5.10+

 

Sol about to 'go ape'

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Finishing the Monkey Traverse

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Did you see that big block come flying off?

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...uhh yeah, we thought it was you

 

From here Sol took over, finding a yosemite v-slot, and an immaculate finger crack and stem box to another perfectly flat ledge. 5.10-

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Pitch #5 headed up and right, with a bouldery 5.10 crux move, belaying at the first significant ledge system on the wall.

 

We continued across the 'skywalk traverse' to the right and set off again.

 

I took the lead for a 30m pitch of 5.8 (but mostly easier) on what we thought would lead up to the West Ridge, but we hadn't finished the wall yet.

 

From a belay in the clean V-slot/groove, I followed up a long immaculate right-facing corner, with hand and fist cracks through a small roof, and finger cracks up a slab to the hanging belay, our first belay spot that was not a comfortably flat ledge.

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This pitch was 55m of sustained 5.8 crack climbing. From the hanging belay, a short hand crack lead straight up to the West Ridge, and I mantled over the top with a 'whoop' and monkey shout.

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We started up the West Ridge in a fog, with winds steadily increasing. Winding around towers and hidden pinnacles, the rock was more and more covered in ice. Soon our rope and cams were iced up as well.

 

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The wandering terrain and numerous gendarmes kept us guessing, and as darkness fell, we knew it was time to quit fighting the conditions.

 

The three of us settled in for a memorable bivy of uncontrolled shivering, made more so by the presence of 0 sleeping bags, no stove, no puffy jackets, and 2 30liter packs in which to stuff our six wet feet. I don't know the temperature, but Jens' water bottle froze. We joked about getting lost on a mountain which we had all climbed before, but kept our spirits high thinking about the quality terrain we'd covered. In the past few years 3 of the Enchantments' 4 biggest peaks had seen new or 're-discovered' hard, excellent rock climbs. Solid Gold and Der Sportsman had been unearthed on Prusik, Dragons of Eden was re-climbed on Dragontail, and The Tempest Wall established on Colchuck Balanced Rock. With a climb of the West Stuart Wall, the 4th peak had fallen into place and Stuart's modern rock climb established.

 

Our platonic spooning subsided at 4AM, and Jens started things off right by breaking out the breakfast of champions, in the form of one "Worthers Original" for each of us.

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No longer climbing inside a cloud provided a significant morale boost, and Sol thawed out our semi-functional cams with his mouth, once again establishing the value in being full of hot air. After a quick summit stop to revel in the sun, we headed to the Sherpa Glacier where soft snow allowed us to descend a few thousand feet back to the valley bottom in no time.

 

With today being Sol's anniversary, he knew his wife would be especially nervous about our delayed return (and extra jealous of all the spooning enjoyed by Jens and myself). We hustled back to the car and enjoyed our true breakfast, the creek-stashed beers we'd left 30 hours before.

 

EDIT: It turns out that Mark Makela and Geoff Sherer did some climbing on that wall in 1993 and put in the bolts, going up with full-on wall gear, and fixing ropes. They made it up what would be most of the pitches, using a mix of aid and free, but never completed the last few on wall. In any case, it's an amazing climb that should be on the list for future parties.

 

Approach: Just north (around to the left) from the toe of the West Ridge, near Goat Pass. Route starts in the middle of the face, you can't miss that pitch.

 

Gear Notes:

Single Blue and Green Alien, 2x Yellow alien to #3 Camalot, single new #4 camalot. Set of nuts.

 

TOPO:

 

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HUGE VERSION

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Wow. Just incredible guys! You guys are turning the Stuart Range into an alpine Yosemite.

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Hells yeah! Another new line in the enchantments! Way to get on it.

 

It sounds like most of the route was pretty clean from the beginning. Can you post a pic of where the line goes?

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wow. When the North Ridge just isn't good enough, you have to take it up a couple notches!? Nice work! All hail the Worther's.

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Hells yeah! Another new line in the enchantments! Way to get on it.

 

It sounds like most of the route was pretty clean from the beginning. Can you post a pic of where the line goes?

 

Nope, beause we never saw the wall except in 100' sections as we climbed up it. We were in a cloud the whole day. If anyone has a photo we can draw the line. Maybe Sol or Jens would be artsy enough to make a topo.

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A fabulous addition to a great mountain. Is this that steep wall between Stuart and Goat Pass? Beckey calls it West Face of the West Ridge, had an aid route on it?

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Blake, where did you go from the 1st set of stamped bolts?

Those first few pitches are great!!! I'm thinking y'all went left when we went right up an arete with a tree?

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Great addition! I think it's high time for a new guide to some of the great routes that have gone up in the past 5 years or so...any authors out there?

 

Brrr! I've shivered in a 'went too light' bivy on the summit of Stuart, but it didn't go below freezing like it did for you.

 

 

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sweet ass! now that's a bitchin TR. my kinda line. can't wait to read more of your TR's in the future.

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cool climb! and i like the descriptive language in the write-up. the picture of Jens is hilarious, I've seen that wild-eyed look in pardners before.

 

Pete and I talked about going after that years ago, but time and gumption never quite intersected...way to get after it.

 

strong work fellas.

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Shit, I kept forgetting about that wall and then re-remembering it. Funny how so many people have walked by it on the way to the N Ridge but so few attempts.

 

Way to get after it guys and nice job perservering on the shiver bivy. The route looks rather stellar and worth repeating.

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