Mt. Stuart - Stuart Glacier CouloirDate:
Last thursday Jimbo and I climbed the Stuart Glacier Couloir. Overall, the route was varied and the climbing was aesthetic and high-quality. As we had anticipated, the route was in lean conditions, but the scrappiness was fun, and all the more memorable.
A leisurely afternoon start on wednesday got us to the bivy in the early evening. The climbers trail is in good shape and almost snow-free up to the lower basin. We left camp around 4:45 and started plodding our way up to the stuart glacier. It was a beautiful sunrise.Jimbo below the Ice Cliff: Hell of a deal. That's Colchuck Balanced Rock on the right there:
Cloudy skies the night before hadn't allowed the snow to freeze up very well and before we knew it we were post-holing slowly
up the stuart glacier. The couloir: We were wondering whose tracks those were heading up the north ridge:
The conditions improved dramatically as we headed up to the base of the couloir. We were soon enjoying perfect one-stick neve and ice. We simulclimbed with much enjoyment up to the first ice step.
This is where things got a little scrappy. The first ice step was more like a flowing waterfall and was decomposing by the moment. After a valiant attempt, Jimbo said no-go and came back to the belay quite soaked. So I gave-er on a rock line to the right. A few pick welded nuts and some disintegrating footholds, and it went, at about 5.7+. Good neve followed up to the second step which we just thrashed our way through. Wasn't much left of it by the time we were done. The direct line to the notch looked sun-baked and rotten, so we did a traverse to the right. This topped out on a cool knife-edge snow ridge. A long mixed pitch got us onto the west ridge. Jimbob topping out on the knife edge:
We were so concerned with snow conditions in the couloir that we hadn't really given the west ridge much thought. Neither of us had climbed it before, and we didn't really know where to go. We figured it all out eventually. At this point the snow was quite rotten, which made things slower, but the climbing was sweet, on clean, blocky, granite.
We topped out 12 hours after leaving camp.
The late hour and an unfamiliar descent kept us moving after a brief lamping session on the summit. The snow was super-nasty on top and the descent to the false summit was tedious. We downclimbed the entire sherpa glacier couloir on breakable crust. The bergschrund is filled in nicely right now. A few hours later we were back at camp, very satisfied with our first alpine outing of the year.Gear Notes:
Couple pickets, couple screws, set of nuts, 3 stubbly blades, two hexes, 5 cams, tools and poons. Approach Notes: