Ascent of Mount Stuart on 2010-08-27

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Friday, August 27, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Stuart
    Elevation:9415 ft / 2869 m

Ascent Trip Report

Clearly Mt Stuart is feasible in a longish day: reports indicate this is sometimes done. However it suited us to split it over 2 days. The day after returning from Mt Olympus we drove over in the afternoon, hiked to Ingalls Creek to camp, then made our ascent the following day. There was fresh snow overnight (the first of the winter?) - an inch on the summit ridge made for some interesting scrambling! We went up via the Cascades Couloir and descended via the couloir immediately to its E.

Thu 26 Aug: Leaving Seattle at midday we took the I-90 to exit 85. Turning initially towards Cle Elum, turn R on the 970 (mile 0.0). At mile 6.3 turn L on Teanaway Road. At 19.3 mi, immediately after MP 13, at the end of the pavement, turn R on road 9737 (beware confusion with road 9738 shortly before). At mile 20.6 keep L (road 9703 goes R). Passing several trailheads, camps and turnoffs, drive to where road ends at Esmerelda Basin trailhead (mile 28.9, toilets, Forest Pass required to park; no permit required to hike).

We started hiking at 15:15. Trail 1394 exits the R side of the car park (signboard). In a short while turn R onto trail 1390 (signposted); after zigzagging up for 15 mins or so, turn R onto trail 1229 which leads to Longs Pass (6232ft, 16:15). We rested at the mostly bare crest; Stuart was in cloud but the view down the Ingalls valley is fine. Turning L to reach a cairn which marks the descent route, we headed down. The trail is initially loose and steep, then easy zigzags lead into scrubby forest. Take care to keep to the trail, rather than one of several rocky runnels which lead off R. Lower down are some very nice flowery damp areas. A rocky bluff is reached, whence the trail zigzags steeply doewn to cross Ingalls Creek, then a tributary, before reaching Ingalls Creek Trail. There are various informal camp sites hereabouts. We turned R on Ingalls Creek Trail, reaching a rocky meadow in half a mile. We occupied one of the camp sites in this area, close to the small cairn (4808ft) which marks the start of the Cascades Couloir climbers trail. Petter soon had a good fire going which to a certain extent kept our minds off the intermittent rain.

Fri 27: We left camp at 05:15, a bit earlier than intended and somewhat before first light. We followed the little trail which heads N from the main trail, marked by a small cairn at (coords tbc). The ground becomes brushy and bouldery and the trail was hard to follow at first by headtorch. Soon the trail improved and it grew light, and we ascended a stony slope, entering the walls of the rocky couloir. The couloir becomes quite steep, with a little easy scrambling, then the gradient eases and an area of big boulders is negotiated. Here a sprinkling of new snow from overnight started to make things slippery. The weather was clearing and the early morning sky coupled with the imposing rugged ridges either side of us made for great scenery.

We heard voices to our R - a couple descending. "How's the summit?", I asked. "Inch of snow!" came the reply. Soon the snowfield just below the ascent ridge came into view, looking steep and slippery. We had already decided to avoid this and had left our axes and crampons behind, opting for a lightweight ascent. The climb up to the ridge trends L, sandy at first but then rocky, on excellent granite (albeit slippery with snow). Gaining the S ridge of the E summit, we followed cairns and our predecessors' bootprints, which led downwards to circumvent a buttress. Here we found a narrow rock window which has to be squeezed through (or somehow avoided) - no place for the portly!

Beyond the window, a rocky gully is crossed then the cairned route heads upwards and generally L towards the blocky summit. The route takes a devious line avoiding the steepest ground, but there is plenty of scrambling, up to hardish YDS 3, involving more care than usual, due to the slippery fresh snow. A couple of times we missed the cairned route giving us a slightly harder time than necessary. The final climb to the summit is perhaps the most interesting: a 2-part chimney, then an blocky arete with lots of exposure on its R, then a big steep cracked slab leading at last to the tiny summit which gives superb views of the rugged surrounding peaks, SW to Rainier and Adams, and east to a distant skyline of unidentified peaks. An inspirational place. There is a small metal upstand which may be some kind of a trig bolt but which made the business of standing on the tiny slippery slab slightly safer. We searched for a summit register but failed to find one.

We arrived at the summit at 09:15, in 4h, rather slower than expected, due to the amount of scrambling and obviously the slippery conditions. After 30 minutes we headed down, making a slightly better job of cairn-following this time. Once below the snowfield (which we again avoided), the good boot trail descends R of a striking castellated pinnacle and then trends L to descend into what might be called the SSE couloir (the way back to re-enter the Cascades Couloir would be further R, across the area of big boulders). The descent into the SSE couloir is initially easy, zigzagging down across loosish sandy ground. Then an easy scrambly descent (cairn) is made into a small rocky gorge; the trail follows the bed for a while, then crosses to the R side before heading further R, descending steepish scrubby slopes to join the Ingalls Creek Trail at (coords tbc) about 0.5 mi downstream from the start of the Cascades Couloir trail, where we had camped.

We were back at camp at 12:30 (2h 45 descent), packed up and were away by 13:15. It was now warm and sunny, and by the time we crested Longs Pass (14:15), the excellent view back to Stuart showed that the morning snow was now gone. We enjoyed an easy scenic zigzag descent on excellent trails and were back at the trailhead at 15:15, just 24 hours after leaving, and back in Seattle by 6pm.

This concluded our 3 week 8-Ultra trip to the Northwest USA - my first bagging trip here. A brief trip outline accompanies my Glacier Peak report.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8345 ft / 2542 m
    Total Elevation Loss:8345 ft / 2542 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.8 mi / 20.6 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cold, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6745 ft / 2055 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5145 ft / 1568 m; Extra: 1600 ft / 487m
    Loss on way in:1600 ft / 487 m
    Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Route:Cascades couloir; E ridge
    Start Trailhead:Esmerelda Basin trailhead  4270 ft / 1301 m
    Time:18 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6745 ft / 2055 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5145 ft / 1568 m; Extra: 1600 ft / 487m
    Gain on way out:1600 ft / 487 m
    Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Route:E ridge; SSE couloir
    End Trailhead:Esmerelda Basin trailhead  4270 ft / 1301 m
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes

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