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chadwalker

[TR] Mount Stuart - West Ridge 9/2/2013

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Trip: Mount Stuart - West Ridge

 

Date: 9/2/2013

 

Trip Report:

I climbed/hiked the West Ridge of Mount Stuart on Labor Day before work at 4PM in Seattle with a car-to-car time of 8 hours 35 minutes. This was my first time completing the route and my second attempt on the mountain. I only ran the section from Long's pass back down to the trailhead. I didn't plan for Labor Day traffic and I was an hour and 15 minutes late to work.

 

I left Seattle at 3:45 AM and was on the trail at 6AM, at the base of the route at 8:25, summited at 10:56, was down the Cascadian Couloir by 1PM after a half hour of bushwhacking at the bottom. Back over Long's pass by 2PM and down at the car at 2:35PM. I had attempted the route a month ago, but was shut down by lack of visibility due to cloud cover.

 

Before I go any further I want to say, that with the rating of II 5.4 I expected to find more rock climbing on the route. The vast majority of the route is 2nd and 3rd class walking/stair stepping in gullies and on ledges. The supposed 4th/low 5th class after the notch on the North side is not nearly as exposed or stiff as some other reports may have indicated. In my opinion, the entire route goes at 4th class. Sections of potentially difficult climbing can be easily avoided if desired, as many options exist.

 

 

A note to the hesitant potential solo climber:

 

If you are worried/concerned about the 5th class climbing up high on the route, don't fret. All of the climbing beyond 3rd class is completely secure, juggy, blocky, short, and not terribly exposed. Finding the line of least resistance will undoubtedly be your main crux of the route, and it's not really much of a crux. Follow the Beckey beta and you'll be fine.

 

I would rate this routes technical climbing as easier and less sustained than that on the Tooth, but the logistics and nature of the route are more involved.

 

I definitely recommend this route to anybody sure-footed in the mountains. It is a great endurance day running around at elevation, moving quickly over easy solid rock. If you're into mountain running and have done all the stuff down the i-90 corridor, definitely don't skip out on this one. It's not the most classic rock climb, but definitely is the most enjoyable mountain scramble that I've done around Seattle. Leave the climbing shoes and chalk bag at home, you won't need them.

 

 

HOW DID SOMEBODY DO THIS C2C IN 5:45????????? Holy cow.

 

OK, now for some pictures from my first attempt:

 

My first view of Stuart ever.

IMG_4148.jpg

 

Ingall's Lake

IMG_4157.jpg

 

God's country

IMG_4153.jpg

 

Clouds about to win the war

IMG_4178.jpg

 

There's more of them than there is me

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Cloudy West Ridge

IMG_4183.jpg

 

Cloud

IMG_4220.jpg

 

I'll be back!IMG_4225.jpg

 

 

AND pictures from Labor Day full of sunshine and send points :)

 

Sunnier this time around

IMG_44181.jpg

 

IMG_44191.jpg

 

Above Long John Tower: Still got a ways to the notch and the summit block

IMG_4426.jpg

 

Summit Shot!!

IMG_4437.jpg

 

Leaving Pano

IMG_4449.jpg

 

 

And there you have it! Get out there and put up some times people! The conditions are perfect right now!!!

 

Gear Notes:

5.10 Camp 4's

2 Liters of water

Shot Blocks

Goo

Banana

Apple

Rain shell just in case

iPhone

 

No axe, no crampons, no snow, just rock!

 

Approach Notes:

Fill up 2 liters of water @ Ingall's Lake, Be prepared for Long's pass. There is no water between Ingall's lake and Teanaway creek after the end of the Cascadian. Move quickly on the route and don't dawdle.

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The supposed 4th/low 5th class after the notch on the North side is not nearly as exposed or stiff as some other reports may have indicated. In my opinion, the entire route goes at 4th class.

 

All of the climbing beyond 3rd class is completely secure, juggy, blocky, short, and not terribly exposed. Follow the Beckey beta and you'll be fine.

 

I would rate this routes technical climbing as easier and less sustained than that on the Tooth

That's an interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

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Hei, Pal. No kidding you are in good shape!!

Given that you referred to all the solo climbers, I'd like to make a quick comment for the same "population": I know of a very good climber, very careful, solid climber, that took a fall in that route because a boulder just got loose, and could have very well died in that route. He's probably alive just because of being roped up and the big pelotas of the partner that down-climbed like 80% of the ridge. Not trying by any means to generate a discussion, just a friendly second opinion.

