Ascent to Mount Stuart-Longs Pass on 2011-05-30
|Others in Party:||Glenn Morrison|
|Date:||Monday, May 30, 2011|
|Ascent Type:||Unsuccessful - Turned Back|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Car|
|Point Reached:||Mount Stuart - Longs Pass|
| Elevation:||6220 ft / 1895 m|
| Remaining Elevation:||3195 ft / 974 m (52% left to go)|
Ascent Trip ReportI woke up at 3 AM, left home at 3:20, and was waiting for Glenn in North Bend by 4 AM. He arrived at 4:15 and we stashed my car in a mall parking lot and headed off toward Mount Stuart.
Our quixotic one-day ski attempt on Stuart was inspired by Glenn reading a trip report on TurnsAllYear.com about a trip last weekend. We knew it would be a very long and ambitious day, but we decided to give it a shot.
Things started going wrong when we made some wrong turns getting to the trailhead. We were finally stopped by snow on the North Fork Teanaway Road at 4035 feet, about 3/4 mile from the summer trailhead. We took a while to get going, starting off at 6:45 AM, a bit late given our goal.
We hiked up the road and the start of the trail with no problems, walking on hard snow and patches of dirt. Once up the trail a bit we stopped trying to follow it, and booted straight uphill to gain elevation quickly. We were a bit slow, and Glenn was dragging behind me a ways--unusual for him, since he is usually in excellent shape.
At a flatter area we tried our climbing skins, but the hard, icy snow was not good for gripping, and Glenn especially had issues with his too-narrow skins. Eventually we both just booted our way uphill, reaching Longs Pass at 9:30 AM.
There we chatted with a couple of skiers that had camped there for 2 nights and had skied Stuart yesterday. The classic and awesome view of Stuart from the pass was marred by clouds obscuring the top 1/3 of the mountain, and the weather looked iffy at best. Still, after getting some good route advice from the skiers, and a long break, we decided to drop down the north side of the pass and go for it. I was not optimistic, due more to our general slowness than the weather, but figured it was still relatively early.
We dropped over the steep cornices into the basin below just as a snow squall started, and after a brief chat decided to continue down anyway. It was OK skiing--I had my only fall of the day here, losing a ski and watching it take off for a couple hundered feet below me when its brake did not deploy. We then skied around some big avalache debris and then into the trees, following previous skiers tracks through a steep and dense forest. These tracks led us to a snowy log that allowed an easy crossing of Ingalls Creek, and then we had a flat 1/2 mile of creekside forest to the base of the Cascadian Coulior. I had camped here the previous August and recognized the area.
After another rest we started skinning up towards the coulior. It started raining on and off as we labored uphill and the clouds got thicker, but the coulior above beckoned and we were still in a "let's see how far we get" mode. However, our progress was slow--Glenn again was lagging, and once I got to a flatter section where a full view of the couloir above opened up, I took a long rest while waiting for Glenn. It started raining again, and when he arrived we noted a very foreboding squall moving up the valley towards us. We discussed options--we both maybe felt like going up a bit further, if only to get in more turns, but when we heard the first peals of thunder we decided to bail.
We were only at 5480 feet, about 700 feet above the valley, and still had almost 4000 feet to go. It was about 12:45 PM, and I knew we were not going to make it anyway. So we got our skis changed over and skied the mushy snow back to Ingalls Creek--the top part of our run was all OK snow, but lower down it was a challenge to connect discontinuous patches.
Back in the valley we rested and had lunch, and started the 1400-foot gain back up to Longs Pass. We both had climbing skin problems as we slogged uphill in an on-and-off rain/snow/gaupel mixture, and we would help each other put our skins back on. I finally resorted to duct tape to secure mine better.
In the open bowl below Longs Pass a massive thunderstorm roared by, and we were genuinely alarmed at the closeness and frequency of the lightning strikes. We considered waiting in out, but the blizzard-like conditions made us want to get up and out of this area as soon as we could. So we continuted, and when the bowl steepened we boot-packed uphill. Near the top the weather cleared pretty quickly, thankfully.
Our last obstacle before the pass was the final steep headwall of snow, where Glenn, in the lead, found himself in a very precarious stance. I, behind him, was able to remove the ice axe from the back of this pack and hand it to him, giving him a better tool than a ski pole for the final mantle up over the cornice. He then passed me the axe so I could follow.
At Long Pass for the second time we took a long rest, and we could now see Mount Stuart in all its majesty. Still, we knew that we had no business being up there in the recent thunderstorm. After our break we skied down about 1000 feet of very sweet, velvety corn snow, joined for a while by another party of 5 skiers and 2 dogs. The last bit of our descent was sketchy forested skiing, once again trying to connect snow patches. We discovered an interesting little crooked canyon near the bottom, and soon after hit the dirt trail. Back at the summer trailhead we were able to ski most of the road back to the car, avoiding dirt patches by going left or right. We were back by about 4:30 PM.
Skiing Stuart in one day is certainly possible during the brief time window when the road is snow-free almost to the end, and there is still enough snow up on the peaks. However, we did not have the right combination of a very early start, good weather, highly efficient traveling, and nothing going wrong. Still, it was an enjoyable and adventurous outing, with some nice turns and the chance the expolore some new (for us) skiing terrain.
|Summary Total Data|
| Total Elevation Gain:||4345 ft / 1323 m|
| Total Elevation Loss:||4345 ft / 1323 m|
| Round-Trip Distance:||8.5 mi / 13.7 km|
| Quality:||4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)|
| Route Conditions:||Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground|
| Gear Used:||Ice Axe, Skis, Ski Poles|
| Weather:||Thunderstorm, Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds|
| Gain on way in:||2905 ft / 885 m|
| Gain Breakdown:||Net: 2185 ft / 666 m; Extra: 720 ft / 219m|
| Loss on way in:||720 ft / 219 m|
| Distance:||4.3 mi / 6.8 km|
| Route:||Longs Pass|
| Start Trailhead:||Teanaway Road 4035 ft / 1229 m|
| Loss on way out:||3625 ft / 1104 m|
| Loss Breakdown:||Net: 2185 ft / 666 m; Extra: 1440 ft / 438m|
| Gain on way out:||1440 ft / 438 m|
| Distance:||4.3 mi / 6.8 km|
| Route:||Longs Pass|
| End Trailhead:||Teanaway Road 4035 ft / 1229 m|
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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