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About StephenW

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  • Birthday 02/09/1990


  • Location
    Bellingham, WA
  1. Trip: Mt. Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier Date: 5/11/2014 Trip Report: After getting snowed off of the North Ridge in September and turning around on the Ice Cliff due to soft snow and warm temps in April, Mt. Stuart was at the top of my list. With a good weather forecast east of the crest, Lukas and I headed over to Leavenworth. We approached Saturday, relishing the drive (instead of walk) up Eightmile road, then continuing up mostly dry trail until the climber's path crossed branched off from the maintained one. We ended up following a set of cairns that pulled us high into some talus (on the way out, it is definitely still easier to hug the creek though snowy forest). After a leisurely afternoon in camp, we made dinner and went to sleep with alarms set for 2:30 am. The next morning, we were reluctant to leave our warm sleeping bags but eventually rolled out of camp under clear skies around 4:15. We racked up on the moraine beneath the ice cliff glacier then started booting our way up along the left edge of a fan of avalanche debris. From there I could see the 30-40 ft step I had climbed on the last attempt on the left edge of the glacier but saw another option on the extreme right edge that looked more fun. So we headed over there. This gave us about 50m (instead of 10m) of ice climbing up to about AI3. The ice was really featured, with blocky glacial ice to the left and a bit of water ice in a corner. The water ice is melting fast (one swing about mid-pitch created a water spigot). I brought Lukas up on a couple pickets and he enjoyed hooking some of the plates and other ice features. From there we continued up the right side of the ice cliff glacier. This route let us easily bypass all of the crevasses except the bergschrund but exposed us to some spindrift coming off of the steep East-facing rock slabs above. I was a bit surprised to see avalanche activity starting at 7 am. Good thing we hadn't lingered in the sleeping bags any longer! The 'schrund crossing was simple, just some probing and a big step over the crack. We traded leads up the ice cliff glacier couloir as the snow gradually grew firmer (probably knee deep before the shcrund vs boot-tops in the last shaded part of the couloir). Since there was the odd shot of ice pellets running down the right edge of the couloir, we stuck to the left and made a quick traverse when the couloir forked. A bit more climbing up snow slopes to 45-50 degrees brought us to the small cirque at the head of the couloir. From below, I had been eyeing the massive cornices and wondering how we'd surmount them. Once we got up there, it was obvious the route was to the right, where the cornice only overhung 3-4 feet instead of over 10. We established a rock belay (couple nuts and a cam) and I set off on my first attempt. A narrow snow gully led to a few mixed moves but I was stopped when I had to traverse under the cornice on a rock slab thinly covered with sugary snow. So I downclimbed and lowered off of someone else's bail anchor to try another variation. The second option I had spotted didn't go.... and neither did the third. After about 2 hours and moving the belay we briefly entertained the idea of turning around but decided to give it one more shot. I went up a line splitting my first and second attempts, clipped the bail anchor as pro and got to the cornice after about 20 feet of mixed climbing. I was able to find a tenuous stance beneath the cornice (right foot on rock edge, left foot in soft snow, tools were mostly useless in cohesionless snow) and started chopping a slot in the cornice. Since my stance was so delicate and the snow was so soft, this part was pretty nerve wracking. After what seemed like hours I flopped onto the southern slopes of the mountain at around 12:30. I stamped a seat in the snow, backed myself up with a cam and started belaying Lukas. He didn't find the pitch any easier than I did but got up it with just as much (non)style as I had. At 1:15, we discussed just heading over to the Sherpa Glacier and descending immediately. However, the snow on these slopes didn't seem as bad as I had expected (given that E aspects were sluffing early in the day). More melt-freeze action on these slopes kept the boot penetration only about ankle deep. So we decided to traverse the steep slopes around the false summit nd climb the last 600 ft to the summit, topping out around 2 pm. We didn't linger long. Luckily, we found the descent pretty obvious in clear conditions. The top the sherpa had slid recently enough to leave a firm bed surface for the tedious downclimb to the bergschrund. Another careful step brought us to the lower glacier and one nice glissade brought us back to the basin we had camped in. We broke camp and started hiking out, reaching the car at about 9:20 pm. Overall, the route was burlier than expected but it felt good to finally finish it. Here's the pics (Lukas took all of the ones he's not in): Gear Notes: 2 pickets, 4 ice screws, 5 stoppers, 2 cams (BD #0.5, #1), 1 KB Approach Notes: Trail is almost entirely snow-free until junction with Colchuck Lake Trail. We still found it easiest to follow Mountaineer Creek closely over punchy snow.
  2. [TR] Dragontail Peak - Triple Couloirs 4/12/2014

