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[TR] Mt. Stuart - Stuart Glacier Couloir 5/16/2013

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Trip: Mt. Stuart - Stuart Glacier Couloir


Date: 5/16/2013


Trip Report:

Taylor (my wife) and I had a week off last week, so did some climbing and camping, mostly in Leavenworth and Methow areas. We started off with a bang by doing the N. Face of Hood on Saturday on our way up north (we live in Oregon), leaving the parking lot at 4ish AM and wading through snow-cone like snow for thousands of feet. Returned to the parking lot around 2pm. For those that are interested, the N. Face of Hood is still plenty thick, although it is a bit of a slog to get there - at least it was in the warm temps we had.


Anyways, we next set our sights on the Stuart Glacier Couloir after a couple of glorious days of camping up the Icicle. This turned out to be a fantastic adventure with wild exposure and climbing, and was much more involved than we expected.


We thought we'd try it in a day, but then found ourselves out at a bar until fairly late at night without having packed our bags. So, we ended up hiking in the next day, saving the climb for the day after. After talking to some skiers about the horrors of the Mountaineer Creek on the hike in, we opted to approach via the Stuart Lake valley, which in retrospect was a great idea. Our planned descent was the Sherpa Glacier, so this change in plan had the added benefit of giving us a grand-tour of sorts of Mt. Stuart.


We left the tent at around 5am, walking straightforward snow slopes up to the Stuart Glacier. The couloir itself was fun, especially when it steepened, but was nothing too difficult or noteworthy. The real climbing came afterwards, to our surprise. The route required three pitches or so of mid-fifth rock climbing on the high north face of Mt. Stuart, made much more difficult by the relatively heavy coverage of snow and ice. It was totally wild in places, with a good 2000+ feet of steep exposure. I ran into what felt like a couple .10 moves, in boots. Maybe we were off route, but I did find a pin or two, so maybe not. From our position, the North Ridge looked like a pleasant walk in the park by comparison... at least it was mostly dry.


Once we made it over to the south side, the snow was much less pervasive, allowing for some fun and moderate rock climbing.


The descent was also a bit more involved than expected, required a great deal of kick-stepping. The Sherpa Glacier is in good condition and the bergschrund is easily passable in multiple spots. The weather turned a bit nasty on our descent and started raining on us. At the bottom of the Ice Cliff Glacier, we had the depressing task (made much more gloomy by the rain) of climbing up 1000 feet to the col at the base of the North Ridge to access the Stuart Lake valley. Maybe it's just me, but climbing up again on your descent just kinda sucks no matter how you cut it.


After hanging out at camp for a bit, packing up and hiking out, we arrived back at the trailhead at 7:30pm or so.


Overall, a totally awesome climb, mixed with steep rock, snow and ice that gives you a great tour of Mt. Stuart's many sides. I highly recommend and would expect that it is pretty much the same shape as shown in these photos right now.


Now, the photos!!


Mt. Stuart from our camp:



Hiking up, sunrise!



Taylor leading in the Stuart Glacier Couloir:



Taylor working it high on the north face of Stuart:






Same (before the weather turned for the worse):









Taylor on the West Ridge:



Descending the East Ridge slopes:



In front of the Ice Cliff Glacier, hiking back up to in order to access the Stuart Lake valley.



Gear Notes:

Two tools, maybe an ice screw or two, a couple pickets, and a decent mid-range rack up to 3 inches.


Approach Notes:

Would recommend approaching by the Stuart Lake Valley rather than Mountaineer Creek, at least from what we heard and partially experienced (we hiked about a quarter mile up the so-called Mountaineer Creek trail before we opted to turn around and go up to the Stuart Lake valley).

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nice work!


i climbed this route a couple years ago and also found harder than expected climbing. the west ridge was caked in rime and challenging in crampons and tools. the couloir really just felt like a part of the approach. I think you might've clipped one of my knifeblades judging by the looks of your photos of the north face of the west ridge. what a wild route!


Edited by cam yarder

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Nice Tr and pics. Thanks for posting.


The upper W Ridge looks pretty dry, the lower not so much... Am thinking about a trip out to the W Ridge this weekend but the weather looks to be pretty bad so I'll probably just stay home and drink beer.



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Nice. This route is definitely conditions-dependent and varies a lot in difficulty depending on whether it's covered with rime (difficult), snow and rock (moderate), or just plain rock (least difficult) on the West Ridge portion of the climb. I definitely considered the couloir pretty much just part of the approach.


We climbed it in rimed up conditions in a near whiteout and 25+ MPH sustained winds and wound up only being able to place 7 or 8 pieces of pro on the whole route. A lot of the climbing was difficult and exposed.

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Looks like a fun route up there in WA.


On Hood N Face what was your descent route? Cooper Spur?

Edited by bedellympian

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Great TR Tom. Sounds like quite an experience, especially the descent! In retrospect, I'm glad we didn't try this route in a day, although it would have gone... just would have been a really long day.


On Hood, we descended the Cooper Spur without issues. I was kicking myself for not taking my skis! Although the wind became incredibly intense on the way down, making it difficult to walk straight. Hood is always fun.

Edited by mrkittles13

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