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Mountain Madness Climber

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