Mount Stuart - Cascadian Couloir, July 2001
Chris and I were desperate for the summit of Mount Stuart, by any route possible. So, on a weekend with marginal weather in areas farther west we hoped for Eastern Washington sunshine and set course for Mount Stuart via the Cascadian Couloir. We drove to the trailhead on a Friday evening, pitched a tent on the parking lot gravel and fell asleep to wind gusts and rain showers. Chris had other obligations that Sunday and so we had to pull it all off on Saturday. With 8000ft of total elevation gain, it ended up being the biggest single day climb I have accomplished to date. I just wish I could have had a view to show for my efforts.
We hiked up to Long's Pass and were met with a stiff breeze and crummy weather. We dropped down to the base of the adjacent valley, took a right and followed a stream for a ways, ignoring a few trail spurs to our left. We settled on the 4th or 5th trail spur and started heading up the mountain. We stopped shortly thereafter for a rest and some eats and had a rainbow to enjoy while doing so. I was convinced that the clouds would burn off by afternoon. Chris felt otherwise.
The Cascadian Couloir was loose and steep in places. The clouds would thin out at times but unfortunately nothing permanent. Eventually, we reached the broad talus slopes above the Couloir. Chris stopped for a rest but I continued through the fog until I reached what I first thought was the summit, but my altimeter suggested otherwise. Shortly thereafter Chris scrambled over the last few boulders to the false summit.
There were big flat slabs of granite lying around everywhere. The Mt. Stuart in fact has the distinction of being the largest mass of exposed granite in North America (according to Beckey). We followed the ridge past successive spires until there wasn't any more mountain left to climb. A blustery day on top of Mt. Stuart. I'm told the views are spectacular from up here. I wouldn't know. Every now and then I would look up and see a tiny window through the clouds for a brief view of the blue sky a short distance above.
On our return we were checked out by a pair of mountain goats. Aside from a few cautious glances, the goats were totally unconcerned by our presence. We reached the car 15 hours after we started that morning. I was happy not to be driving that evening. One day I'll return to climb a more worthy route, the Ice Cliff Glacier perhaps.
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