Mt. Stuart, WA


From Michael's list, you can now cross off Mt. Stuart.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Michael keeps a list of peaks (don't we all), but his are tilted to 'Ultra-prominence' peaks, those with over 5k of height over anything connected. So Stuart was high on his list. The weather in Idaho looked soggy, and we hadn't done a road trip for a while. So: Let's drive to the Seattle area to get out of the rain!

We left on a Thursday evening, with a rendezvous in Farewell Bend. I left my truck and we spent the night in Pendleton. The next day, after stopping in Cle Elum for our Northwest Trails pass, we were on our feet at about noon at the Esmeralda Creek trailhead up the Teanaway River.

The first bit follow an old road.


The trail to Long's Pass is very pleasant, perhaps too pleasant. With such a mellow grade, it takes a long time to reach the pass. But we were being casual and trying to conserve, so it was all good. All 1800' of gain. Great views!


At the pass, we got our first real view of Stuart. The obvious gully on the right is the Cascadian. If it looks long, there is no need to adjust your TV set.


We figured the couloir would just be hard work. Of greater interest was the amount of snow (there's snow there, but hidden from this view behind ridges) and the complexity of traversing right to left from the false summit to the true summit.


But before we start climbing, first we have to drop 1300' down to Ingall's Creek. One trip report dubbed this the 'zipper' trail. I suppose because of the straight line down the fall line.


The next issue was getting across Ingall's Creek. The trip reports said the old log had collapsed, so we had worries of thigh-deep wading. As it turns out, you don't need the log this time of year.

But for reference, there is a new log that looks like someone placed it with precision and care. Don't ask me how. But it looks very solid.


There are several campsites along the creek. For privacy, we opted to move as far as possible from the crossing, even though we were the only ones there. Also, we were right by the cairned trail leading up the hillside, so we knew our route for an early start. Time to lie around. Note that skeeters were negligible, but the non-biting flies were plentiful, persistent, and annoying.

That evening just before dark, as we drowsed off, we heard a shout. I woke up groggy, but Michael was equally confused. Two girls with only a pair of ski poles between them were frantically asking how to find the trail to Long's Pass. After a few minutes of very confused conversation we finally determined that they had just completed the North Ridge on Stuart, their packs were sitting close by, but they wanted to get out. Now. But didn't know where the trail was. Apparently, they had been hiking back and forth searching. We finally got them to settle down, pointed them in the right direction, and after a few chuckles managed to go back to sleep.


Fifty paces from our camp, this is what our route looks like. The gully is mostly hidden, but you can see the bottom. The sunshine was from the first afternoon. We could see the same view as we headed out the next morning, but it was too dim for photos.

I should mention how warm and humid it was that morning. I never did get fully into my 35° sleeping bag. Too warm. As we left camp at 4:45, it was probably close to 70, and extremely muggy.

Bottom of the gully
Sweating profusely despite the early hour (uh oh), this is what we saw as we labored up the Crapcadian. But don't worry, there is only about 3500 vertical of this crap to go. Bottom of the gully
As we gained height, we could see the source of all the humidity. There was a marine layer moving in. Camp

At the top of the couloir, the mountain opens up to show you even more crap.

The main snowfield is still mostly hidden, but from here you can kinda guess where it is. The highpoint in the center is a false summit, and you need to go over the left shoulder below the false summit.

Bottom of the gully
From the highway approaching Cle Elum, we had been able to see the snow patch. No recent reports made it clear to us whether we needed axe and crampons, so we had lugged them all the way up here. Given that, and thinking the snow would yield better progress than more crap, and steeper crap, we tried. But the snow was sloppy junk over firm. If you didn't kick several times to get through the slop, the crampons would just slide. So at this point, I have taken mine off. Michael did likewise. Then it was scrambling on the dirty, loose crap that becomes exposed when a permanent snowfield is in the act of disappearing. Have fun. And wear your helmet. Bottom of the gully

From the shoulder below the false summit, you can finally see the cirque under the summit.

Except the 'marine layer' that was moving in was now moving UP. Dang!

Bottom of the gully
Now it was time to cross the cirque. I was very pleased to find cairns on the path I followed. But on closer inspection, there were cairns both above me and below. Oh well. Bottom of the gully
At one spot, I couldn't see a way that didn't get a little more technical. Then Michael told me of a trip report that mentioned squeezing through a hole. That worked well, but you better not be any fatter than Michael or I. Bottom of the gully
More cairns. Bottom of the gully
Fog moving in, and more cairns. Bottom of the gully

Okay. This is working. I wonder how you get up THAT?

Look for the chimney on the right.

Bottom of the gully
I was concerned that we were going to end up traversing a knife edge with mega exposure. As it turns out, from the top of the chimney it was a broad and easy scramble to the final slabs. And the slabs looked much less threatening than they had in some of the pictures we had studied. Bottom of the gully

But the mega exposure was very close by. Michael was determined to touch the top, and neither of us really wanted to get right on top of that big, unattached boulder.

Bottom of the gully

Okay. It's not so bad. Summit.

Note that although the marine layer was still with us, we did get some summit views for all our hard work.

We enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine, signed the register, and puttered about. But the view back down our route would not let us fully relax. Let's get this done before the marine layer gets any worse. Camp
Heading down, still with some sun. Camp

We got down below the snow patch, and then it moved in with vigor.

As we dropped, we ran into several groups on their way up. We wondered what navigation would be like in the soup.


We dropped. And we dropped. This is a real bugger of a descent. With about 1000' left to drop, my Camel went dry. Oops.

When we got back to camp, we tried to recover. Water. Food. Repeat. But both of us were getting twinges. The hike back up to Long's Pass was going to be, umm, interesting. But fortunately, the temperature had dropped considerably since we got up that morning. And we took a very steady, slow plod up and over.

Lots of hard work, but a fun climb (especially the top) and a wonderful adventure.




I should point out that on our descent we discovered that there are several, or perhaps many, trails leading up to the Cascadian. On our climb we had followed one marked by an obvious cairn, and it had fresh footprints. But some of the other trails we saw also had footprints, and we actually used two additiional trails on the way down when the 'new' one we were on separated us briefly. And they were good. Just go down (or up, as the case may be).


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