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Cascadian Couloir T 
Direct North Ridge w/ Gendarme, The T 
Girth Pillar 
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Ice Cliff Glacier 
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Upper North Ridge w/Great Gendarme T 
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The Direct North Ridge w/ Gendarme 

YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 20 pitches, 2000', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.9+ French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: E1 5a [details]
Page Views: 12,723
Submitted By: peachy spohn on Sep 3, 2008

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (46)
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onward and upward


The Direct North Ridge combines the North Ridge from the notch with an extra 800 feet of fun climbing. Although loose in spots and somewhat lichen covered, the route offers those looking for a longer, harder day than the North Ridge good solid 5.9+ climbing. It will obviously be faster to simulclimb, my partner and I did this and completed the entire route in 6.5 hours, but the belays for each pitch take good gear and have decent stances.

Roughly the first 3 pitches are the hardest. 1: Climb up easy terrain off a big ledge about 150 feet above the base of the toe to a small tree. 2: Continue up through an awkward 5.8 slot (harder with backpacks) to a face and then to a nice ledge. Small crimps inside the slot for the left hand are useful and make sure to step out on the face with your feet. 3: Follow a striking lie back crack on your left for quite a ways. This is 5.9+ and sustained. Once you pull over a small roof there will be another ledge to set up a belay.

From here veer up and right, following the path of least resistance. The rock at times is loose and almost always covered in crumbly black lichen. It is mostly easy 5th class with an occasional 5.6 move. There is, about 5 pitches up, a short slab traverse that takes you even further to the right. Once you do this, the Notch ridge will come into view and once reached it will connect you with the Upper North Ridge. It takes longer than you think, but keep on trucking.

For the Upper North Ridge look at Max Tepfer's description on this page. To add to it though, begin by staying on the left (east) side of the ridge. Then follow an easy ramp up to the ridge. Move up left over a bulge (5.6) and then on to an exposed section on the west side of the ridge. From here follow the ridge to the super cool 5.5 slab split by an amazing crack and then to the Gendarme--about 8 or 9 pitches from the Notch. The Gendarme can be done in two pitches; 1: a 5.8 lie back and 2: a 5.9+ off-width, or you can link the pitches easily with a 60m rope (use runners to prevent rope drag) which is what my partner and I did. The Gendarme is almost always in the shade and can be very cold or even icy.


The route can be approached from icicle creek and Stuart Lake trail head. This is best if you leave stuff at the base/Stuart Glacier or at the cut off from the main trail. Follow the main trail towards Stuart Lake and continue past the Colchuck turn off. Once you see the obvious pyramid hills keep an eye out for a faint trail on the left. Take this and bush whack around the left side of this peak/hill to the base. Another, longer approach can be done by going to Stuart Lake and then around it on a trail. Follow the marshes on the right side and then move up a steep hill via a fairly obvious trail. Once on top go up and over to a talus, down to a gully and back up towards Stuart Glacier. Well before the glacier move towards the base of the ridge over several humps until you reach the toe of the North Ridge. The descent is the trickiest part and if someone has any good info please post it. My partner and I descended Razor Back Ridge on accident, thinking it was the Northwest Ridge. All I know is that you need to go further than you think after descending the west ridge and doing 3-4 rappels.


HELMET, set of nuts, cams (metolious sizes) doubled from 1-6 and singles from 7-10, about 10 sling/draws, extra runners, cordelette. Optional ice axe and crampons for the descent (In Aug. we did not need them). The third pitch took 2-5 mostly, but up higher a 7 was used. The off-width of the Gendarme took a 9 and 10 which can be walked.

Photos of The Direct North Ridge w/ Gendarme Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Scoping out downclimb
Scoping out downclimb
Rock Climbing Photo: View of the 5.9+ pitch
BETA PHOTO: View of the 5.9+ pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: This shows the approach and start.
BETA PHOTO: This shows the approach and start.
Rock Climbing Photo: North side of Mt. Stuart
North side of Mt. Stuart
Rock Climbing Photo: After crossing the Glacier
After crossing the Glacier
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting up Stuart
Starting up Stuart
Rock Climbing Photo: Belay ledge midway up the Gendarme
Belay ledge midway up the Gendarme

Comments on The Direct North Ridge w/ Gendarme Add Comment
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By mark kerns
From: denver, co
Jan 21, 2009

i found that the off width pitch on the gendarme protected very well with stoppers in the back of the crack. big exposure, but protected nicely. not so sure about the "plus" rating. i thought that both gendarme pitches were about the same in difficulty. the first is more aesthetic, but the off width pitch climbs great.

also - after the gendarme pitches, trend left towards the summit. when in doubt head to your left. i have yet to find a 4th class path all the way to the summit, but the last time i did this was very close but still had to stop and anchor in for a short pitch of 5th class. i feel that if i would have trended even more to my left i might have finished the ridge with 4th class as described in the becky book.

regarding the approach....most people climb this from the south, coming over ingalls pass, past ingalls lace, over goat pass and then descending from the pass to the toe of the ridge. i did not use crampons or ice axe for this approach and found it to be easy access.

regarding the descent - if climbing from the south - descend cascadian couloir to the east of the summit, cross ingalls greek and find the trail that leads over stuart pass. this is the fastest way back to the trailhead. this climb can be done in a long day from the trail head.

fantastic climb.

