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[TR] Mount Stuart - West Ridge 7/16/2017


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Trip: Mount Stuart - West Ridge


Date: 7/16/2017


Trip Report:

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MrSbeOqIOfPymAxB2

GPS: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/UjcSKYSvzIHrQuvRpM9lUSJM


Rough Timeline:



  • 7pm: Leave TH (actually ~1.5mi before Esmeralda TH)
  • 9:30pm: Arrive at bivy before Ingalls Lake



  • 5am: Wake up
  • 5:45: Leave camp
  • 7am: Base of Route
  • 8am: Summit
  • 9:30am: Ingalls Lake
  • 11am: Base of 2nd gully (break for lunch)
  • 1pm: Top of gully
  • 3pm: Top of Long John's Tower
  • 5:30pm: Bivy just below W Ridge notch



  • 6am: Wake up
  • ~7am: Start roped climbing from notch
  • 11:30am: Summit
  • 12pm: Leave summit
  • 4pm: Ingalls Creek Trail
  • 7pm: TH



Hiked in almost all the way to Ingalls Lake and bivied.



Tagged Ingalls via South Face - it was 5.fun! We did it in one long simul pitch. We rappelled with one 60 meter rope - one rap from the top, the second rap was about ~15' short from the base of the face, but we downclimbed it. Then we scrambled down further to a 3rd and final rap back to where we started.


Back at Ingalls Lake, we took the nice trail to base of second gully.


As advertised, we did ~1500' of 3rd and 4th class scrambling up the gully. There was a small amount of routefinding to make sure we stayed in the correct gully.


Eventually we exited to the right. As soon as we crossed the ridge, we could see Long John Tower - pretty intimidating. We had to cross short section of steep snow to get over to the tower. It was okay with approach shoes, microspikes, and ice ax, although we didn't love it. We caught up to a 2-person team ahead of us who only had one ice ax between them and decided to belay the snow section.


The 2-person party ahead of us stayed roped up to lead the right-side route up the tower. There was still some snow on that side, but it didn't look like it was in the way of the normal route. We started climbing alongside their rope, but as we got to the more difficult climbing (definitely 4th class, questionably 5th class), the leader (or his rope) started dumping a ton of small and medium-sized rocks on us. I grabbed onto one of their pieces and huddled against wall, then downclimbed and waited for them to finish dropping shit. We ended up roping up ourselves while we waited. When we got up to that section, we crossed a number of ledges with loose rocks on them, but it was possible to be careful and mostly avoid dumping rocks on each other.


From the notch behind the tower, we climbed over and down. We had to do another short downclimb on snow to get onto rock (maybe ~20ft down). Then we went down, around a buttress, then back up a gully quite a ways looking for the "tunnel underfoot". I kept looking to the right side of the gully looking for the tunnel, but we'd gone so high I was ready to give up and just look for any route. Nearing the top of the gully, I saw two cairns that marked the tunnel - although even then I almost missed it. I marked a waypoint of the tunnel, and my GPS track makes it look like it was ~100' gain from the lowest point to the tunnel although somehow it felt like more.


From here we followed the ledge/trail down several sloping slabs until we got to the more exposed sloping slab that other people mention - it was a bit of a move to downclimb it.


Then we continued our descending traverse across and down gullies and around several rock buttresses. We never figured out what other people refer to as "God's Cairn" - the balanced boulder on top of a tower that you're supposed to pass below before heading up a gully to the West Ridge notch. We did see something fairly tower-like, but no balanced boulder on top of it - maybe it has since fallen?


We eventually got to a wide gully leading all the way up to a notch - the GPS tracks we were following and the side of the group ahead of us confirmed it was the gully leading up to the West Ridge notch. There was still snow here - enough to have some snow melt for us to fill up water, but not enough that we had to actually walk on it.


