MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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September 26, 2011

Mt. Stuart: One of "50 Classic Climbs of N. America"

"One of "The 50 Classic Climbs of North America", the North Ridge of Mount Stuart, is a mega-classic 20-pitch rock route jutting out of the Stuart Glacier on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Dan Whitmore had been dreaming about climbing the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart since he started climbing, and now we were hoping to make that dream a reality.

Ian Nicholson photo

"Dan picked me up at my house in Seattle and we were on our way stopping only for the mouth-drooling Cle Elum Bakery on the way. The North Ridge is a carry-over route, meaning that you need to carry your tent, stove and all your supplies up and over the route. We schemed about how to go as light as possible and when we left the trail-head, our packs weighed around 25 and 29 pounds.

Mt. Stuart. Ian Nicholson photo

"We made the long hike up over Ingalls Pass, Ingalls Lake Pass, Stuart Pass, and Goat Pass; a steep hike with a good amount of cross country travel and nearly 4,500 feet of elevation gain to our camp at the edge of the Stuart Glacier.

Ingalls Lake. Ian Nicholson photo

Camp near Goat Pass. Ian Nicholson photo

"The next morning our alarm went off at 4:20 a.m. and we were packed and hiking across the glacier in our approach shoes and crampons by 5:15. We gained the ridge by the first light and began the first of 20 pitches. In the beginning the pitches blur together a little, each on excellent granite on or very near the ridge crest with excellent exposure... until you get to pitch 13, the infamous "Great Gendarme" and the crux of the route.

Splitter Cascade granite. Ian Nicholson photo

Along the exposed spine of rock on the first half of the route. Ian Nicholson photo

"I tied into the middle of the rope and I hauled both our packs on the first pitch. Dan did incredibly well, considering he claimed he "hadn't rock climbed as much as he would have liked" before the trip. The second off-width pitch felt nearly as easy and we took a small break to take in our surroundings and eat some well-desereved snacks knowing that the crux was now behind us.

Airy climbing on easy to moderate terrain (5.4-5.6). Ian Nicholson photo

On the Gendarme- the hard way on the upper ridge (5.9)- this can be bypassed at about 5.6. Ian Nicholson photo

Looking down the third pitch of the gendarme. Ian Nicholson photo

"Above the "Great Gendarme" we climbed 6 more pitches to the summit and realized the dream Dan had had so long ago. The summit was beautiful, with clear skies (despite overcast weather in Seattle) with no wind. We spent nearly an hour on top where we each made a call to our wives and the Mountain Madness office (of course).

Almost there! Ian Nicholson photo

Way to go Dan! Ian Nicholson photo

Nice job Ian! Ian Nicholson photo

"We descended the Cascadian Couloir and made it to the Ingalls Creek trail and the small camp ground at the Longs Pass trail intersection just before dark. The next day we reluctantly hiked the 1,500 feet of vertical gain to get to Longs Pass before we were able to drop down 2,000 feet back to our car."

~ Ian Nicholson