In any case, awesome job, Dude!!

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I know of a very good climber, very careful, solid climber, that took a fall in that route because a boulder just got loose, and could have very well died in that route.

 

Gaucho, have you ever climbed the West Ridge? In my experience up there, the rock was solid enough to move quickly and comfortably over. No rock shoes, no chalk. I'm sure just about anybody could chime into a given situation and tell of how they know someone who knew someone who had an epic on any given route.

 

My recommendation to solo climbers to "go for it" was the result of my own internal battle when preparing for the climb. All around the world wide webs, there are stories and tales and opinions about climbs. When trying to get beta for the West Ridge, I read everything from "wandery, route-findy, beta-intensive, follow the green line in this picture, not the red line, loose rock here, loose rock there, don't get off route or you will quickly find yourself in 5.9 no-man's-land... yadda yadda yadda" to "it's 3rd class". I found it to be much closer to the latter.

 

The problem with these internet reports is that we often have no context of the authors experience, skill level, route finding abilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Often the author has come from a group of folks with the Mountaineers and are out for their first alpine climbing adventure! Or it's somebody fresh off of 20 years on the couch looking to "get back after it". There's no way to be certain. I for one didn't know how to judge how prepared I would be for the route, which led to feelings of anxiety and frustration.

 

There is a greater issue here: The YELPification of climbing. We don't know if the internet author had shitty service, found a cockroach in their food, or just had a bone to pick with the wait staff... Everybody's got an opinion, and I for one don't care to hear all of them. When deciding the best plan of attack for a given route, how does anybody know how best to prepare? Comparison with other climbs in their own experience. When I compared the climbing on the West Ridge with that on the Tooth, I was hoping to put the climb into some context: If you feel comfortable soloing the Tooth, you'll find the West Ridge's technical climbing a breeze. Granted, there's more logistics and route finding (and it is a much longer day), but if you have a nose, you will find the way. Hopefully my report can be of some inspiration to other potential onsight solo climbers looking to move fast and light, but are uncertain if they'll succeed.

 

When I was getting ready for this climb, I was reading all of those reports. I was thinking, "will I be able to handle this? This exposed 5th class up high on the route? This potential for 5.9 climbing without a rope?" The reports are all over the place. I'm writing this to the proficient climber, the experienced scrambler, the closet soloist who enjoys long days on easy (3rd, 4th, low 5th) terrain.

 

If you enjoy endurance scrambling on solid granite, Stuart is pure gold. Loose blocks exist, yes (not in abundance), but that is a danger both in the alpine, and at your local roadside crag. Having a rope on, or not, will not change that fact.

 

Gaucho, I'm sorry to hear you know someone who took a fall on the route, but you should totally get out there and climb it if you haven't. It might change your perspective on it.

 

 

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We climbed in on Sat two days before your amazing time. We summited in 5 hours from the start, then took the lame way down a very loose scree hill that took forever. Then back to our tent. We were not trying to car to car it because of we were on a 4 day back packing trip trying to relax. I thought the move up to Long Johns tower was solid 5.9, maybe because it was a little wet. I would never solo it. Also the final crux came at the very end. Either go left or right. We went to the right and all of us thought it was solid 5.9. Maybe we are lame weak climbers but I would never solo this.

 

Awesome for you!

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I've climbed the WR of Stuart three times. Once, ropeless with BigEO, via the classic West Ridge route in running shoes in a day. Another time via the Stuart Glacier Couloir and a third time via the West Ridge Couloir. I've also soloed the South Face of the Tooth around two dozen times. IMNSHO, the climbing on Stuart is more technical. Not by a bunch, but by a bit and in a couple of spots is more exposed. One would be hard pressed to fall very far without landing on a ledge on the Tooth, but the north side traverse pitch on WR Stuart is very exposed and has over 1,000 feet of air under one's heels. I feel that pitch alone is harder than anything on the Tooth and would pretty much be a death fall. These are just my opinions, just as valid as anyone's, but I've been around the block once or twice, so they are not exactly without some context.

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Chad,

You're right that the interwebs are full of tall tales and bs, but this site has some regular long-time contributors who are solid folks that post useful info. Climb with some, read their reports and suggestions, climb their routes, and you can get a sense of how to interpret their comments and TRs. Soloing is a very personal experience. One person's solo is another's lifetime project, so there is no formula. At the end of the day, each of us must find our own path and take responsibility for our own actions.

see you at SBP!