By Justin York
From: Phoenix, AZ
Nov 9, 2009

I agree with mark - the offwidth pitch wasn't harder than the layback pitch of the gendarme, and the offwidth section was short. Plus, a fixed #4 to boot!

So high on the route, it was tempting to bypass the gendarme, but so glad we didn't. It was one of the highlights.

We approached from the north which was looooong and so much bushwhacking it's not even funny. Though the campsite was superb, I can't recommend that approach. The glacier descent was in bad shape so late in the season so we circumnavigated the mtn (with a bivy...)over goat pass to get back to camp. Sounds like approaching from the South is more straightforward.

Doing the N. ridge direct was the way to go. The bottom pitches were great and the rest up to the notch was on mostly good rock. Took about 11 hrs from base to summit.

Great adventure! Go do it!
By Brian Prince
From: morro bay, ca
Aug 23, 2012

I'd give it 5.9+ for the second pitch of the bottom of the ridge. After the "5.8 squeeze slot" I climbed the corner described here. This is a very pretty, lichen-free sustained fingerish crack in a corner that can be seen from the base. It was way harder than anything on the gendarme or anywhere else on the route. After this I wasn't sure where the route went, but we belayed one more pitch before we wanted to simul.

Fixed #4 is still in the 2nd gendarme pitch as of 8/12 so no need to bring one. A #3 works just fine until you get to it. It's nothing to be scared about. It's also short, as mentioned.

Anyway, I also recommend approaching from the south via Esmeralda/Ingalls Lake/Longs pass Trailhead (I've heard it referred to as all three names. It's the approach often used for just the upper ridge and is described on that page). This requires no crampons or axe (at least later in the season) and was straightforward, if not looonnngg (and that cascadian descent is so miserable). C2C in a day is definitely doable this way though.

I think Mark (above) meant to say that, on the descent, after you descend the cascadian couloir and cross ingalls creek that you find the trail that heads over longs pass, not stuart pass. Good advice is to look at a trail map. Sweet route up (and over, for us) a big ol' mountain.
By trent.s
Jul 17, 2015

According to Kearney in "Classic Climbs of the Northwest", the 5.9+ pitch on the lower ridge is avoidable by going right to gain a 40' 4" crack. This makes the lower ridge go at 5.8 according to him. He states that there have been several long falls and one serious injury on the left variation.
By Nick Drake
Aug 3, 2015

My partner led out right by mistake on P2, we ended up missing the 9+ layback. Did not see the reported 4" crack, but ended up on a 7 to 8 finger crack layback instead. It probably would have been fun were it not for a ton of lichen that meant your feet were borderline useless. The other party in our group took the 9+, it looks great, was clean and protects well, I wouldn't bypass it.
By Henry AB
Aug 7, 2015

We followed the standard beta, pitching out the first three pitches and the gendarme pitches. We simul-climbed everything else. We used a 60m single rope folded in half for the pitches we pitched out. The leader tied in at the midpoint and hauled the packs on one strand while belaying the follower on the other strand. This worked great and didn't take much time at all.

I think a #4 C4 (or other large cam) is totally unnecessary for the Gendarme offwidth. You can place a #2 at the base of the offwidth and then a #3 higher up. Then there is a 15-20 feet gap until the fixed cam. The pitch is steep and exposed, so any fall would be pretty clean.

Judging from previous trip reports, that fixed cam has been there for at least 10 years. I didn't look at it too closely, but I think it might be a Friend. It didn't seem to be possible to clip the stem of the cam directly, and there is no way I would trust the sling on that cam after being up there for ten years. I ended up slinging the cam like a chockstone.

Regarding the descent, we inadvertently took the route that the Beckey guide identifies as "Variation No. 1" to the Cascadian couloir, which is the first drainage east of the Cascadian couloir. We were following a well-defined trail/cairns up high. We had GPS waypoints for the Cascadian couloir, so we eventually realized we were not on the main route. But by that point, we didn't feel like leaving the trail. The trail periodically disappeared and re-emerged. There was some third-class downclimbing, but on the whole the route wasn't too bad. I suspect a lot of climbers have descended this way, thinking they were descending the Cascadian couloir.
By Nick Drake
Nov 6, 2015

The fixed cam is a gen 2 camalot, I wouldn't whip on it, but I can attest that it did still hold body weight as of this summer :)

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