Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Stuart/West Ridge

Successful 2-day carryover of the West Ridge.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • No water sources left on the route until the snow field on the descent from the summit. Fill up at Ingalls Lake.

A successful climb of the West Ridge of Mount Stuart must start with a shout out to everyone we got beta from ahead of time from the route descriptions, hand drawn topo and photos that helped us navigate the maze of possibilities.

We packed fairly light (which still isn’t all that light doing a lot of exposed scrambling and a technical climb as a carryover) starting with packs between 25 and 30 pounds knowing we would be loading up an extra 4L of water each at Ingalls Lake.

Car camped at the trailhead on Thursday night and were on the trail just after 6am Fri morning.

We first tried to go around the right side of Ingalls Lake but appeared to be cliffed out right near the end.  The choices were a chest deep wade around the corner or a slabby move that was a little to uncomfortable looking to start the morning out with.  So, we back tracked and walked around the left side of the lake.

A quick trip to Ingalls Lake and we filled up all our water bladders and topped off all the bottles.

The weather was great, sunny with a nice chill and breeze. Gusting up to 20ish had us wondering about the wind on the route that was predicted to be in the 20s the next day with clouds and a slight chance of precip.  We decided it was worth taking the chance and moved on to the base of the climb.

Navigating up the gullys was straight forward.  Then we got to a choice of going up a low 5th chimney/gully or around to the left.  3 of us soloed up the chimney which only had one burly overhangy move.  We dropped down a line for one person to belay them up that move.

From here looking over at Long John Tower looked pretty intimidating.  We pulled out the photos with the hand drawn route options for the 5th class option or the 4th class option and neither looked appealing. We heard enough about the 5th class option being very awkward that we decided to scramble up the 4th class.

We picked out our route from a distance and headed that way. Fairly quickly after the 3rd class approach it gets your attention. We all headed up a long straight narrow gulley feature on the right, but we didn’t know if it would connect back over left at the top.  Two of us about halfway up found what we figured was the “exposed airy traverse” and yea, its exposed and airy but the finger crack and foot holds were solid.  From there we could see that the gulley the others were still in had a walk across to where we were.  Kashan continued to the top and set an anchor and dropped a line to belay up Rodica the last half since it was getting very steep and exposed with some burly moves and high steps.

A short 3rd class scramble from there and we were over the hump and past Long John Tower looking across at the rest of the terrain we had to cross to get to the West Ridge Notch.  It was about 3:30pm and we were about 9 hours into the trip.  We figured we had plenty of time to continue on and find the bivvy sites closer to the West Ridge Notch.

We easily found the Dog move and got around the overhanging ledge and into the next gully.  Eventually we were spending some time consulting the GPS tracks, printed beta and a hand drawn topo map trying to figure out which ledge, which sandy patch, which gully, which hash tag on the map was which.  We had tracks that seemed to go up to a higher route and tracks dropping hundreds of feet and going around a buttress lower.  After a bit we then spotted a line of cairns that went straight across splitting the difference and decided to take that path. That route seemed to be not as travelled since we were on some fairly lichen covered rocks at times making our way from cairn to cairn and it was some very exposed 4th class scrambling in some sections but fairly easy with big holds and wide enough ledges. We wound up skipping the entire upper route and the features such as the Tunnel underfoot, the rock you climb through, the upper bivvy sites (which we wanted to hit) but it also meant we didn’t have to descent hundreds of feet down a crappy loose gulley then ascend the next crappy loose gulley.  Once across we had a straight shot up to the West Ridge Notch.  The whole section from LJT to the West Ridge Notch took about 3 hours.

Now it was 6:30pm and we needed to find the bivvy spots. Since were at the base of the climb little did we know if we scrambled up a little bit from the notch we would have found a site we probably could have squeezed all 4 of us on, but it would have been very windy and maybe a little too cozy.

We dropped back down the gully maybe 200ft and around the tower with the balanced rock, up just a little bit to the notch and found a line of bivvy sites right around 9000ft and hunkered down for the night with an awesome sunset.

Up the next morning at 6am to blue sky and not a lick of wind we lucked out on the weather forecast and we were back on our way to the Notch at 7am.

We started the climbing around 8am after scrambling up to the base of the first pitch and finding the spot where we needed to traverse out then back up around the spire at the base. Since there is a bit of a downclimb from there we setup belays at the top to reduce rope drag then scrambled down to the base of the 2nd pitch.

From the base of the 2nd pitch Rodica led off and went straight up the right-hand side which had a burly overhangy move at the top while Andy went up the left-hand side and everyone grouped up on the ledge. From there we had to look around for where to go next.  It looked like there was some worn down surface on the right-hand side where it was a slabby move with a wide crack up against a wall.  There is a nice pinch point for a sling and a bomber anchor to make the committing move up.  And that turned out to be the spot that put us right at the next downclimb to another bivvy spot and belay for the next pitch.

From the base of the 3rd pitch we had a nice photo from beta we got from some friends that showed we needed to do a zig zag move going straight up, over a large block then right then up another section to the next belay ledge. This was some bad rope drag, so splitting this pitch into 2 would have been preferable which is what Andy and Khrum did.

From the base of the 4th pitch we had all grouped up and after consulting the beta decided the route was to go up little bit then traverse around the base of a large square spire (which I think is also the move referred to as the “belly flop”) which wasn’t hard, just a bit awkward.  From there it was easy scrambling up and to the right around a corner to the crux section which has a fixed piton at the burly overhangy move, preceded by another burly pullup/mantle move onto a nice flat alcove where you can reach up and clip the piton.  Its easy once past that move to a nice belay ledge.  We stopped here as it was a good spot to haul up someone’s pack if they wanted to make the burly move at the piton easier.

From there the next pitch was just an easy scramble to the summit block where we ran into groups all coming up from every direction.  All in all it took about 5 hours for the four of us to do the climb from the West Ridge Notch to the summit where we topped out around 1pm-ish.

Then it came time for the long 6000ft descent (~4500ft down to the creek, another ~1300ft up to Longs Pass, then ~1500ft down to the trailhead).  We took some time to soak our feet and refill some water in the creek.  The 4L each we filled up at Ingalls Lake got us all the way down to the creek the next day without running short.  3L probably would have worked but we would have had to melt some snow field after the summit.  And if it had been a really hot and sweaty 2-days 4L might not have been enough. We found 1 tiny remnant of snow on the route that was literally 2ft by 6inches and was probably already melted by the next day.

This is a climb you really need to have some experience and comfort with exposed scrambling and be prepared with route beta and take your time to get your route right. It would be pretty easy to get off route just winging it and getting into terrain you might not be ready for. And we already know someone who spent 2-days off route on the West Ridge getting into 5.9 territory they weren’t prepared for.

Got back to the cars about 12hrs after having left the bivvy site.  Turned out that was a great split for the 2-day carryover trip. About 12hrs each day using the 9000ft bivvy sites.