Mount Stuart, from Longs Pass, probably the most photographed view of the mountain. No snow can be seen anywhere on this side.
Mount Stuart, 9,415'!
The second highest
non-volcanic mountain in Washington!
|The warm Indian Summer days
and cool nights got us hatching a plan to climb Mount Stuart before the snows came. Doerte
and I arrived at the Esmerelda Basin Trailhead, 4,243', to find the lot full of cars. Many
dayhikers were out to see the fabulous larches turn brilliant yellow. Are they an
evergreen or not? Marc from Quebec says, " If by evergreen you mean "who doesn't
lose its leaves" well, it isn't. But if you mean "gymnosperm" i.e. who
produces spores like pines, spruces and firs, it is."
A Larch is what many people think of as a contradiction. A deciduous conifer. The deciduous needles make the Larch easy to spot-chartreuse in the spring, then grassy green through the summer, bright yellow in the fall, and then absent for the winter.
We started up the trail to Longs Pass under cloud filled skies and cold winds. The trail gains 2,100 in 2.5 miles. As we got to the Pass, 6,250 the weather cleared and majestic Mount Stuart suddenly appeared. We had great views down to Ingalls Creek and back to Esmerelda Basin. The Esmerelda Peaks would make a fine destination for climbers. It is a small wonder that this is one of the most popular hikes in the area.
We descended down a steep, rocky, unmaintained trail toward Ingalls Creek. There was a beautiful grove of Larches below the pass. The trail drops quickly to Ingalls Creek, 5,100, and the Ingalls Creek Trail. The Ingalls Creek Trail goes 16 miles from near Highway 97 and Blewett Pass all the way to Stuart Pass at 6,400! We were only on the Ingalls Creek Trail a few minutes until we came to the old camp at 4,800.
From here our route would be the normal summit route, the Cascadian Couloir. Ulrichs Couloir and the SE route from near Turnpike Creek are other possibilities. Our partner Dan Cervelli arrived with the lightest overnight climbing pack I have ever seen, only 20 lbs! We had talked to a party of five climbers, but they camped at the first camps below Longs Pass. Dan met a woman solo climber, but she was turned back at the false summit because of high winds and little visibility. From our camp I located the climbers path and followed it up 800 to view what we would see Sunday morning with our headlamps.
We all felt cold Saturday night with the temperatures in the upper 30s. Our solo neighbor, Jeff, from North Bend, was hiking the Longs Pass, Ingalls Pass loop. His parents had fallen on the ice near the false summit and both slid to the rocks below. Jeff said, "Im here now, so they did survive."
We started the climb at 7 am, ascending first grassy slopes to the Cascadian Couloir, an impressive collection of scree and talus, but fairly stable. After two hours we climbed out of the Couloir to a boulderfield and views of the eastern false summit 1,000 above. We saw where the early season route from Turnpike Creek joined this route, and wondered if it would be easier?
Becky said from here to the false summit is usually covered with snow. On this day, after the second driest water year in history, it was only talus and scree up high. For once we left our ice axes and crampons in the truck. This was an extremely difficult steep section. At the top below the false summit we were rewarded with an incredible amazing view of Sherpa Peak, 8,605 and the Sherpa Rock, a balanced rock almost as high as the summit itself. Behind Sherpa we could see Argonaut, Colchuck, Dragontail, Little Annapurna, and even McClellan Peak. Wow, almost the entire Stuart Range! Suddenly we were in the clouds, and had no view in any direction. Snow flurries had us closing our zippers and stepping carefully. The wind was strong and icy.
From the false summit we had a majestic view of the true summit of Mount Stuart. It looked to be a long way away but wasnt really. We climbed carefully through broken pieces of class 3 granite along the ridge to the summit, 9,415.
There was no summit register, and no view, only high winds, and some snow, so we didnt linger. It was time to descend. Dan is amazing. He can remember exactly the route back, even in almost zero visibility. We also saw a couple of mountain goats watching our descent.
Captain George B. McClellan named Mount Stuart on September 20, 1853 for his friend, Jimmie Stuart, killed in the Mexican War. Angus McPherson is credited with the first ascent in 1873. The first winter ascent was in 1955 by a group that included Dave Mahre.
There are many routes to the summit for expert climbers, including the Ice Cliff Glacier, the West Ridge, and the famous classic North Ridge Route. We saw only one other party on the Cascadian Couloir. Many parties, ascending other routes, will descend this one.
We were back at our camp at 3 pm. It was 4.5 hours, and 4,600, camp to summit and 3 hours to descend. Total elevation gain of 8,200 over 13 miles. A tough steep climb through lots of scree and talus, with a rewarding ridge to the summit.
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|This website is a photographic and descriptive resource of routes and climbs, not a hiking guide. By using this site the viewer releases the creator from any and all liability. Hiking/climbing is a potentially dangerous activity and requires proper equipment, skill, experience, preparedness and awareness at all times.|