We saw a big bivy ledge just below and to the right of the notch - we scrambled up onto it and saw we could fairly comfortably fit all three of us. We discussed pressing on and trying to top out, but we weren't sure if we'd be able to bivy on or near the summit and we were pretty tired, so we just set up camp. I did scramble up from the bivy to confirm that we were in the right place, and found the obvious notch to cross over to the North side, as well as three more bivy sites that could probably sleep ~6 more people.



We had a lot of trouble with the routefinding on the actual pitched climbing. We'd planned to do it in two long simuls. Instead, I think we ended up on the harder, more wandery variation of the summit block, and ended up doing four pitches of about ~5.6 (with some simul-climbing for each one).



Ellie led the first pitch and got to what we're pretty sure is referred to as the "tiny notch" - that crosses back to the South but had so much rope drag through the notch she had to stop - she probably went just about 60m total. From her notch, we looked down and could see one of the bivy sites we'd passed on our way up to start roped climbing. We weren't sure if this meant we were in the right place or not though.



From there, assuming we were at the right notch, our beta said to do a descending traverse across a ledge and then up the face, but Tanya ended up leading more directly up instead. Her route was at least 5.6 at times, and ended up on a ridge. Her lead was also perhaps a bit longer than 60m.



From where she stopped, I downclimbed to a fairly broad ledge, led out 30m across the ledge and then started heading up a wide gully that looked like it would probably go. The climbing was perhaps 5.6 again, and there were some pretty big loose rocks and hollow-sounding flakes which made me nervous. I continued up and exited right after about another 40m, then around a boulder that took me up to a nice ledge with a small shiver bivy in the corner. I probably could have kept going, but I was worried about my followers simuling the hard section below me (I guess I placed my microtraxion too low), so I stopped to belay.



From there Tanya took the lead again up to the right, past an awkward move and on to some twin cracks - probably 5.6 or 5.7. I think it was less than 60m to the summit.


Once on the summit, we saw that there were plenty of bivy spots - the entire top of the descent is littered with them.



We followed cairns and GPS tracks in the descending traverse to skiers left, passing innumerable bivy sites. Eventually we hit a section of steep now at the top of the Cascadian Couloir (maybe 300 vertical feet?), but chose to pick our way down the kitty litter + rock scramble to skiers right of the snow instead. At the bottom of the scramble, we had to downclimb perhaps 100' of steepish snow to get back to rock. Not the most comfortable in approach shoes + yak tracks, but we got down it. There's also a rappel sling that we could have used instead of downclimbing.


From there, it was just endless scree descent. We followed GPS tracks that took us down the Cascadian shortcut - a gully that breaks off right from the Cascadian at about ~7000'. I had done the full Cascadian descent last time, and IIRC it was actually worse than the shortcut - harder routefinding and a couple steeper sections.


We took a trail that broke off from the shortcut gully at ~6000' and took that the rest of the way down (although "trail" is a strong word for it - it went in and out of being obvious, dumped us out in a meadow only to pick back up again at the base of the meadow, etc.) This route eventually popped us out on Ingalls Creek Trail only a short ways from the turnoff to Longs Pass.


Gear Notes:

Ice axe

Approach shoes + microspikes

Rock shoes

Single rack to 2" (brought extra gear to lengthen simul pitches)

60m rope

Edited by Jaime
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Sounds like a fun trip, and glad to hear the other party inflicted rockfall didn't do any real damage.


After looking at your GPS track it looks like the descent you took (brown track) is more or less the exact same route I took when I skied the Cascadian earlier this season (light blue track). I did notice that cascadian (as I know it) joins another large gully to the east at around ~8000 ft (circled in red). I'm curious if that is the alternate descent you mention?




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@Gabe - Yes... when I climbed Stuart N ridge last year, we descended via the gully you circled in red. At the time we thought that was the correct Cascadian descent, but perhaps not?


@Jason - Yeah, the bivy site was really windy! A couple times I was actually worried I would be blown off the ledge, and I ended up taking the pole out of my bivy to reduce its surface area

Edited by Jaime
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