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Val Zephyr

[TR] Mt Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier 5/26/2014

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Trip: Mt Stuart - Ice Cliff Glacier


Date: 5/26/2014


Trip Report:

Jesse and I snuck in a climb of the Ice Cliff Glacier route on Mt Stuart under the relative safety of cloud cover and before the Sunday mountain weather hit in full force.


With encouraging reports of the Stuart Glacier Couloir Route being in great shape this year, Jesse and I decided to give it a go ourselves and maybe stick around the Enchantments for a couple more days. We had a leisurely start from Seattle and began hiking up the Mountaineers creek approach to the north side of Mt Stuart at 5:15pm. We probably should have given it an extra hour because it was time for headlamps about 20 minutes before we got to camp. I forgot what a pain that approach is. We found an excellent flat rock and threw our sleeping bags out on it, cooked dinner and slept under the stars for a few hours before it was time to start up to our route at 4am. We had started out with clear skies, but that was quickly changing. A bright red sunrise greeted us and we began wondering what climbing the 5.6 rock on the west ridge of Stuart would be like in a white out. We passed the Ice Cliff Glacier route, it looked to be in good shape but we had both done this route before. We hiked a little further, saw more intense clouds in the distance and made the choice to head back down to the toe of the Ice Cliff Glacier. At least we knew that we could finish the route if it started to snow, whereas I was less sure of my ability to climb the west ridge with a fresh coat of snow. The Ice Cliff glacier has considerable objective hazard from rocks, ice and huge cornices guarding the exits, and I have experienced the large amount of debris that can be released by this route first hand on my last trip up there in June of 2008 (a warm, sunny day). With the cloud cover however, the route looked much more inviting (and in the end we only saw one stray rock fall all day).


We started up the lower icefall with a running belay and occasional ice screws or pickets for pro on the steeper sections. The icefall went smoothly with only a short 10’ section of real ice to climb. The angle eased and Jesse took the lead, post-holing in the softer lower-angled snow. We had one more difficulty to pass as the angle increased again: a bergschrund split nearly the entire width of the glacier. This ended up being the crux of the route. Jesse had already had his fill of punching through shallow snow bridges on this trip, so I got the lead again and took us over a thin snowbridge on the far right hand side. It pays to be lightweight sometimes. I got over the bridge and put in a two cam anchor on the rock above. Jesse followed (without incident this time) and continued on, traversing on steep slushy snow above the gaping hole. The unsure footing on this section was the most mentally challenging section of the route, but was otherwise not difficult. Given how many older sets of footprints went right over the middle of the opened ‘schrund on old collapsed snowbridges, I doubt that our route will remain much longer either. The snow became better as we ascended the rest on the couloir, ending in the firm, calf-burning variety. We hugged the right-hand side to stay clear of any potential late morning snow/ice/rockfall, placing rock pro and pickets when available.


The top out was a fun 10’ section of solid vertical snow, we put in a couple of pickets below it and climbed over the top. I opted to throw a leg over and roll, Jesse went for a belly flop. The snow had hit about an hour before our 1pm top out and we were happy to not be on the SGC/WR route. Jesse’s knee had been bothering him from one of his earlier bergschrund punches, so we opted to skip the summit walk and begin a slow, wet descent without further delay.


Back at our camp rock, we had had lots of food/fuel/gear and no plans to leave yet, so we waited out the rain until Monday morning. As we were packing up the following morning, we watched as the east side of the north ridge avalanched down over our previous day’s route. It only took a dusting of wet snow to destabilize those steep slopes. We both agreed that we had the ICG route on Stuart out of our systems for a while now, the SGC route is still on the list though!


It was great to be back out on a multi-day trip again, I’d been so focused on long daytrips and comfortable beds, that I’d forgotten how great it is to sleep under the stars. I also forgot how heavy an overnight technical pack can be, especially when you aren’t sure exactly what your plans are. Why, why, oh why did I carry my rock shoes up the ICG?! I’ll never know.


Ice Cliff Glacier






Bergschrund is just below the rocks; up and left of Jesse


Snow finally hits near the top


Nearing the exit


View south after topping out


“summit” photo


Descending the Sherpa glacier


Camp rock!



Gear Notes:

We took way too much gear


Two pickets a light rack and two screws would be sufficient


Approach Notes:

Mountaineers creek is nearly snow free


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