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Ascent of Mount Stuart on 2007-08-18

Climber: Erik Landahl

Others in Party:Rick Samona
Date:Saturday, August 18, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Stuart
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:9415 ft / 2869 m

Ascent Trip Report

Began late, reach top of Long's Pass about 8 pm. Awesome view of Mt. Stuart. We realize the trail down is a very steep zig zag - switchback doesn't do it justice. We do a kind of controlled slide down. We hit the meadows at the bottom and find that "trail" is a generous term to use for a muddy 6-inch wide line hidden by shrubs. Sun down, headlamps on. We find people camped pretty high up, but they have the only campsite so out of luck. Talk briefly - they're off to summit at 4 a.m. Soon the trail is gone and we're playing fir tree bumper pool. I sing Disney songs to keep the bears away. About an hour later we stumble on the trail and a campsite at the same time. Right on Ingalls Creek. Who knows? Next morning we're up late (surprise.) We head out across the creek down the trail and hit the steep meadow that starts the climb. Past the meadow we hit the boulder field that leads to the Cascadian Couloir, our route. In the boulder field we pass Jim Wickwire, first American to climb K2, on his way down. We hit the couloir. Shortly after Rick and I get separated. I fell way behind him, looking at beautiful quartz specimens. I wind up on a boulder ridge way to the left but still heading for the false summit. Rick stays on trail. About 30 min. later we make voice contact. I cross over to the main trail. Meet Rick at the base of the false summit approach. Sherpa Rock's eye level, we're about 8600 feet under a very icy snowfield. Weather's coming and it's cold. We add layers. Climbers warned Rick to avoid the snowfield without crampons. They saw someone try; he slipped hard slid fast and was lucky not to break something. Only approach is to left of the snowfield. To quote Rick, "The terrain was some of the worst I have ever been on. It was a sandy rock + boulder combination at a very steep angle. We were slipping and sliding all over the place." It was two steps forward one step back. We must have caused a dozen minor rockfalls. Lucky no one was behind us. Reach false summit, about 9050 feet. It's drizzling. Have to get over huge slabs of slippery granite. We have no equipment - it is a "non-technical" route after all. Have to free climb and pull ourselves up and over these wet slabs with 15 - 20 foot drops. Follow cairns, end up at an unclimbable point without equipment. Hear people yelling at us can't see them. Climb back down to almost false summit level. Finally see who is yelling - two climbers on the summit. Yell at us directions up to summit ridge. Steep, slippery route up sharply angled slabs. Slip and you get hurt. Drizzle turning to cold rain. Reach the ridge. Summit climbers rappelled down to a spot below us (they got lost too, more later) Now it's serious. As Rick noted, the guidebook said "it is an easy approach up the ridge to the summit." Sure. If you've just returned from a bivy on Everest, it would be a totally easy ridge. It's about 2 feet wide, sharp, rocky slippery, sometimes loose. To our right a 3000 foot sheer drop to a glacier. You look down at it and your head is hanging in space. To our left a 1500 foot drop to a rock field. Terrified. Did I mention it was slippery. On the glacier side the clouds moved straight up as Rick said, "Like an exhaust fan sucking smoke up from your stove." We sometimes straddle the ridge to keep balance, the ridge is that narrow. Reach the summit pretty much shaking with fear. Take super fast photos. How do we get down. Starts snowing. We slip slide drop crawl and fall down to the false summit. I get a 2-inch scar on my left knee as a souvenir. I shred the seat and thighs of my Patagonias. (Thank you Patagonia for the free replacement.) See the summit climbers from earlier, they're way off track. Slip and slide down the junky rocky sandy stuff next to the snowfield making more rockfalls as we go. Catch the climbers. Sundown. Headlamps. We all debate where the Cascadian Couloir lies. Rick and climbers kind of agree, I don't. Rick says maybe we should fight it out. It takes me a second to laugh. Turns out we were all wrong. We pass a snowfield heading down that we didn't pass heading up. Umm, we're lost. Rick puts his hand on a 1/2 ton boulder to brace himself going down. 5 feet past it, the boulder begins to follow him. It brushes against him, jars him nicely. He appears to get out of the way. Boulder redirects and follows him. It's like Indiana Jones. He jigs away again and falls down. Boulder goes straight and misses him. Rick is safe. Boulder thunders down into the darkness and plunges off some cliff. Listened for final impact, never heard it. Rick has torn gloves, pants, jacket. We're a little freaked. Keep heading down boulder field, get cliffed out, move to one side, go down some more, cliff out again, etc. We consider a bivy, except no shelter, no warm clothes, and no bivy sacks. Finally hit some greenery, then more, then the boulder field ends - it's a meadow - THE meadow that leads to the Ingalls Creek Trail. How did we find it? Who knows? It's pouring freezing rain. Winding our way through the meadow. Hit the trail. A mile down we wake up people camped near the trail. They didn't appreciate it. They point us in the right direction. 5 minutes later, right in front of us, it's our tent. But we never crossed the creek. How could our tent be dead in front of us? Who knows? We're drop dead tired. About 14 hours out for us. The two climbers with us had been out for 22 hours! They planned a one day up and back but got lost on their technical climb and had no sleep. Me and Rick eat Clif bars, lend the climbers our stove. They start cooking. It's pouring. They just have one bivy between them. We lend them some clothes. Tell them they can crawl in and share tent. They say no. About 15 min. later Rick asks them again if they want to share the tent, no response. We think they must be sleeping but an hour later they yell out which way to the trail, Rick tells them. They take off, hike out at 1:00 a.m. in the rain. We crash dead asleep. Next morning on the hike out we lose the trail in the Longs Pass meadow. What a surprise. Find the Zig Zag trail. Up we go, down we go, and finally the second best sight of the trip. My Jeep.
Summary Total Data
    Route:Cascadian Couloir
    Trailhead:Longs Pass Trailhead  
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Windy, Overcast



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