Mount Stuart is the second tallest non-volcanic mountain in the state of Washington, standing at 9,415 feet it is home to one of the best alpine routes in the cascades. I climbed Stuart via the North Ridge with my good buddy Adam this past summer - starting at 3:15AM, we spent the whole day and half the night making it up and down this majestic mountain. The climb is only one of six Pacific Northwest climbs featured in 50 Classic Climbs in North America and absolutely worth the effort.
Washington's Cascades (a.k.a. the Enchantments)
"Without a rival as the crown peak in the central Cascades of Washington, Mount Stuart has been pronounced the single greatest mass of exposed granite in the United States...its northern and eastern faces are the alpine climax of the Wenatchee Mountains. They make a powerful impact on first sight...The mountaineering problems are magnified by the mountain's massive dimensions and its complexity." - "Cascade Alpine Guide - Climbing and High Routes - Columbia River to Stevens Pass, Second Edition"
For more information on how to get to the Enchantments and where to stay, visit our blog on the park here.
Approaches for the North Ridge Route (900 meters 5.9)
There are two primary approaches to begin the North Ridge route - north and south.
Adam and I camped at Lake Stuart and backtracked towards the northern approach the morning of our ascent.
Despite finding ourselves off-trail regularly, we managed to get to the base of the mountain right as the sun was rising.
The hike was spectacular with sunrise peeking through the mountain tops and giving us energy for the day ahead.
A little after 7AM we began climbing the North Ridge -- carrying a lightweight rope and not much else, we pitched out the first three technical pitches (5.8 / 5.8 / 5.9).
From there I kiwi-coiled half the rope (35 meters) and Adam and I simul-climbed all the way up to the Gendarme Pillar, cutting time and only stopping when I'd run out of gear and needed to retrieve it from Adam. The climbing was spectacular on some of the best alpine rock the country has to offer with knife blade edges and views down towards the glaciers 2,000 feet below.
Five hundred meters and six hours later we reached the Gendarme Pillar. We pitched out the two pitches (5.8+ and 5.9) and continued to simul-climb towards the summit.
Twelve hours after our early-morning departure, we reached the summit of Mount Stuart. While we ate our lunch and hydrated we were joined by a lone mountain goat who teetered on the tip tops of each rock, making the climb look easy.
With just a thirty minute break to recharge our batteries, we began scrambling south and east from the summit (class 2/3) and past the top of the Cascadian Couloir. With a little glacading and more scrambling we aimed for a notch atop Sherpa Glacier. From here we downclimbed third and fourth class terrain until we reached the Sherpa Glacier's upper Couloir.
As we continued down the Couloir via plunging steps and approached Sherpa Glacier, our anxiety began to heighten, unsure whether we would be able to cross the bergschrund, which had opened up significantly with the summer's heat. Getting as close as we could to the bergschrund, we were able to rappel more than 30 meters into a crevasse and onto a small snowbridge that allowed us to climb out.
When on the glacier we threw on our lightweight aluminum crampons and navigated around and over crevasses and back onto the climbers trail towards the Lake Stuart trail.
Around 11PM we thought we'd finally finished and made ourselves welcome in a stranger's campsite, thinking they were our friends, we shined our headlights into their tents and let them know that they were lame to already be asleep -- quickly realizing they were strangers, we ran off in the right direction.
Twenty hours since we'd left them, we returned to our friends at camp and retold the day's adventures over a warm meal.
Some Gear Used on the Climb:
Other Noteworthy Routes:
Girth Pillar (900 meters 5.11- WI3)
Gorillas Direct (800 meters 5.11-)
Gorillas in the Mist (800 meters 5.11-)