Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mt Stuart- N Ridge, Washington Cascades

I use my car a lot. I wish I didn't. I love to explore and climb in the Rocky mountains therefore I drive to the trail heads for the convenience and instant gratification. Sometimes I will drive 600 miles to climb one mountain to return Home a couple of days later after ticking off a Classic route. This summer I am trying to use other modes of traveling to make myself feel less guilty when I do use my car for a Far from Home adventure.

Over the 4th of July weekend I took the Amtrak train from Whitefish, MT to Leavenworth, WA. The Amtrak is a comfortable way to travel. The cars are air conditioned and the seats fold all the way back for sleeping. The train was 6 hours late so instead of departing at 1045 pm, it didn't leave Whitefish station until 330 am. This is pretty common. Luckily I met some friends in town to hang out with as I learned via text messaging that the train would be delayed. I patiently waited across the street at the Great Northern Bar, putting back 1 dollar High Lifes.

After crossing 3 state borders on the rail I arrived in Leavenworth a little after noon, 8 hours later. Gaelen, Liz Rocco and I carpooled from town to the Ingalls Lake trail head to climb the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart. There are two approaches to access Mt Stuart. We felt that this approach off Bluit Pass worked well for us. You start on the south side of the mountain to access the North.

We moved well as a party of three and flashed the route in 14 hours. We hiked over three passes and crossed the Stuart Glacier putting us on the ridge proper in 6 hours. We simul-climbed to the base of the gendarme in two pitches. We climbed the gendarme in two pitches and roped up for two more pitches above before returning to simuling to the summit cone. The climbing was great and the exposure was righteous! We had a perfect day and enjoyed a cozy summit bivy. The next morning we descended the Cascadian couloir 4500 feet, up and over Longs Pass and back to the Car where cold IPAs awaited us in the cooler. God Bless America!

A look at the West Ridge of Stuart

Crossing Ingalls Lake on our way to the third and final Pass
before descending onto the Stuart Glacier

Crossing the Stuart Glacier below the intimidating N Face

The N Ridge is the sky line, starting in the couloir on the lower left of the pic

Crossing above some big cracks in approach shoes.
The girls brought ice axes and I brought crampons, but no ice axe.
Together we had a complete set of alpine tools 

Starting up the couloir to the base of the ridge.
The approach gully is way more easier than it looks from afar,
offering fun climbing on solid rock most of the way up.

I won the odds and evens game so I got to lead the two pitches to the base of the gendarme.

3 way simul climbing at its best!
We made great time so climbed the route in one push.

Liz leading the 1st crux 5.9 pitch.
Amazing lie back to stellar belay.
This is where the exposure kicked in.

Two wild ones excited about committing to getting to the top!

Rotate and see the great wide pitch on the Gendarme.
As good as it gets.

Gae getting her  lead on. More amazing rock.

Unroped again and heading for the summit cone.

This is where we got water to prepare for the summit bivy.

Gae giving Liz a little reassurance on the summit traverse

Stoke individuals. We make a great team!

A cozy bivy

Gae pointing to her next objective. Mt Raindogs.

Writing a little not in the summit register before heading down.
Some of the other adventures I have enjoyed this summer without the use of my Car have been bikepacking Glacier National Park and Packrafting on the N Fork of Flathead river. There is a great deal of adventure to be added to a trip when you don't gas up. I am more mindful of my objectives these days, but will continue to use the convenience of my Car because the experience in the mountains are too powerful for me to miss out on climbing them. These experience do come at a cost though.

-Jakeums Frerkums