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Stuart Glacier Couloir 

WI2 M5

Type:  Trad, Mixed, Ice, Alpine, 6 pitches, 1700', Grade IV
Original: WI2 M5 [details]
FA: Helmy Beckey and Larry Strathdee, June 1944
Season: April to May
Page Views: 2,749
Submitted By: Marlin Thorman on Mar 29, 2014

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Sunrise over the enchantments as seen from up on t...


This route is subject to changing conditions. The ice section could be snow and thin ice or just nice thick ice. The ridge could be covered in 2 feet of rime ice and snow or it could be mostly dry. Obviously the time of year as well as the snow pack and current temperatures will change the nature of the route significantly. In early season expect winter conditions with freezing temperatures, wind, and lots of snow and ice. Route finding can be very difficult when you can't even tell where the ledges are or what the rock looks like! When we climbed it in March it was 95% dry tooling after we uncovered buried rock....full on M5 climbing. Later season I suspect it would be easier climbing and route finding and might knock the grade down a point or two (M3-M4).

The route starts at about 7,800 feet at the top of the Stuart Glacier. Enter the couloir and proceed up on 40-50 degree snow as it begins to narrow. After a few hundred feet the couloir steepens to a short 80 degree step. In later season there can be good ice, early season expect more snow and thin ice. A little bit above this first step is a 2nd shorter step of rock or ice. Then the couloir opens up to a wider snowfield. Continue up this steep snow (50 degrees) for another couple hundred feet to a notch in the West Ridge.

From the notch the typically route follows the ridge for 6 pitches to the summit. The first pitch drops down 10 feet on the south side and follows ledges along the south side of the ridge for a rope length to another notch. Pitch 2 goes up and right initially on easy 5th class terrain. Then once it gets steeper transition around the ridge crest to the north face. Pitch 3 works up diagonally across the north face through mid 5th class terrain until you reach a small gully that leads up to the crest. From here down climb or rappel down the south face for 20 feet to another ledge system. Pitch 4 follows this ledge system (class 3) for most of a full rope length. Pitch 5 turns up and follows a crack system towards the summit. Pitch 6 just continues up cracks to the summit. Both of the last pitches are mid 5th class.

Alternate route on West Ridge
As an alternate route you can do the ridge in 5 pitches. Follow the standard route until pitch 4. From the belay traverse the ledge system of pitch 4 for half a pitch. Then turn up the rock and climb a wide almost box like gully. Continue up this until you find a good belay at the top of the box like gully. From here the summit is only about 1/2 a pitch away and up to the right. This variation is shorter and theoretically faster however it is definitely harder climbing. Still nothing harder than M5 but much more sustained.

The descent is typically down the Sherpa Glacier as this route is down early season. From the summit descend the east ridge towards the false summit. Continue following the crest of the ridge or dropping down on the south face to bypass steep terrain. After about 500 feet descend down the south side for 100 feet or so and continue to traverse across the face. Your goal is to traverse around the false summit at the easiest point you can find. Once around the false summit you should find a snowfield on the southeast side. Traverse down and across this snowfield past the top of Ice Cliff Glacier until you reach the top of Sherpa Couloir. From here you cross the east ridge crest and descend down the couloir to Sherpa Glacier.


Stuart Glacier Couloir is located on the northwest side of Mt. Stuart at the top of Stuart Glacier. Most parties approach the mountain from Icicle road and the Stuart Lake trail. From the summer trailhead follow the trail for 3 miles to the turnoff to Colchuck lake. Continue on the Stuart Lake trail for another mile before veering left to stay in the main valley as the Stuart lake trail switchbacks up and right. Follow this valley for about 1.5 miles to where it steepens. From here turn right and work your way up the steep slope to a small valley above. Good camping is located in this small flat valley (5,400 ft) at the base of Sherpa Glacier.


A couple of short screws are handy for the ice section in the couloir. In early season, pickets can also be used in a variety of places. The west ridge is protected with a typical alpine rack. We took 5 cams up to a BD #3, 8 nuts and 4 pins, and we used all of it. In retrospect we wish we would have taken a couple more small cams (BD .3 and .4).

Photos of Stuart Glacier Couloir Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Stuart Peak from the north.  Stuart Glacier Couloi...
BETA PHOTO: Stuart Peak from the north. Stuart Glacier Couloi...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the constriction from where it opens ...
Looking down the constriction from where it opens ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Easier mixed terrain on the North Face before reac...
Easier mixed terrain on the North Face before reac...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joe descending the Stuart Couloir.
Joe descending the Stuart Couloir.
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the Sherpa Couloir with Sherpa peak t...
Looking down the Sherpa Couloir with Sherpa peak t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joe leading out on the first pitch of the West Rid...
Joe leading out on the first pitch of the West Rid...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the Stuart Glacier Couloir from the u...
Looking down the Stuart Glacier Couloir from the u...
Rock Climbing Photo: Entering the bottom of the Stuart Glacier Couloir.
BETA PHOTO: Entering the bottom of the Stuart Glacier Couloir.
Rock Climbing Photo: Mt. Stuart as seen from our camp at 5,400 feet.
Mt. Stuart as seen from our camp at 5,400 feet.

Comments on Stuart Glacier Couloir Add Comment
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By Marlin Thorman
From: Spokane, WA
Mar 29, 2014

Climbed this route on March 22, 2014. Wasn't much ice in the couloir, and what was there was super thin. Did find a place to put 1 stubby screw in. From the notch we followed the alternate route description which allowed us to climb the route in 5 pitches instead of 6. This variation though was definitely 5.9, M5 sustained climbing.
By Jeff Hebert
From: Seattle, WA
Apr 13, 2014

Thanks for posting your TR and adding the route here! We met when you guys made it back to camp that night (we were headed to the Ice Cliff Glacier the next day). Goran and I headed up this weekend and hit SGC in perfect conditions (firmer snow on the approach, a little more ice in the couloir protectable with a screw or two, and less rime excavation up top). Thanks for putting the idea in our heads!

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