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Jarred_Jackman

[TR] Attempt on Stuart Ridge Traverse - SRT 08/04/2020

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Trip: Attempt on Stuart Ridge Traverse - SRT

Trip Date: 08/04/2020

Trip Report:

I'm writing this down so people attempting this might have a bit more info as it seems that info (or lack thereof) is the crux.  We didn't complete it for a multitude of reasons but maybe I learned something that will help others succeed.

Approached from Stuart Lake Trailhead and hiked to a bivy just shy of the base of the NR.  This is a nice plan as you don't have to find your way into the climb in the dark, all the while watching the clock tick.  You have the same weight you'd normally have plus one dinner.  That said, sleep was impossible as mosquitoes swarmed all night and we had no shelter other than the stewy warmth of our sleeping bags.  

Water is easy to find below the climb.  We climbed the NR then descended quite a lot to get to the col below Sherpa's WR.  Climbed that, it's not 5.4.  It's by no means difficult, but I'd expect some 5.6ish stuff for sure.  Maybe I was just tired.  We did Sherpa in two leads.  Now the difficulty begins.  Getting to the Sherpa Argonaut Col is a pain and takes some time.  If you've done this section without rapping down the S gullies and hiking around and through all the rock ribs and shrubs and trees and scree and sand, to the Col, please chime in.  I saw a rap that went to Sherpa's N but I couldn't tell if it "went" or not, after the rap, we opted not to roll the dice.  I have a suspicion this is the better route.  

Aug 4-5, 2020, no water available en route.  We found a patch of snow lower on the NR and then the snow on the Cascadian descent, but no drips.  We heard running water in some of the gullies near Sherpa but they all seemed to low and too far and maybe the water wasn't even accessible.  We bivied at the Sherpa Argonaut Col and ran out of fuel melting snow for water and dinner.  Plus Argo looks like a peak wrought with difficult travel along that West Ridge.  We bailed and found water in 20 minutes.  This would be an option for intrepid climbers hell bent on continuing.  Could easily drop down and refill on water, then continue.  The descent from the col was pretty chill.  I'd say the bivy at the col is comfortable enough for sure.  You're out in the open, just hoping the wind will keep the bigs at bay. 

Long and short of it, gotta move move move, and find water.  If you bivy, bring some netting to keep bugs off or you won't sleep. Leave the filter as all the water you access up high is safe (my opinion).  

Parking lot to bivy: 3 hours

Bivy to base: 10 minutes

Base to Stuart summit 6.5 hours

Stuart summit to base of Sherpa 1.5 hours

Didn't keep track of time after this but we climbed WR Sherpa quickly and contemplated our fates on the summit.  Found a FF down jacket that mice and rodents were pilfering for their homes.  Also some delicious Shot Blocks and Honey Stingers.  If only we had found a gallon of water!

It's out there, it's hard, go get it!

Gear Notes:
Rack .3-3 with double of .4-2, nuts, 12 slings and 2 double length (this could be trimmed a bit if needed but I used it all twice on long simul sections) 60m 8.5mm rope (this was better than doubling a half as we could simul with the grigri) Stiff approach shoes are confidence inspiring on the snow and the N stuff was firming up by early evening.  Poles were nice in a variety of sections and an ax would have been dead weight but we likely would have wanted it descending Argo.

Approach Notes:
Stuart Lake Trailhead
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In case you don't get recent beta, Nastia and I did a similar trip on August 10 a few years ago and the Sherpa was not a descent option, not even close. 

 

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agree with DPS ... .this late in the summer, the Sherpa is very rarely an option for decent or ascent ... the shrund gets pretty sizeable with pretty significant vertical wall of rock hard glacial ice.

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You have probably seen this already (http://www.stephabegg.com/home/tripreports/washington/northcascades/stuart#approachexit), but getting to the Sherpa pass from the false summit of Stuie does not require climbing and downclimbing Sherpa, but rather traversing over some class 3 ledges on the south side of Sherpa. As DPS mentioned, we never found those ledges....

However, this cl. 3 south traversing option would not be legit if you are set to cover all the peaks of the Stuart traverse.

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5 hours ago, johnisoutside said:

Did you get a look at the sherpa glacier descent? wondering if its still a viable option.

It's out.  Looks like it's been out awhile.  

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1 hour ago, YocumRidge said:

You have probably seen this already (http://www.stephabegg.com/home/tripreports/washington/northcascades/stuart#approachexit), but getting to the Sherpa pass from the false summit of Stuie does not require climbing and downclimbing Sherpa, but rather traversing over some class 3 ledges on the south side of Sherpa. As DPS mentioned, we never found those ledges....

However, this cl. 3 south traversing option would not be legit if you are set to cover all the peaks of the Stuart traverse.

What you're mentioning sounds like an option for skirting Sherpa, is that correct?  I liked climbing Sherpa, just wish there were a better way to the col between Sherpa and Argonaut.

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That descent from Sherpa to Argonaut col cost me an unplanned night out too.  Very long descent with lots and lots of rock ribs that you go up, over and down.   I think the best bet in hindsight is to descent down the 3rd class gully directly from the summit to the west towards Ingalls creek.   Descend this until you are below the major rock ribs -- probably 1500 feet.  Aim is to be about 200-500 feet BELOW the col (targeting around 7000 feet to contour).   This looked like it was the best path after experiencing the alternative.   I think Peter Croft stayed close to the crest from what he recollects but he did say that that traverse was one of the slowest that he encountered.

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Posted (edited)

How many of us have had shenanigans descending the Sherpa Glacier...I feel like it usually gets pretty rough earlier than expected. Tons of tat on all the rock islands throughout, though! And on the inside of the shrund, too! There are some key boulders in there!

"Stewy warmth of our sleeping bags." Stu-y?

Edited by Alisse

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Hah, I had a grim descent of the Sherpa Couloir in early September one year after doing the full NR. We'd thought to down climb it, but just had boots and axes. We checked out the top and found an inch of slub over rock hard neve and immediately concluded we'd have to rap it, so despite still having an hour of light we decided to just bivy on the shoulder. After a miserable night we made a bunch of rappels. Someone had done this recently, there was a new red sling with the same initials at each rap, but everyone was super sketchy and badly placed. A little excavation and hunting around while still on the last rappel would produce a bomber slung something or other, usually within a 3' radius. For all that it was a wee bit epic, but we felt like we made good decisions all along the way. This was all pre-internet decades ago, so the only conditions report we had was the Beckey guide and we didn't know anyone who'd done the route and descent. A memorable outing.

 

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