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[TR] Stuart Range Traverse - Mt. Stuart to Lil' Annapurna 7/17/2010

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Trip: Stuart Range Traverse - Mt. Stuart to Lil' Annapurna


Date: 7/17/2010


Trip Report:

Stuart Range Traverse + whipped cream & rainbow nonpareils

This past weekend, a partner and I put a bid on the Stuart Range Traverse. This traverse, inspired by Croft’s impressive single-day completion in the late 80’s, has been briefly reported by a few prior posts ( here and here), but it was challenging to find specifics on the route’s navigational crux. After completing the range link up, we were confounded with how this enchainment doesn’t see the attention it clearly deserves.


Comfortable bivy site are abundant. Possible at the Sherpa-Argo col, but a great perch at the Argo-Colchuck col, and of course the well-travelled Colchuck Col. Also plenty along the ridges and summits, particularly on the last three major summits. It’s amazing that one can pull of the STR with ample time on the goods without having to deal with forest service permit hassle. The border zone appears to be divide itself, and most bivy sites are slightly toward the Ingalls fall line (save the peaks directly above the enchantment plateau).


The snow on route was a key component for success for quick water access as well as fast descents on what would be loose talus gullies later in the season. A bit earlier in the season would hedge on slightly longer daylight and even more snow coverage on the southern aspects which could further help speed.


The ridge traverse purists out there may contend that the range’s proper skyline traverse would start at Goat pass with the West Ridge on Stuart and may assert that an SRT should go to (or past) McClellan. The full north ridge of Stuart seemed like a better start with many more quality pitches than the West Ridge mostly 4th class terrain. For us, Little Annapurna was a natural end point as the technical portion of the range is complete, and enchantment pass is the first hike-able pass you come across.


In our view, both the west ridge of Argonaut and its NE face descent was the SRT crux. Anyone walking into Stuart’s north side can see the large series of spires that composes the long ridge from Sherpa-Argo Col to Argonaut’s summit. To stay directly on the crest involves both up and down climbing short .7-.9 pitches. Traversing around the spires can save significant time. We found staying on the crest early to gain a good position on the ridge, but eventually defaulting toward the south sides of the spires as well as using the gullies up/down access (and critical for water refueling in the afternoon heat) to be vital for efficient movement through this section.


The snow was stiffening in the evening shade as we hit the NE face descent made it a bit more spicy. The rock edge of the main snow field allows for a lower traverse the snow field. Further hunting may have provided a non-rap solution to get down into the coliour dividing Argo-Colchuck Col and Argonaut, but we ended up opting for a rap on at the bottom of the snow field to get into the shaded trough before things further froze. This coliour runs at 40-45º and looks like a fantastic ski line, but hitting it too late in summer months could pose issue if you don’t have points.


We had intended to descend down from Colchuck Col to include Backbone into the itin, however we had no Colchuck Lake permit on a heavy trafficked (& ranger’d) weekend to set up the night before. The hard snow conditions in the morning gave an uncomfortable feeling about the speed descent our tennies and a nut tool would provide. Our decision to go without axe or points didn’t allow us to climb DT as we would have preferred, but staying a bit more true to the skyline on the 4th class ridge saved time to open up an afternoon of a few bonus routes after the SRT was complete.


For the number obsessed:

3:45am Depart Stuart Lake TH (lost for 30-45 mins as we botched finding the climbers trail)

7:15 Base of full north ridge (fairly buggy)

10:15 Stuart summit (two other parties at the notch)

12noon Sherpa summit

4:45 Argonuat summit

7:15 Colchuck summit

8:00pm Colchuck col for bivy (intermittent sleep at best)

6:30am Moving toward DT

8:00 Dragontail summit (napped for an hour in the sun)

9:40 Summit behind witches tower

10:50 Little Annapurna summit


On to some bonus lines for the afternoon:

12:20 Base of Burger-Stanley on Prussik

2:15 Prussik summit

3:00 West Ridge base

3:20 Prussik summit again

4:00 Hiking down snow creek

6:45 Racking for outer space (turned at P4)

8:30 Descending to snow creek TH

9:15 Trailhead


Gear Notes:

One twin rope (doubled up for simo’ing and useful for a few raps)

Extra tat (some remote rap stations see a lot of UV, but not much traffic)

No axe, no crampons (but these may be a good idea if less comfortable on steep snowy terrain, or with firmer conditions)

Light bivy kit (maybe a bit too light)

C4 #4 that was not necessary (who ever thinks the upper gendarme pitch is actually any "off-width" technique is an anorexic midget... though this would have been handy had Backbone came together)


Approach Notes:

In Mountaineers Creek, out Snow Creek drainage.


Few Pics:


Gendarme P1



Stuart Summit looking at SRT



Argonaut NE Descent



Col Coziness



Getting a few extra lines in


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Amazing! After coming up via the NE couloir on Argonaut a few years back, I remember looking down the opposite side from the summit and thinking how hideous it looked--nice work!

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thank you for that very cool report. the stuart range is the bomb. looks like you guys were moving really fast over those 2 days. Kudos!

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PunkRock: The SRT stays on the ridge line ascending Sherpa's West Ridge. We only looked down, but didn't touch the Sherpa Couloir.

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Thanks for the TR. That was quick work! Can you give more detail on the north ridge of Stuart? Did the snow cover the climb at all? I want to do it in rock shoes rather than boots.

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Did the snow cover the climb at all? I want to do it in rock shoes rather than boots.
The ridge is dry. :tup:

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