Ascent of Mount Stuart on 2014-03-22

Climber: Marlin Thorman

Others in Party:Joe Peters
Date:Saturday, March 22, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Stuart
    Elevation:9415 ft / 2869 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mt. Stuart - Stuart Glacier Couloir

March 20, 2014
First mountain of the season. Camped tonight beside icicle creek road near 8 mile CG. There is still snow on the ground in most places. Tomorrow Joe and I are headed for the Stuart Glacier Couloir. It is a snow/ice/mixed Grade IV climb. We are aiming to go super light. Weather is supposed to be good and clear but cold. This is definitely a big route.

March 21, 2014
Sitting in the tent at our base camp right below the north ridge of Mt. Stuart. Wow!! This is one big snowy mountain. The approach today went pretty well. I was carrying 42lbs and Joe had 45lbs. Left the car at 8:23 am. The hike was about 10 miles long and 3,400 feet of elevation gain. The first 3.5 miles were up 8 mile road which was easy going. Even the Stuart Lake Trail was pretty nice and beaten in. Joe called it the Yellow Brick Road. The first views of Stuart were amazing. It is so big and since it is March, it is covered in snow. The weather was really nice today. Sunny all day. It got a little warm in the afternoon so that Joe was post holing some. He brought a split board but left it at the summer trailhead. I had snowshoes the whole way which was nice. Made it to our camp in about 6 hours. It is so beautiful here. Very grand. Melted snow for water and got everything setup. Dug a nice bench for cooking. Finally ate supper which tasted really good and now in the tent warming up. Pretty cold outside once the sun went down. Camped at 5,400 feet with an awesome view. The plan is for me to lead the ice in the couloir and then to swing leads on the west ridge. Planning on getting up at 2:30am to get started.

March 22, 2014
Wow, what a climb. I feel like a real alpine climber now. So back up, got up at 2:45am to pack and eat. Left camp at 3:45am under clear skies. The snow was ever changing. Sometimes hard and crunchy and other times soft powder from a couple inches to knee deep. Switched off breaking trail. Got to Stuart Glacier just as it started to get light. Boy was it beautiful. I love the early morning alpine glow and sunrise from way up on a big mountain. Had a little challenge crossing the bergshrund because it was just covered by 3 ft of powder. Eventually got across and started up the couloir. I took the lead shortly after and soon it narrowed way down to a steep chute. I decided to just simul climb it which helped to save time. But it wasn’t a gimme pitch. Thin ice over rock not thick enough to get a good purchase in most places and certainly not to put in a screw. Had 1 cam in for the bottom, then in another 15 feet I found enough ice for a screw. Scratched my way up that and then it opened back up into a 50 degree snow couloir. Run out if you fell was a cliff but the snow was soft enough for good steps. Made it up to the notch in the west Ridge about 11am. First impression was unsure if the ridge would go. It was covered in rime ice sometimes two feet thick. Lots of rotten snow over rock. Joe finally figured out the first pitch which actually wasn’t too bad. I led the 2nd which was pretty easy. Joe’s 3rd pitch was quite airy over the north face. You could look 1000 feet straight down to the Stuart Couloir. One committing move of about 5.6ish (if dry rock) was in the middle. Then we rappelled 20 ft down the south face to the next ledge system. Left 1 nut in for the rap. I had the next pitch which started out pretty mellow. Then I turned straight up and it got interesting. Probably 5.8 or so if dry maybe went at M4 or M5. Put in 3 pitons which were money. Without them I would have been screwed! After that hard pitch, Joe finished up to the summit which involved an awkward move off the belay and then a scrappy section through rime ice at the top. Topped out at 4:30pm about an hour per pitch. By this time the clouds had come in and visibility was only a couple hundred feet. The wind was blowing something fierce and it was COLD! Then time for the long descent. Followed the east ridge towards the false summit. Some pretty steep terrain on snow. Made a climb up to a notch to go over but it was the wrong way. Had to leave another nut to rap back down. Finally found our way off the false summit. Made it to the top of the Sherpa couloir which was very steep. Had to go down facing in with both tools. Where it met the Sherpa Glacier, Joe fell into the bergshrund. It wasn’t big and he was roped up. Then it was just a long trudge down the Sherpa Glacier back to camp. Made it back about 7:15pm for a 15 1/2 hour day! We had long run out of water and were starving. Got some water brewing and supper down. Made enough water for the morning. Now it is 9pm and finally in bed. Overall it was a fantastic climb.

March 23, 2014
Got up and packed up camp. Hit the trail out at 8:15am. Got some beautiful shots of sunrise on Stuart. I just can’t get enough of the view in there. The hike out was uneventful. Actually we made really good time. Stopped a couple times to drink lots of fluids and eat food. Made it out to the car in 4 hrs. By then the snow was pretty sloppy down low. Glad for the snowshoes although I got blisters because of the steep downhill and sidehill wearing snowshoes. A super fun climb. Drove back to Spokane and sorted gear.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7335 ft / 2235 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7335 ft / 2235 m
    Round-Trip Distance:22 mi / 35.4 km
    Grade/Class:Grade IV, AI2, M5
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Snowshoes, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cold, Windy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:7335 ft / 2235 m
    Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Route:Stuart Glacier Couloir
    Start Trailhead:8 Mile Campground  2080 ft / 633 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:7335 ft / 2235 m
    Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Route:Sherpa Glacier
    End Trailhead:8 Mile Campground  2080 ft / 633 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marlin Thorman
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