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[TR] Mt. Stuart - Sherpa Glacier 9/10/2011

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Trip: Mt. Stuart - Sherpa Glacier


Date: 9/10/2011-9/11/2011


Trip Report:

With little info on the Sherpa Glacier route, especially in late season, we decided to hit the trail this last weekend and hopefully add Stuart to our list of summits. We had a rough idea on the route and mileage, but didn't really know what to expect. We thought we would be able to complete the entire climb in a day. Boy were we wrong!


We arrived at the Stuart Lake TH Friday evening and opted to start our trip that night and hike into the basin below Sherpa Glacier. That would give us plenty of time to complete the climb on Saturday and be back to the car by Saturday evening...or so we thought. After some dinner, we were on the trail at about 8pm with our headlamps.


I read that the trail leading to the basin broke off the main Stuart Lake trail at the beginning of the switchbacks (up to the lake), but we still had difficulty finding it. We found what looked like a trail and took it. Let the bush-whacking and boulder-hopping begin!


We struggled our way to the basin, trying our best to follow the rock cairns. It felt like a game of hide and seek, since we could never see the next cairn in front of us. After 7 long hours we eventually we made it to the beginning of the basin where we camped.


Four hours of sleep later, we were back on the trail at 8am. Of course it was much easier navigating the daylight! We reached the base of the glacier and started our climb up. The glacier looked good from below, but we still couldn't see where it topped out and the condition of the shrund.


From the basin below the glacier:



Sherpa Glacier:





We had some friends in the basin:




Once a good distance up the glacier, we stopped to gear up and strap our crampons on. One lesson we learned: DO NOT try to bend your crampon bar/link back into shape while on the mountain. My uncle tried this and snapped it; looks like he was going up with one crampon.


Looking back down the basin:






We reached the top of the glacier and finally got a look the shrund. It was MASSIVE! Pictures just don't do it justice. Luckily, there was a small bridge over a rock that was in the crevasse (off to the left side of the shrund). Without that, we would have had to turn around. I suppose if someone was carrying the right gear they could find a more creative way over/around/through the shrund.


Below the shrund with our route marked:



Above the shrund:




We belayed each other over the bridge and then did a running belay across the top of the shrund until we hit the couloir. At the bottom of the couloir we unroped and made our way to the top. The snow was in good shape all the way up; it was all sun-cupped which made for easy foot placements (even with one crampon!).


Up the couloir:



Sherpa Peak:



Sherpa Peak and the balancing rock:




Once at the top of the couloir, we dropped our packs and started the scramble to the summit. We reached the summit at around 3:30pm (7.5 hrs from the beginning of the basin). The weather was awesome and views were excellent!


Found this guy just below the summit. He was minding his own business:





Great views:



Stuart Lake:



Glacier Peak:







On our way down we came up on two climbers. One of the climbers apparently hurt his leg when he slid down a snowfield and into the rocks. He was unable to climb down on his own. We got their info and tried to get a call out for help, but we did not have cell service. There were two other climbers behind us on the summit, so they were going to try to get help from them, too.


For the descent, I read Pete_H's post about descending via Sherpa Pass. I thought this would be a good idea since going back down the Sherpa Glacier would be sketchy. After retrieving our packs, we took off down the gully to the south below Sherpa Peak with the intention of wrapping around the cliff bands on the south-southeast of Sherpa Peak and ending up at Sherpa Pass. Unfortunately we couldn't find an easy way around the cliff bands and had to descend farther than we wanted. That left us with about a 1000 vf traverse up to Sherpa Pass. This was probably the most frustrating part of the weekend, since there obviously was not a trail to follow and we were running on fumes. Six hours after leaving the summit, we arrive at Sherpa Pass and passed out for the night.


Just before reaching the pass, we could see a helicopter flying around the mountain with its spot light on. We assumed it was for the injured climber, but they were making many passes around the mountain as if they were looking for someone (even though the exact coordinates of the climber were known). Every time it was heading in our direction we turned off our headlamps so they didn't mistakenly see us...they were pretty high though. We did hear them hover for some time next to Stuart, so maybe they dropped off a rescuer. I fell asleep soon after, so I'm not sure what happened exactly.


We awoke the next morning and got going around 7:30am. We descended down the snow and into the basin. Crampons made life easier on the hard snow, but there are some rock bands you can go down if you want.


Looking down the valley from Sherpa Pass:



Sherpa Pass:




Once we hit Mountaineers Creek, we followed that all the way into the meadow where we met up with the Stuart Lake trail. It was pretty rough travel; there were downed trees and boulders everywhere we turned it seemed like. From the top of Sherpa Pass, it look us around 3.5 hours to join back up with the Stuart Lake trail. From there, we had the short hike back to the car and our weekend was complete!


Back to the Stuart Lake trail:





Now I know why I couldn't find any trip reports for late season climbs up Sherpa Glacier...because no one does it! :grin: All in all, it was an excellent, albeit long climb. I could have done without some of the bush-whacking, but we survived. Also, we couldn't have asked for better weather! One plus is that we were in the shade for most of the weekend. I would climb this route again, but definitely earlier in the season when a descent down Sherpa Glacier is a better and faster option.


Car to Basin: 7 hours

Basin to Summit: 7.5 hours

Summit to Sherpa Pass: 6 hours

Sherpa Pass to Car: 4.5 hours


GPS Data:





In Google Earth:








Gear Notes:

Ice Axe, Crampons (at least one!), Rope, Helmet. We brought two pickets, though an extra one would have made our running belay more efficient. Bug Spray.

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Ahh, memorable times to be had. Last year im pretty sure we were the only ones to go up that route. We descended the route and it was quite grueling. We didnt feel like trusting the old webbing anchors that have been there since got knows when, some rappels would have expedited things but it was dark. (going back over the shiza shrund with low fuel i love it) Oh yeah and snapped my pinky toenail clean off the next morning hiking out of mountaineer creek in my approach chacos.... not recommended.

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