Mount Stuart, Elevation 9,415ft
Cascadian Couloir, Spring 2000
Mount Stuart from Longs Pass. Our ski descent began from the false summit. Most of it can be seen in green. The summit traverse is in red.
Charlie had just gotten back from Europe where he spent several months skiing. I was still in school. He was in Yakima and I was in Seattle. We were looking for a mountain to ski somewhere in-between. I gave him a call and we agreed to meet in Cle Elum the next morning.
I managed to get Tuesdays and Thursdays off that quarter. This allowed me to avoid the weekend crowds while bagging the more popular peaks. Mount Stuart provided the ideal getaway. Charlie and I climbed the North Ridge a few years before and I had summited twice since then so we both had some idea of what to expect.
We met at Safeway around 7am and I ended up driving from there. Charlie didn't get much sleep as friends and relatives drilled him about his vacation the night before. We both had a lot of stories to tell and we were about to embark on yet another. The weather was perfect and we were able to drive all the way to the trailhead. A few snow patches on the road led us to believe that we had timed it perfectly. We were hiking by 8am.
We made it to Longs Pass in just over an hour where we put on our boots and skis for the brief decent. This is also where we got our first views of the mountain and it looked mighty fine. We skied all the way to Ingalls Creek and packed our skis at the bottom of Cascadian.
Dropping in off Longs Pass.
The bottom of the couloir was melted out but it wasn't long before we hit snow again. A couple inches of corn made for an ideal staircase. We switched leads a couple of times as did our tales. Charlie admitted that it was good to be back in the Cascades, "there's nothing like it." Our only rest came about half way up where the couloir begins to open up.
Kicking steps near the bottom of the couloir.
The snow softened up as we got higher. The final slope below the false summit was pretty mushy. I kicked steps up the east side while Charlie stayed close behind. It wasn't long before we reached the false summit. The views were incredible and the exposure was magnificent.
The snow getting softer near the final slope.
Just below the false summit.
We ditched our skis on the false summit because we didn't feel up to skiing Ulrichs. We were both tempted but the soft snow and not knowing where to go frightened us a bit. Besides, we were more than content to ski the route that we climbed up.
The traverse from the false summit to the top was fairly straightforward. The snow allowed us to avoid most of the rock but we had tennis shoes just in case. We summited around 2pm, 6 hours from the trailhead. The register was buried and we didn't bother trying to dig it out. We peeked over the north side and saw some tracks in the Stuart Glacier Couloir. It was nice to know that there were other people taking advantage of the excellent weather and snow conditions but we never did see anyone that day.
Traversing from the false summit.
We took several good looks at Ulrichs before heading back. What a great photo it would have been to have someone skiing it. Next year perhaps. We were anxious to get our skis on back at the false summit and we wasted little time on the descent. Charlie's 6 months in Europe had obviously paid off as he cranked huge GS turns down the steep face. We were both glad to have fat skis as the snow was quite deep and heavy.
Looking back at Ulrichs. If only.
Charlie cranking below the false summit.
The skiing was excellent. We were able to ski to within about 500 vertical feet of Ingalls Creek. There were a couple of tight spots but everything had a good runout. Over 4000 vertical feet of 30-40 degree corn snow. It doesn't get much better than that.
Charlie running it out down low.
The day was far from over. We still had another 1000 vertical feet to climb up and over Longs Pass. This wasn't too much of a problem but we were both pretty beat when we reached the top. It was getting late so we didn't bother resting. A quick look back before dropping back towards the trailhead. We skied most of the way but ended up hiking the last 1/4 mile or so. It was 6 or 7pm when we reached the truck. I had an 8:30 class the next morning but that wasn't a problem after reuniting with Charlie to ski one of Cascade's Classics.