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downey

[TR] Mt Stuart - Girth Pillar 6/17/2011

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Trip: Mt Stuart - Girth Pillar

 

Date: 6/17/2011

 

Trip Report:

Early last week, my buddy Trevor called me and asked, “... are you still on for Stuart this Thursday-Friday?” I strained to remember what I had committed to over beers a few nights before. A couple days later we agreed the forecast looked good enough to hike up to Stuart to climb the ice cliff glacier. When Trevor copied the beta for ice cliff from Nelson's guidebook and noticed, “... not one of the best routes he had done in the cascades, but the best...” describing the Girth Pillar, we decided to throw some extra hardware in the duffel.

 

After driving from Bellingham and a bit of post-holing, we arrived at the foot of Stuart with time to catch some pics of the awesome landscape . Gazing around sweeping snow slopes and steep rocky buttresses, I realized that I’m in love with the Cascades - my new backyard and a range I am still very unfamiliar with.

 

Stuart_1_.jpg

 

As I peered up at the improbable ice cliff glacier and steep rock buttress that is the Girth Pillar, I remembered the reason I was there and I began to feel quite small. Since this was my first route involving a glacier and I knew we would have to carry heavy boots, crampons, axe, etc., up the route, I tried my best not to acknowledge the intimidation I felt before turning my brain off in order to get some sleep.

 

stuartbeta.jpg

 

stuarttop.JPG

 

We just climbed past the ice cliff and were near the start of the rock when I heard Trevor yell, “ICE!” I put my head down and a lone chunk of ice hit me on the back. The 4am wakeup wasn’t early enough to eliminate icefall apparently. To gain the base of the rock, we belayed for the 2nd time. I place a picket and dash to the shelter of the rock, but not before a snowball from above hit me. I belayed Trevor up and he began the first rock pitch with crampons, wet rock, and delaminating ice. Eventually he donned his pack and crampons before a cruxy move and continued up a traversing runout on wet rock in mountain boots. This pitch epitomizes the entire climb. I arrived at the 2nd pitch, high five Trevor for the character-building lead, and we change into rock shoes.

stuartneve.jpg

 

girthpillarp1.jpg

 

Being spooked by the nature of the climbing and the periodic snow blocks the size of houses sliding off the slabs to our right, I felt inclined to tell Trevor we should not let it affect us and that we both should try to keep climbing quickly and efficiently. This would turn out to be easier said than done...

 

“What do you think of that mushroom?” He asked me. Being relatively new to this type of alpine-stuff, I admit I don’t know. After hucking a big rock at it from a ledge to test it’s stability, he proceeded quickly underneath it before working his way over a wet slab.

 

IMGP0574.JPG

 

His block ended at the base of the headwall, identified by a picture of Kit Lewis climbing this route in WINTER! We paused a moment to consider how ridiculous a proposition climbing the last few pitches in winter seemed.

 

Although technically harder and having the added bonus pump of hauling packs and a few icy jams, the next few pitches (5.10-5.11) felt way less of an ordeal than the approach pitches. With massive snow blocks ripping off every 30 minutes and rocks chattering down the gully on our left on a regular basis, I was a bit spooked. Consequently, I pulled through in a couple spots despite good protection and clean fall... I couldn’t get my mind past the fact that a tweaked ankle would be a very, very bad thing with retreat not being a good option at all. I’m sure some seasoned Cascade hard men and women might say I wussed out... oh well.

 

girthpillartrevor.jpg

 

After much hesitation, I decided to traverse left into the rock scar when possible and up a 5.10ish offwidth/squeeze. With my last piece 50’ below me and confronted with a cruxy move that would have left me hyperventilating a couple years ago, I was thankful for every wide crack I’ve ever groveled in. This was the only pitch Trevor didn’t send onsight. After tiptoeing around some death blocks and excavating some spongey lichen, I built an anchor. At this point the angle kicked back and we climbed over more “moderate” wet, icy, snowy terrain in two more blocks - including a jammed rope requiring the 2nd to self belay and some snowy covered rock climbing in crampons.

 

uppergirthpillar.jpg

 

Of the 13 pitches we climbed on the Pillar, I would only consider a couple of them easy - I guess ‘easy’ is a relative term, but I'd like to warn others not to underestimate the bottom and top portions of this route. Although we climbed the rock portion of the route much slower than I thought we would (about 10 hours), I’m still pretty satisfied with how it went.

