The Direct North Ridge w/ Gendarme
Trad, Alpine, 2800 ft (848 m), 20 pitches, Grade IV,
Avg: 3.9 from 183
> Central-E Casca…
> Mt Stuart
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.
A view of Ranier on the horizon during sunrise on the approach. Credit: www.chossboys.weebly.com
Route Overlay Stuart North Ridge
Looking down the North Ridge of Stuart, halfway up the ridge or so.
Climber leading Pitch 1 of the Gendarme, with the North Ridge stretching below.
onward and upward
This shows the approach and start.
Approach and Descent map for North Ridge of Stuart.
A pitch above the upper crux.
Jeromy on an exposed traverse of the upper ridge.
Belay ledge midway up the Gendarme
Route Overlay for The Gendarme.
Dave staring up at the menacing gendarme. Credit: http://chossboys.weebly.com/home/27-hours-an-epic-on-mount-stuart