From the notch above the Stuart Glacier, 11(ish, depends on how you do it) pitches of low/mid 5th class with one move of 5.7 will take you to the base of the Gendarme. This involves a lot of fun, exposed, easy climbing on bomber rock. Despite this, the best pitches are on the Gendarme. Above the base of the pillar, are two crux 5.9 pitches. The first one is a steep fingers and hands dihedral with good rests between harder sections of climbing. From here, traverse to the offwidth and grunt up it. After this, there's one more pitch of 5.8-5.9 before the final three pitches of low 5th.
This route is amazing. A must do for anyone comfortable on alpine rock of the grade. When we did it, we approached via Ingalls Lake and Goat Pass, this wasn't too bad but meant we had to descend Cascadian Coulior which was one of the worst climbing experiences me and my partner had ever had.
There are multiple approach options for this route. Both have their pros and cons. You can approach from the south via Longs Pass TH or from the north via Mountaineer Creek. I recommend you buy a topographic map and figure it out for yourself.
When we did it, we approached via LPTH. From LPTH, head up to Ingalls Lake, traverse ledges around the east side of the lake and follow the trail to Stuart Pass. From here, descend northwest on talus, traverse, and then ascend more talus to the pass between Pt. 7893 on Jack Ridge and Stuart's West Ridge (aka Goat Pass) there are potential bivy sites here. Finally, traverse the Stuart Glacier to the 4th class gully leading to the prominent notch in the North Ridge. There are two good bivy sites here and many more mediocre ones. This is the beginning of the upper ridge.
If you approach from the South and wish to descend that way as well, (LPTH) to descend from the summit, head down and east towards the false summit via blocky 3rd and 4th on the south side of the summit. Once at the summit, follow cairns and a ledge system east to the western edge of a large snowfield. This is the top of the Cascadian Coulior. Without crossing the snowfield, follow it down into blocky, loose 3rd class terrain that will go on forever. Descend the coulior for a very very very long time occasionally venturing to the hillside on the side of the gully. This will take you down to Ingalls Creek.
Pretty subjective. People do it with no gear, people do it with lots of gear. Bring whatever you normally bring on a long alpine rock route plus 1 3.5" piece for the offwidth. (more if you want the security of stitching up a short 5.9 offwidth)
|Comments on Upper North Ridge w/Great Gendarme
|By Pete Hickman|
From: Tacoma, WA
Apr 16, 2008
Does anyone have an idea how doable this route might be in the last week of May this year?
|By Scott Matz|
From: Loveland, CO
Apr 22, 2009
Im going to attemp it in mid June, any recommendations
|By Mike McL|
From: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aug 15, 2011
Excellent route! We did it late this July in a heavy snow year. We camped near Ingalls Lake to get a head start on the approach. Know that if you do this, you have about a 4 mile hike that gains 1600 feet of elevation to get back to camp from the base of the Cascadian Couloir. If you do a car shuttle, an approach from the Mountaineers Creek trailhead with a descent down the Cascadian and over Long's Pass is a good idea. Of course if you do this you have to carry over all of your gear. By camping near Ingalls Lake, we were able to leave the bivy gear behind and travel lighter.
I was very glad to have an axe and crampons to cross the glacier. It's fairly easy, but the runout is not great. The snow couloir was also easy step kicking, but very exposed. You wouldn't want to fall here. We used lightweight aluminum crampons with approach shoes. This worked fine.
The approach is quite long. Allow plenty of time. Routefinding can be tough in the dark up there if you're not familiar with the territory. Of course, YMMV.
The climbing on the ridge is good fun. We simuled most of the ridge beneath the gendarme with the exception of the 5.7 step. This lower section can go quickly.
The gendarme pitches were awesome. First pitch has fun moves between good rests. The OW wasn't too bad. One number 4 C4 camalot was perfect to protect it. I walked it a little ways. There's still an old number 4 camalot fixed up there at the top of the wide section. We hauled packs on these 2 pitches to make the going easier. They're both less than half a rope length, so hauling is easy if you choose to do so.
Past the gendarme, there's 1 short 5.8 step that is a ton of fun. Splitter hands. From here it's easy terrain to the top.
The Cascadian Couloir was quite tedious as mentioned by the OP. 4000+ ft of loose scree.