    Hey Goran, that was us you ran into Friday night. We were debating if you'd beat us back to the car or not. When I was reading your trip report I came to the same conclusion, we were probably within 15 minutes of each other. Anyway, glad to hear you guys had a good day too and nice job tackling a proud route! sdizzle- I can't imagine the conditions changed that much between our ascents because I could see where you guys placed a screw and a few of your tool placements between couloirs 1 and 2. On the way to the 3rd, I saw you guys tried to go more straight up then thought the better of it. I went pretty far down and right where it seemed you guys eventually went. So it seems doubtful that spindrift covered anything again since your footprints were still there. I dug out a crack for a 0.5 camalot (the only piece I placed on that pitch) but other than that was mostly climbing by feel. It was a pretty scary lead but luckily short- I only really climbed about 25 feet of snowy rock before I was able to gain supportable snow on the right side. I found our second runnel pitch to be harder but my partner disagreed- he thought that section was the crux of the climb. Regardless, I was definitely glad to see the base of the third couloir as I established the next belay!
  3. Trip: Dragontail Peak - Triple Couloirs Date: 4/12/2014 Trip Report: Decided to take advantage of the good weather this weekend with a quick trip to the Stuart Range. With freezing levels forecasted to rise sharply after Saturday afternoon, we drove down to Leavenworth friday night and set off from the car at 3 am Saturday morning with the Triple Couloirs in mind. We made good time booting up Eightmile Road and much worse time continuing up to Colchuck lake. After a protracted break on the N end of the lake, we started up the hidden couloir at about 8:30 am. The right variation looked like steep, soft snow, so we followed some slabby water ice interspersed firm snow for a full pitch to gain entry to the couloir. The snow here was nice styrofoam, for a few stretches we weren't even leaving footprints. Someone had recently climbed the route, so there were some steps that disappeared about 30m up. Two long simul blocks with pickets and the odd piece of rock pro brought us to the top of the couloir where I discovered that our predecessors had followed the right wall of the couloir while we followed the left. Top of the Hidden Couloir We found the runnels to be climbable. Nelson and Potterfield's stated 70-80 degrees is about right. We found mostly snice, with a thin layer of real ice underneath. With some mining around, I managed to ferret out three screw placements on this pitch and brought Stamati up from a semi-hanging ice screw belay shortly before I ran out of rope. The second pitch had a few moves on thin ice over rock, then more steep snice. I ended up mostly excavating in-situ bail anchors then clipping them as pro for this pitch. The second pitch was probably the crux of the route. The third pitch involved more steep snice to a bomber nut placement before a funky corner. Feet were good in ice out to the left and I ended up chimneying along with my pack pressed against the rock to the right while trying keep the pickets out of my way. All of the sudden we had gained the second couloir. Looking up at the bottom of the first runnel pitch End of the second runnel pitch One really long simul lead (I managed to find a fair amount of rock pro in the second couloir) got me to a nice corner and I belayed Stamati up from two solid cams. The snow in the second couloir was a bit softer, and I mostly followed the previous party's steps, diverging as needed to place pro. As we climbed the second couloir I was wondering if the route would eventually go right or left... definitely right. Couloir numero dos! A bit of down climbing from the good belay and I popped around a corner. The rest of this pitch was soft snow over rock. Our picks and crampons wouldn't catch unless there was some underlying rock feature. Past this, we continued up and right in the third couloir. We encountered the softest snow of the day here, generally sinking in to about mid-shin, and were glad to have preexisting steps to use. Luckily some cloud breaks came in and brought some brief, really light flurries. This kept the snow from softening too much even though the third couloir had seen some sun earlier. Overall, we didn't see any rockfall bigger than pebbles and the snow still seemed stable. After an airy traverse, we continued up a few hundred feet of more 40 degree snow (the third couloir is the least steep of the lot) to the ridge. In total, three simul leads got us from the bottom of the final couloir to the summit. We ended up topping out at 3 pm with great views of Stuart, Colchuck, and the Enchantment plateau. Lingered for a bit then made our way down to Asgard Pass mostly on good corn snow. The final section of the descent involved a frustrating mix of hard snow/ice and wet, mushy glop. We relaxed a bit at Colchuck Lake (we soon gave up trying to chase the last of the sun and instead settled on a nice boulder sheltered from the wind). I dropped my only lighter in small snow moat around the boulder so we settled for cold instant coffee and eventually started the slog back to the car, which we reached at 10 pm. A bright full moon made the walk as pleasant as such things can be. An awesome 19 hr day! Gear Notes: 3 pickets, 5 screws (2x10cm, 2x13cm, 16cm), nuts, cams (BD 0.3-2), 3 pins. 60m rope. Used it all except for the 16cm screw. Approach Notes: Eightmile Road was still gated. About the bottom third of it has melted out. The trail to Colchuck lake was pretty beat out. No flotation needed.
  4. I was also one of the trio that climbed the NBC on Sunday. The avalanche was a wind slab I believe... The crown was probably just over a foot tall in the middle of the couloir and about half that high along the margins. The avy ripped the whole width of it. Later, I saw a few small areas of soft windslab on the lee side of minor rock features once we swung out onto the NW face. The snow in the final gully was dense powder (we sunk in to about mid-shin) that seemed stable. It was spooky to hear the story from a skier once we reached the summit...
  5. WA/OR Ice climbing Partner this weekend?

    I was also hoping to get out on Saturday but my normal partners aren't available. Sounds like I'm not quite as strong as some of you guys, I've led WI3 and can follow WI4. I've also got a rack, single rope, etc. Also A WFR. I was leaning towards Leavenworth or Snoq Pass since I'm only open saturday and based in Bham.