North Ridge of Mt. Stuart
Aaron and I headed down to Marblemont with an eye on the Torment traverse, a
route that falling snowfields chased us off earlier in the trip. That and the
big and nasty buttress on Johannesburg. We got our permit and headed up to the
base of the hill, with a great forecast. At 2 AM it started to rain. At 6 AM it
started to pour. At 9 AM the world was one big cloud. Another forecast for clear
turned to crap. Jenny called...come to my island and soak in the tub, glide in
the sea kayak, hike the local mountain. We were leaning to going, but checked
the net for what the weather was elsewhere, We checked the Coast range, the
Olympics, we even checked Banff, Rogers Pass, the Bugaboos, willing we were to
go all the way back far up into Canada. Terrible weather everywhere. Sigh. We
ate breakfast and then I thought...I asked Aaron to check Cle Elum, over by Mt.
Stuart. EUREKA! It said 10% chance of rain and then 0% after that! The North
ridge of Mt. Stuart was high on the list and we rallied. A 4 hour drive around
and we were ready to head in the next day.
We planned a 3 day trip, with some other peaks, but ultimately, one has to carry
that full back over the route from our side. The route is a knife edge and has
15 pitches and has three 5.9 pitches. hopefully Aaron can drag me up it. When I
awoke the next AM I mulled over how unreliable the forecasts had been and
proposed to Aaron that we be more aggressive and try to do the thing in 2 days.
It rained that 2nd night, so this decision saved the day!
We took 7 hours to do the 4,300 foot approach over trail, snow, rock and glacier
to the bivy site on the side of the mountain. After an amazing sunset and
sunrise, we headed up the ridge. I had been on an easier variation 16 years
earlier. The place was just as special as I remembered. Dancing on the edge.
Then the famed gendarme came and Aaron lead out brilliantly, hauled the packs up
(done on 3 pitches), then brought me up, sometimes with tension. We summitted at
2:30 PM. A bit under 8.5 hours for those 15 pitches. Almost every other peak in
the North Cascade's was in the clouds. We were at the perfect place. The only
place. It is a long way off the mountain and we started off at 3:30. Steep snow,
talus, a new route, a river crossing and a 1,500 foot ascent tossed in, in the
evening found us on a ridge, in a freezing wind, with the peak going in and out
of the clouds. Got out in the nick of time. Down to the car, with throbbing
legs, and a squatter site at the edge of darkness, for some dinner, backgammon
and then sleep.
08-09-2012 02:26 PM