Rad

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We climbed in on Sat two days before your amazing time. We summited in 5 hours from the start, then took the lame way down a very loose scree hill that took forever. Then back to our tent. We were not trying to car to car it because of we were on a 4 day back packing trip trying to relax. I thought the move up to Long Johns tower was solid 5.9, maybe because it was a little wet. I would never solo it. Also the final crux came at the very end. Either go left or right. We went to the right and all of us thought it was solid 5.9. Maybe we are lame weak climbers but I would never solo this.

 

Awesome for you!

 

you were seriously off route if you were climbing 5.9 on the W ridge. getting up to long john is 4th or low 5th, out of the W ridge notch is mostly low 5th with a spot or two of 5.5. A totally casual solo.

 

The N ridge is 1000 times better though, and a easy day trip if you're soloing.

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Sounds like you missed out on all the good climbing in your haste. There are 3-4 fun pitches in the 5.8-ish range between the notch and summit, but you have to stay close to the ridge and ignore the guidebook instructions to drop down to the sandy ledge and traverse to the S below the summit to the path of least resistance. The LJT pitch (left side) is also harder and better than anything I encountered in my one trip up the Tooth.

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We climbed in on Sat two days before your amazing time. We summited in 5 hours from the start, then took the lame way down a very loose scree hill that took forever. Then back to our tent. We were not trying to car to car it because of we were on a 4 day back packing trip trying to relax. I thought the move up to Long Johns tower was solid 5.9, maybe because it was a little wet. I would never solo it. Also the final crux came at the very end. Either go left or right. We went to the right and all of us thought it was solid 5.9. Maybe we are lame weak climbers but I would never solo this.

 

Awesome for you!

 

you were seriously off route if you were climbing 5.9 on the W ridge. getting up to long john is 4th or low 5th, out of the W ridge notch is mostly low 5th with a spot or two of 5.5. A totally casual solo.

 

The N ridge is 1000 times better though, and a easy day trip if you're soloing.

 

Very possible. Getting up to LJT on the left side had a 5.8/9 move for sure. We all thought so.....and it was wet. Also about 150 from the summit we encountered a 12 foot section of what we thought was solid 5.9.

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Chad,

You're right that the interwebs are full of tall tales and bs, but this site has some regular long-time contributors who are solid folks that post useful info. Climb with some, read their reports and suggestions, climb their routes, and you can get a sense of how to interpret their comments and TRs. Soloing is a very personal experience. One person's solo is another's lifetime project, so there is no formula. At the end of the day, each of us must find our own path and take responsibility for our own actions.

see you at SBP!

Rad

 

+1 :tup:

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Chad, I understand that this was a breakthrough climb for you and you are sharing your experience with only good intentions. That being said, I have heartburn with your decision to rally others to go rope-less:

 

Hopefully my report can be of some inspiration to other potential onsight solo climbers looking to move fast and light, but are uncertain if they'll succeed.

The problem is, you don't have much control over who you will inspire. Most of the climbers that are up to soloing it already have this route on their list, if they haven't done it already. It's the less experienced climbers that may rely more on your advice. Yes it's up to them to make wise decisions, but '...gee, we should have no problem climbing 4th class, right?'

 

FWIW - My partner and I climbed the route rope-free for 90+%,but were happily 'on belay' for the few tougher spots. I was a 5.9-10 climber and still kid-less at the time.

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Soloing is a very personal experience. One person's solo is another's lifetime project, so there is no formula. At the end of the day, each of us must find our own path and take responsibility for our own actions.

 

Well-stated!

 

Hopefully my report can be of some inspiration to other potential onsight solo climbers looking to move fast and light, but are uncertain if they'll succeed.

 

This is what bothers me - for the reasons curt states. People who solo generally come to this path intentionally, as experienced climbers. Newbs don't need to be inspired to solo routes like W Ridge of Stuart - they need to become experienced enough first to make this personal choice.

 

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Hi, Chad!

I'm pretty sure is a great route, and can't be more difficult than the TFT, to mention one.

I guess my opinion comes from my experience with mountain rescue, and now with having worked in an ICU during nursing. Form that I assure you I saw many times the definition of "accident": something you can't predict. IMHO, this accident you can't prevent even in an "easy" rock climb like the W Ridge of Stuart, can have a very different outcome roped than not.

