Mount Stuart, Elevation 9,415ft
North Ridge, Summer 1996
Ben, Troy, Charlie, Tygh
The North Ridge of Mount Stuart. Our ascent from the saddle can be seen in green. This photo was taken from the summit of Dragontail. Colchuck Peak is seen in the forground.
The North Ridge of Mount Stuart is a classic climb. It was one of my first alpine climbs and it fulfilled all of my expectations. In fact, it was so great that it may have put an end to my sport climbing career. Who would want to climb a crag with a bunch of boltheads when you could be climbing a real mountain, not a sole in sight? I'm hoping the photos will provide the answer because my memory is somewhat blurred.
I believe it was the summer of my junior year in high school. My climbing buddies and I were in great shape having spent most evenings at our local gym or nearby crags. Our mentors suggested that we do some "real" climbing to test our skills. The North Ridge of Mount Stuart was added to our tick list. When the weekend turned sunny and it was too hot to go to Smith Rocks, we decided to give it a try.
Tygh ended up driving because he had the most comfortable ride. He picked the rest of us up in Yakima and we continued north. I wanted to try it in a day from the parking lot but we decided to hike up to Longs Pass hoping to cut down on the approach. We made it to camp in just over an hour.
Camp near Longs Pass with the South Face of Stuart in the background.
We went to bed early because we were planning on waking up around midnight. The plan was to traverse from Longs Pass to the saddle at the base of the West Ridge. We couldn't tell what was beyond there but we assumed that more traversing would lead us to the North Ridge. Some of it would be on glaciers. We each had an ice axe but we left our crampons behind.
The traverse from Longs Pass was bad to begin with. Boulder hopping in the dark was slow and the forested section slowed us down even more. We came across several bogs and it took quite a bit of work to keep from getting wet. We eventually made it to the Ingalls Creek trail, which led to the saddle. Following the trail from Longs Pass to Ingalls Creek would have saved a lot of time despite the extra elevation.
It was light out by the time we reached the saddle. We continued towards the West Ridge before traversing northeast. The traverse was fairly straightforward. There wasn't much of a trail but boulder hopping with light wasn't a problem. We crossed a few sections of firm snow before setting foot on the largest chunk -- the Stuart Glacier.
Looking back at the saddle. Mount Rainier and Ingalls Lake and Peak can be seen in the background.
Troy, Charlie and Tygh traversing the Stuart Glacier towards the North Ridge.
There was a group camped on one of the rock ridges that separate the glacier but we passed them undisturbed. The glacier was sketchy without crampons but there were tracks most of the way so we were able to get a good edge. We didn't bother roping up until we reached the snow chute leading to the North Ridge.
The chute was the most ominous part of the approach. It was 50-60 degrees for 50ft across. There were tracks so we didn't have to chop steps but the exposure was frightening. Troy went across first and set up a fixed line that the rest of us followed. It didn't provide us with much support but it would have kept us from falling into one of several large crevasses below us.
We continued on rock beside the chute. Several hundred feet of 4th class led us to the ridge where we roped up for the climb.
Sunrise on Stuart Glacier.
Looking back below the chute.
Charlie in the chute with Troy and Tygh doing some 4th class above.