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[TR] Stuart Range Traverse - Stuart to Dtail 08/10/2020

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Trip: Stuart Range Traverse - SRT

Trip Date: 08/10/2020

Trip Report:

Should maybe be titled Stuart Range Traverse* because there's always some disclaimer in there, good style is just about doing it with as few asterisks as possible. My main asterisk is I didn't actually summit Sherpa. I'm also no Peter Croft, but based off all the TRs that are out there for this thing, none of us quite are.

Anyway, I've had a weird relationship with climbing this year. There have been a lot of other things going on (perhaps an understatement in this wild year) that demand more attention. I came back from a full season deep down south feeling absolutely on top of my game, a feeling which quarantine somehow morphed into a sense of burnout, fear, overanalysis and a general loss of motivation for big objectives. I've wondered if maybe I've finally developed a frontal lobe in my brain. Seeking comfort and sticking close the ground, I've focused on running and bouldering. While the Stuart Range Traverse is neither of those things, I did feel a certain motivation to get it done before I move to Colorado (I know) for a bit, and all it really boils down to is a nice long run with some V0 highballs.

Plotz told me it's kind of a slog. He was right. But I still had fun, and given enough time I might even consider doing it again, with fewer asterisks. 


lovely little garden below Stuart.

The first bit of excitement came on the slabs below the Stuart Glacier, where I felt my pack suddenly lose a lot of weight. I turned around to see one of my two liters of water careening down towards the snowy gully where it shall spend the remainder of eternity. Somehow my pack had come unzipped, and I almost lost a lot more kit than I did. I kinda thought my plans for the traverse tumbled down into the moat along with it, as I had just passed the last water source and I couldn't bank on finding anything between the ridge and Argonaut. But I still had one liter infused with electrolyte-whatever, and I could bail at Sherpa Pass if I had to. 

Not much to be said about the North Ridge of Stuart, other than the fact it's phenomenal. I had never climbed it, or Stuart for that matter, until yesterday. It was worth the wait. Was on route for about 2 hours.


stuart summit selfie. that's what everyone likes about TRs, right? selfies?

As soon as I was on the south side of the crest the wind was gone and it was hot. I was really worried about running out of water. I also made the classic rookie mistake and got suckered down the wrong gully (not ulrich's) while searching for water. I did find some, but also found myself well below Sherpa. I had already had a few routefinding snafus early on and was a couple hours behind schedule, doing the math I figured if I tagged Sherpa's summit I'd most likely bail at the pass - which turned into a cost-benefit analysis of what I valued more, another summit or a more solid chance at the traverse? I chose the traverse. There was an excellent ledge system below Sherpa, complete with a goat highway, that got me to Sherpa Pass quickly.

If it wasn't chest deep in the boonies, the south-facing slopes between Sherpa and Argo would host excellent cragging - I spied numerous perfect cracks and checkerboard patina reminiscent of Red Rock's Brownstone Wall, all on perfect red granite. And if you keep your eyes and ears open, water can be found in small springs that quickly dive underground. Overall, I didn't think this section was as bad as people say. I mostly stayed just barely below the ridge crest. I stayed hydrated, stayed psyched, and speaking of sweet crags, soon found myself at the base of the S Face of Argo.


choose your own adventure! knobs and splitters galore!


s face of argo from the right margin.

This was also my first time on Argonaut's summit, which was quite nice. Great view, and fun, easy climbing. 

I had brought a skinny half rope to use as a rap line if I needed it - not totally necessary in hindsight, but I was glad to have brought it as it did give me a little nicer sense of security, which like I said, I haven't really had that feeling of security with climbing lately. 

Well, turns out that shiny new half rope came all this way just to be put under the knife on some short rappel I ended up soloing up and down anyway. Getting it stuck on the rap pull was a result of my own negligence and it cost me a lot of time - so if you're trying to descend into Argo's east gully and find a well-used rap station above a splitter looking dihedral, just downclimb. There's maybe one section of 5.6 to get you down to a big ledge. As you jam the perfect hand crack (seriously, why didn't I just downclimb this from the get go), take a moment to admire the remains of about 3 or 4 different ropes stuck deep inside. Mine's one of them. Hooray! But ultimately, I can't really blame myself for taking an extra precaution when I was already tired and clumsy. 

From there, it's loose third and fourth class down the east gully. 


man, I wish I had a better phone camera. 

Once at the shelf between Argo and Colchuck, I put the headphones in and motored up and over Colchuck and Dragontail, arriving at Aasgard in the dark. Pop Tarts and Prince carried me to the finish. 22.5 hrs C2C.

Gear Notes:
an extra liter of water so you can jettison the first one into the void

Approach Notes:
there is one, yes.

Edited by mtangeman
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Noice!  Thanks for the stoke.  And for reminding me that I have yet to climb Argonaut.  That does make the south side look appealing.

If it's any consolation, I just returned from a nine-day climbing trip on which I took not a single photo.  I will just have to remember that very large marmot with not a whit of timidity about approaching closer, and closer, and closer, until we started asking ourselves, "Is it rabid?"

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16 hours ago, Michael Telstad said:

Not too shabby. An onsight solo of the N-Ridge is proud in it's own right! 

Thanks! Should probably clarify as I realized I didn't in the TR, it was just the upper, not the full. 

@tanstaafl the south side of Argonaut is very appealing but definitely a slog no matter how you cut it - worse hike/climb ratio than Prusik, but that S Face has so many really nice lines. The West Buttress as well has a steep and clean looking prow not too far east of Sherpa Pass. Really cool mountain.

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Upper N Ridge solo is still impressive!  And just covering that much ground in a day is impressive -- to me anyway.

Sad to say, but having climbed in the Cascades for 20 years, the number of things that I am capable of climbing that are close enough to a road to not qualify as a slog are getting to be fewer and fewer, and the number of those that my primary partner, who's climbed in the Cascades for 40 years, hasn't done are infinitesimal. 

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