I can also think on my son reading your TR. I would be much happier him reading something like: "This is a serious alpine route for the solo climber. Make sure you understand what you are getting into, and if you have the experience to go solo for it, go climb it, enjoy it, but also be ready for some serious possibility of getting hurt or even dying". That would be a good encouragement from someone with very solid skills like you in a more balanced way to those younger climbers that may not still even have the appropriate developmental age to understand all the risks (is known that we have fully functional brain only until 23-24 years of age).

 

Again, Chad, not saying anything against you, you are free to do and say what you want, and I can honestly only applaud your physical stamina and mind set up to go for it. I just wanted to make sure my son and any other kiddo that could end up in the ICU where I worked, had a different opinion to read in the same thread.

 

In the end, after reading different opinions and having more information, we can all decide by ourselves.

 

Cheers, my friend :-)

Gaucho..

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Thanks for chiming in everybody. My intentions were never to suggest that anybody bite off more than they can chew, but rather give a different perspective than is usual given the trend of reports for this climb.

 

Obviously consequences will be severe for mistakes made when you are pushing it way out in the mountains. And accidents can happen anywhere. Once again, I am not recommending that anybody unsure of their abilities in the mountains hurry out to Stuart and go on a scrambling binge. But I am making the argument that if you are comfortable going ropeless on the Tooth, and have your route-finding wits about you, that Stuart should feel like a natural step in your progression.

 

A question to those of you who have been where I am: what is the next logical step? Bigger? Faster? Yes, but how much?

 

I'm sure I'll have to be the one to decide.

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AND does anybody have any information on the speed record holder? I remember reading 5:45 c2c... Can this be confirmed? Anybody else come close? What are your personal best times?

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AND does anybody have any information on the speed record holder? I remember reading 5:45 c2c... Can this be confirmed? Anybody else come close? What are your personal best times?

 

It was Miles Smart. My PR was 6 hours and some mintues, don't recall exactly, but I ran the trails.

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.

 

A question to those of you who have been where I am: what is the next logical step? Bigger? Faster? Yes, but how much?

 

I'm sure I'll have to be the one to decide.

 

The North Ridge from the Notch maybe?? I timed myself a few weeks ago. I had to wait around at Goat Pass for about two hours until the clouds lifted from the summit before I would commit to the climb.

 

From the notch, steady climbing with no breaks I topped out at 1:03:58. From the summit back to the car it was 3:28:10 with steady hiking and one 5 minute break at the Ingalls Creek crossing.

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it took me about an hour from the notch to the summit on the N ridge, you move really fast without a rope.

 

The gendarme pitches are 5.9 but cruxes are short and secure. Plus, if you're OSing it it's damn hard to get off route, stick to the crest and follow the lichen free rock.

 

Serpentine took me 2 hours because of the inobvious routefinding, the hike in/out is a lot more straightforward though.

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A question to those of you who have been where I am: what is the next logical step? Bigger? Faster? Yes, but how much?

The next logical step is to to quit soloing while you're ahead. :grin: While I often viewed alpine climbs as a series of progressive steps, I never thought of soloing in that light. For me, soloing was something I did spontaneously when I felt strong or when I needed some exercise in which case I'd solo the Tooth (Toothercising) or something similar or when I couldn't get a partner. In those latter instances I only soloed well below my ability. I never thought of pushing my soloing into bigger/harder routes. I did get caught up in speed soloing the Tooth, only because Keith Mark Johnson said it couldn't be done much faster than his time so I had to go and see for myself.

Edited by DPS

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it took me about an hour from the notch to the summit on the N ridge, you move really fast without a rope.

 

So a little less than 1:03:xx or a little more?

 

Back to the OP, and what to do next, I guess it really depends on the type of challenge you're looking for. I really don't get the speed thing other than it increases your range of possibilities. So I'd say harder or more hazardous. There are a lot of cool mountains out there that are much more enjoyable as a long day than carrying in gear and sleeping on the cold hard ground. The most important thing IMHO is to listen to yourself and turn around if it doesn't feel right. Don't let the goal overcome your good sense.

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Thanks for the thoughts. I think I just need to get out more places to get more objectives. There's only so many times I can leaf through Classic Climbs without getting in the car and driving.

 

I'm going to admit something that I'm ashamed to admit.

 

Wait for it.

 

Wait.

 

I've never been to Washington Pass. :(

 

I've been here for a year almost and I've never been to WA pass.

 

 

That is all.

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