Ascent to Mount Stuart-West Ridge Notch on 2015-09-13

Climber: Chad Straub

Date:Sunday, September 13, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Mount Stuart - West Ridge Notch
    Elevation:8900 ft / 2712 m
    Remaining Elevation:515 ft / 157 m (9% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

We left the trailhead at 830 pm on Friday and set up camp before Ingalls Lake. We started out at 6 the next morning, filling up 5 liters per person at the lake. We were armed with tons of beta yet still managed to pass the second gully - it just felt to soon. Back on track, we climbed clean white ledges to the top of the gully where we found the team that had passed us at the lake halfway up Long John's Tower.

We dropped to the base and took the scramble route on the right of a black rib, dropping a rope for a couple party members. At the dogs head notch the true summit came into view, and we once again caught site of the party ahead of us roped up below the next notch. The "scissors" were clearly visible about 300' above us but we had solid beta on the climb ahead so we skipped the airy traverse and scrambled down and around a small overhanging butress. Colin and I soloed separate routes up to an easy chimney with a massive boulder chocked inside. We belayed the others up then crossed a broad ledge and scrambled up to a group of bivy sites just below the West Ridge Notch.

It was 5 pm and we were planning for 3-5 hours to climb the final section of the route. We set camp and watched the other teams reach the summit over our dinner. We planned to get started at 6 on Sunday, but woke at 5 in a whiteout. At 930 it was decision time and the clouds just kept rolling through from the west. We had a few brief glimpses of the summit, but I scrambled up to the scissors notch where I could see nothing but clouds in place of the Cascades. We required very little discussion. Retreating would require several rappels and would take at least as long as it would to complete the climb as planned, exiting down the Cascadian Couloir. The CC would also be safest option by far if we could count on decent visibility, but we could not risk getting caught in a whiteout on the final 400' given our current experience. It was unmistakably the right decision, although a painful one.

We used 4 established rap stations along the descent, cleaning at least as much as we left behind and downclimbing wherever possible. Of course the weather drastically improved by the time we made it to LJT and provided one last frustrating look at the imposing summit before we dropped back into the gully. Mount Stuart shone with alpenglow as we returned past Lake Ingalls, stopping once more for water. You win some, you lose some.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5730 ft / 1745 m
    Extra Gain:540 ft / 164 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.5 mi / 23.3 km
    Route:West Ridge
    Trailhead:Long Pass TH  4250 ft / 1295 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Ski Poles, Bivouac
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads

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