Mt. Stuart - West Ridge

August 30, 2004

After bailing on a trip to Mt. Slesse due to driving rain, moral was low among the saints of the mountains. Pax, Sam and Ken crawled around underground for long enough to commune with the eternal spirits through electric impulses. The impulses directed us to climb the West Ridge of Stuart on Sunday. Unfortunately for our fellow comrades, only Pax and I were of able body, mind and vehicle to make the journey. Emily came as well to lead the Ingalls Lake mobile command station. We all departed for the Esmerelda basin trailhead to sleep between cars Saturday night.

The 4 am alarms hit me like a feather. Emily was not quite as gentle though, as she couldn't tell if I was dead or not. Thankfully I awoke, and we headed out from the car at 4:45 am. Hiking up the trail to Ingalls pass in the predawn light, I could feel the excitement that comes with moving light in the mountains. Soon we arrived in the basin before the lake, and tried to play a prank on Loren, our good friend who we found to be sleeping in the meadow. Unfortunately we were still too tired to think of any good pranks, so we just moved his hung up clothes around. We just wished we could see the look on his face when he found his clothes rearranged!!!!!

Up and over to the base of the route took about 3.5 hours from the car. We donned harnesses and helmets and began scrambling up from the crest of the ridge. The route seemed pretty straightforward: scramble up ledges until you can't go up further, traverse right into a new gully and repeat. We traversed out of the first gully, up a set of 4th class cracks and across the ledge into the second major gully.

The clean slabs that lead up the second gully.

Scrambling in the second gully.

We climbed up this for quite a ways, maybe 1,000 feet. Pretty quickly we were scrambling on smooth, clean and continuous white granite. Staying right on each small branch of the gully eventually brought us to an impasse. A steeper and slightly wet left facing corner above prompted us to break out the rope. We climbed a half pitch up and and then right into an easier gully. This lead to a notch just left of the now prominent Long John Tower.

Dave climbing the corner below Long John Tower. Photo by Pax

At the notch with Long John Tower. Photo by Pax

Pax taught Mr Hankie how to fly, rather unsuccessfully I might add, before we set off to find the ledge that skirts the West Horn. I remembered reading the Beckey description the night before thinking, “Climb below a scissor feature? Yeah, like I'm going to see that!” But sure enough from the notch next to LJT we could clearly see the scissors just above a ledge high up on the West horn. More nice 4th class scrambling lead up to and across the ledge which had a fantastically airy and exposed section.

Pax turning the West Horn.

Looking towards the summit.

We walked along on trails until turning up a gully at the furthest East notch in the ridge. Just below the notch we began scrambling up, and in about 100ft we crossed over the ridge to the North side. Here we roped, and running belayed along a ledge system of sorts until crossing back over the crest at an obvious notch.

Pax on the upper West Ridge.

My turn to lead again, I begin up the crest but am lulled down to a ledge by memories of a route description long past. Eventually I spy a pair of cracks in a corner that look “arching” enough, per the route description, and headed up. Tennis shoes, the ultimate mountain boot, had a rather intimate relation with the wall at this point which quite frankly left me thirsting for enough breath to sputter out “5.4 my ass!”

A short scramble lead to the summit where we ate lunch and chatted with two guys from Seattle who had climbed up the Cascadian couloir. We had spent four and a half hours on the route, which I was damn happy about for we'd be eating dinner at a restaurant and not a gas station tonight! There were the large amounts of trash in the summit register, some of which Pax carried out. We chatted with Emily, who was at Ingall's lake, via radio and set a meeting time at the car. Crafty as she is, Emily whipped out a mirror and was able to flash me on the summit using the sun. Ooo-ala!

Dave bears the flag on this closing day of the 2004 Olympics.
I am higher than any eligable athlete!! Photo by Pax

After an hour or so on top we descended the down the Cascadian. A fair bit of knee pain later, and with the help from Pax's little blue pills, we hiked up and over a pleasantly shady Long's Pass.

Pax relaxing by the river...

The West Ridge from Long's Pass.

A quick run back down the trail brought us to a rendezvous with Emily and the car where we found Loren was looking long fully at his massively sprained ankle. After examining the injury, Pax prescribed two immediate Henry's with a follow up of several per evening for the near future. All told, the West ridge is a fantastic long scramble with a few pitches tossed in that leads to the summit of a majestic mountain. Thanks for the good time Pax!

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