 

This was a step up for both of us in terms of commitment and involvement, with moderate ice, challenging rock, little detailed beta, and plenty of stuff raining down around us, the route had quite an ominous and adventurous feel to it. I'm happy we had beautiful weather. I can see now how some strong climbers have come out of the Cascade Range and I am psyched to call this place my home.

 

 

Gear Notes:

we used: 50m lead rope, 100’ haul line (had to extend it with a sling to make it work a couple times), healthy selection alpine draws and nuts, double set cams from purple metolius to #2 C4, single #3, #4. *I was reluctant to bring the 4 but found it quite useful but not essential. We also brought a tblock for hauling packs and a hook in case wet holds demanded aid. We brought 3 screws and used one. Brought and used 3 pickets. Single tool or mountain axe each was adequate with the conditions but slowed us down a bit on the snow/ice. Later season ascents will probably want a second tool each. Steel (not aluminum) crampons. Old packs we didn’t mind beating up hauling.

 

 

Approach Notes:

Good luck with the cross country. It may not be a bad idea to mark the river crossing as a waypoint with a GPS. The approach pointed out my weakness in navigating so I might not be the best person to give advice here.

Edited by downey

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some bad ass climbing going on in the enchantments and wash pass! like honey badgers who don't give a fuck about snow on the route.

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I thought it was an incredible climb. It definitely had a more serious feel than any route I've done in the Cascades. Give it a couple more weeks and I think the route will dry out a lot and most of the hanging ice from the surrounding cliffs will melt out. That would be the time to give it a go. Oh, and don't go left on the final pitch of the pillar. Go straight up to avoid the offwidth. Thanks again Braden for a great adventure!

 

Here are some more pictures.

Looking up at the ice fall and the girth pillar

IMG_2213.JPG

 

Heading up the ice fall

IMG_22182.JPG

 

Looking down one of the approach pitches

IMG_22251.JPG

 

The first 5.10 crack

IMG_22261.JPG

 

Looking down the offwidth

IMG_22301.JPG

 

Looking up. Lead of the day!!!!!

IMG_22291.JPG

 

Braden high on the route

IMG_22332.JPG

 

A snowfield towards the top

IMG_22342.JPG

 

Summit of Stuart

IMG_22371.JPG

 

Cool views to the south

IMG_22381.JPG

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i appreciate the enthusiasm from many of you as well as constructive feedback like wayne's

 

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nice job Braden and Trevor. Jer and I were just ahead of you on the ice cliff and wondered where you went when we descended and looked down the ice cliff. This TR explains it! Solid job on the Girth! Definitely an intimidating route. Fine work!

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jens, i wouldn't be surprised if we bypassed the crux somehow, but i would be surprised if we were too far climber's right. we climbed past a pair of crampons on a hex if that indicates anything.

 

The rock scar to the left looks like something from utah. Is that where you consider the crux? regardless, it was a fun time, we learned a lot, and that's what really matters to me.

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thanks wbk... nice job yourselves - you guys were moving pretty quick. I rounded the first step and you were gone, otherwise i would have said hi.

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Jens did you go up that rock scar. We thought there was a sling up there. If you haven't do you know of anyone who has. It looked like there was a really nice corner a couple pitches higher.

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Nice work gentlemen!

 

The first "crux" pitch should be this one:

 

43046319nmaeYC_ph.jpg

 

Which leads to a 5.11 fingers pitch and then to this killer 5.10 crack pitch:

 

43046920jeUxHA_ph.jpg

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jens, i wouldn't be surprised if we bypassed the crux somehow, but i would be surprised if we were too far climber's right. we climbed past a pair of crampons on a hex if that indicates anything.

 

Haha, that is really funny about the crampons. Those are John Frieh's from years ago. I can't believe that they are still there. That sling on the rock scar is from me in 2005. I climbed up there, couldn't go any higher, came back down and did the regular route.

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Those pictures are right on. The only thing we did different was head cliombers left at the white sling. We should have gone straight up.

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Cool. It sounded like you guys had climbed the corner of the pillar, but it appears you were pretty right on. Nice work getting it in early season. Its a great route!

 

 

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