American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington-Cascade Mountains, Mount Stuart, Northwest Couloir

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Mount Stuart, Northwest Couloir. In early May, Lee Cunningham and I snowshoed once again up Mountaineer Creek. Our objective this trip was the oft-tried couloir between the north ridge and the northwest face routes of Mount Stuart. Our theory was that mid-spring would provide the ideal temperatures to allow ice to build up over the down-sloping slabs at the base of the route. After a cold night on the Ice Cliff Glacier terminal moraine, we skirted the base of the north ridge and ascended the Stuart Glacier, arriving at the start of the technical climbing with a beautiful sunrise. Establishing a belay was difficult due to the featureless rock which characterized the route. All the ice within reach was in reality plastered snow, making a small right-facing comer off to our left the only feasible route. We traded anxious glances, both saying we didn’t care who led the first pitch. Lee finally decided the issue by pointing out that I was closer. So I geared up and traversed over to the corner and interrogated the white stuff in the back with a swing of the Bird. “THUNK!”. It was good ice! The climbing involved five extended pitches, each consisting of about 50 feet of delicate ice followed by a long steep snowfield of simultaneous climbing to the base of the next ice section. The final pitch, which in summer is an easy scramble on the north ridge route, took on a new dimension with crampons and ice tools. One-and-a-half hours of glissading down the Sherpa Glacier took care of nine hours of climbing up. (NCCS IV, WI4, 5.4.)

Pat McNerthney, Icicle Spiders

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