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kmfoerster

[TR] Mt. Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier 05/24/2020

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Trip: Mt. Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier

Trip Date: 05/24/2020

Trip Report:

 

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Yesterday my friend Matt and I Climbed Mt. Stuart's Ice Cliff Glacier. They opened up the Icicle on Friday but are keeping Eight Mile road gated until next weekend. So we got to Leavenworth around 8:30 or so Saturday morning and started biking up the road. The road and Stuart Lake Trail were completely snow free, along with most of the summer climbers path until about 5300'. We got to the basin at 5400' early afternoon and just hangout. It felt great to just sit there and "smell the roses" in the alpine. We also took some time to put in a bootpack up to the moraine and check out the condition of the route. At first glance the lower portion was looking dry as we kept walking up the ridge of the moraine to get a better view. Both left and right options were looking rather bony. Not to mention both exit options on the upper couloir had massive cornices at the top of them. The right side looked like it had something possibly around the corner to the right that was out of view at the moment. 

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We walked back to our camp and just decided we would have to get up close and personal with the route options to make any judgement calls on the conditions. Between then and when it got dark I had  a lot of "what if's" racing through my head. We got up at 2am and started moving shortly after. We decided that the left start was the most probable and headed there first. As we got closer it appeared climbable and turned out to be a ledgy mixed pitch with thin ice and firm snow. From there it was one ice pitch to the top of the lowest ice cliff and then one simul block to the snowfield in the cirque.

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The cornices still looked daunting from there and we decided we would still need to get up there and poke around.  While climbing up to the couloir my eyes couldn't help but look at other things to consider as potential exit options since the cornices still seemed to mostly span the width of the upper couloir. I even poked around on a leftward snow ramp that leads to the Ice Cliff Arete just in case the upper couloir wouldn't go for us (I wouldn't bother if I was you). Other than that it was mostly uneventful from the snowfield to the constriction in the couloir, just good steep snow with a few patches of ice through the runnel. We simul'ed all of that too. The sun started to hit the east facing wall around 7:30-8:00am in the couloir and thus ice and snow started shedding. Getting up to the fork in the couloir we could see that the right side did in fact have and area that had way smaller cornices. This was a relief to see! We got up to the top of the couloir and I looked at our exit options.

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In the end I chose a blocky-ish mixed step that required a bit of cornice excavation to top out (thank you to whoever placed that Russian titanium piton in that area before us). It helped that the cornice had a fat ice crust in the middle of it to swing into.

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We topped out around 9am. The snow on the south side was surprisingly wet and it was a lot warmer there than I expected. We elected to not head to the summit since we did what we came there to do and it was warming rapidly. I noticed the usual cornices at the top of the Sherpa Glacier from camp the day prior and didn't want to play with cornices anymore.  Descent down the Sherpa went smoothly but the snow was very wet. Broke camp and made our way out. This is a pretty damn good route and being in the cirque above the ice cliff is  an incredible experience. I thought the climbing was fun but if I had to pick a favorite popular north side spring route on Stuart I'd choose the SGC over the ICG. After a few months of not even really thinking about climbing, it felt so satisfying to be out there in that environment immersed in the moments of self-doubt and pride that climbing provides.

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Gear Notes:
Half rack of nuts, .75-2 cams, 2 Pickets (used quite often), 2x17 3x13 1x10 screws (used all). Some pitons could've been useful. Gear nerd side note: two Petzl Gullys with pick weights worked very well. Im in love with that setup now.

Approach Notes:
Follow the web of cairns, the bigger the better. Good log crossings if you stay directly on the climbers path through the beginning.
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Nice work!  I'll have to go back and look at my pictures from 20 years ago but the ice cliff looks much bigger now than it was then? 

I need to get my mind back in the alpine mindset it would seem....

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@JasonG  the base of the route was more melted out than I was expecting for this time of year. Thought we were going to get a mellow snow ramp up to the ice. I suppose with the snow melt we traded a bit of easier conditions for not having a post-holing nightmare through the boulder fields. Also, all but the second photo (iPhone X) were taken with a Sony RX0. First time using it on a climb!

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in the photo of you in the upper basin, roped up for glacier travel and under a couple of large ice blocks, (6th photo) what do you think they are?  are they chucks of cornice that fell down? or crevasse blocks?  Seems like a strange place for either.

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@PorterM  Yeah had pick weights on them and it was no problemo with the hard glacial ice. The set of them is close in weight to one of my nomics. I personally loved using the two Gullys. They will definitely be my choice from now on for the ambiguous AI2-3 with little to no mixed climbing.

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Cool, you see that ice drip left of girth pillar? never seen that before, looks hard, steep and not great ice but other than that looks great:hubba_hubba: 

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@Kuckuzka1 Yeah! I believe its called "Blue moon in June" in the brown Beckey. Up close it looked as if it had just fallen out of climbing shape, but definitely looks hard and out of my pay grade. Would've been interesting to see what kind of condition it would've been in early May. FA was on June 5th 1987. I couldn't Imagine it being climbed in June anymore. On the same note I think the timeframe for the ICG being moderate is getting shorter and shorter. Not long ago there were trip reports of it having cruiser conditions in July.

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I'm pretty sure the drip left of the higher one is blue moon in June, Maybe someone out there knows for sure

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