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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: 25,731
Submitted By: peachy spohn on Sep 3, 2008

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BETA PHOTO: Route Overlay Stuart North Ridge


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: Dave staring up at the menacing gendarme. Credit: ...
Dave staring up at the menacing gendarme. Credit: ...
Rock Climbing Photo: A view of Ranier on the horizon during sunrise on ...
A view of Ranier on the horizon during sunrise on ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climber leading Pitch 1 of the Gendarme, with the ...
Climber leading Pitch 1 of the Gendarme, with the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approach and Descent map for North Ridge of Stuart...
BETA PHOTO: Approach and Descent map for North Ridge of Stuart...
Rock Climbing Photo: Belay ledge midway up the Gendarme
Belay ledge midway up the Gendarme
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down the North Ridge of Stuart, halfway up...
Looking down the North Ridge of Stuart, halfway up...
Rock Climbing Photo: Route Overlay for The Gendarme.
BETA PHOTO: Route Overlay for The Gendarme.
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.9 hand crack on Pitch 3 of the lower North Ridge...
BETA PHOTO: 5.9 hand crack on Pitch 3 of the lower North Ridge...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 2 of the lower North Ridge.
BETA PHOTO: Pitch 2 of the lower North Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 1 of the lower North Ridge.
BETA PHOTO: Pitch 1 of the lower North Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Taken on the descent from the summit to the col ab...
BETA PHOTO: Taken on the descent from the summit to the col ab...
Rock Climbing Photo: Fixed cam in the offwidth on the second pitch of t...
BETA PHOTO: Fixed cam in the offwidth on the second pitch of t...
Rock Climbing Photo: North side of Mt. Stuart
North side of Mt. Stuart
Rock Climbing Photo: Bolted rap station at the base of the Gendarme. It...
BETA PHOTO: Bolted rap station at the base of the Gendarme. It...
Rock Climbing Photo: View of the 5.9+ pitch
BETA PHOTO: View of the 5.9+ pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Starting up Stuart
Starting up Stuart
Rock Climbing Photo: Route Overlay Pitches 1-3
BETA PHOTO: Route Overlay Pitches 1-3
Rock Climbing Photo: Scoping out downclimb
Scoping out downclimb
Rock Climbing Photo: onward and upward
onward and upward
Rock Climbing Photo: After crossing the Glacier
After crossing the Glacier
Rock Climbing Photo: Traverse pitch leading to Gendarme pitches.
Traverse pitch leading to Gendarme pitches.
Rock Climbing Photo: This shows the approach and start.
BETA PHOTO: This shows the approach and start.

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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
From: Newcastle, WA
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
From: Newcastle, WA
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 :)
By Nick Sweeney
From: Spokane, WA
Aug 30, 2016

Southern approach note: From Ingalls lake, follow the ridge extending to the West Ridge of Stuart. You should not lose much elevation from Ingalls Lake.
By Annaconda
From: Seattle, WA
Aug 31, 2016

Did the Complete North Ridge on Aug 29 via the south approach/Cascadian Descent. A few notes:

1. The "Upper" north ridge is 18 pitches, and adding the "lower" north ridge to make the "Complete" (or the Direct) North Ridge means about 25 pitches of climbing and probably about 2700 feet, not 20 pitches/2000 ft as listed here - at least by my first-hand calculations and review of various guidebooks. Big day, even with 20ish pitches of those 4th-lower 5th.

2. If at all in doubt about your ability to do this in a day, bring bivy gear. Descending the Cascadian Couloir at night is not fun, especially if you've never done it before. There are reasonable sites every 4-5 pitches on the climb and summit.

3. By late Aug (of a moderate snow year), there was no snow of consequence on the entire climb/descent. Sharps were fine left at home.

4. Neither me nor my partner are confident on 5.9 offwidth, and we were happy to have a #4 and a #3 in addition to the stuck #4 up there.

5. The Cascadian Couloir isn't that bad (...or maybe I just like suffering) Beware of false cairns leading you into the first gully. Stay on the ridge until just past the false summit, we saw a nice big bivvy site and 3 big cairns then headed down there. The CC is cairned almost the entire way down now.

Have fun, climb fast!
By David Bruneau
From: St. John
Sep 15, 2016
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a

First alpine climb. Tried to do this car-to-car in a day, in a party of 3 with a 3:30AM start. Summit at 5:50PM from the south approach, then f***ed up the descent by descending the wrong couloir (not too bad) then taking the wrong trail in the dark afterwards (added 15 km to the hike, turned the day into an epic). An absolutely exhausting day - probably best to plan to bivy if you're unsure that you can do the climb and hike quickly enough to do the descent in the light. Or bring a GPS and a proper map...

The climb itself was great, with fairly straightforward routefinding on the ridge. The highlight for me was the upper 3rd of the first simul section, with amazing exposure and perfect easy rock. The lower thin hand crack was the best hard pitch and seemed like the only true 5.9 on the route - a hard 5.9 at that. Gendarme "offwidth" is mostly fists for the average male hand and would be graded easier at many other american crags. I did not feel the need for a #4 (clean fall, #3 just below my feet when I was at the fixed cam). On September 9th the ledges on the Gendarme and much of the flatter terrain above was snow covered, unpleasant but not too bad. We also trundled a huge flake out of the crack on the 1st pitch after ensuring no-one else was below.
By Nick AW Brown
From: St. John's
Oct 2, 2016

We attempted to climb the entire North Ridge in a single day from the Ingalls Creek parking lot. We ended up having a 27 hour epic after losing our way in the dark. Read our account of the adventure for photos, and pertinent info to help avoid making the mistake we did on the descent, or at least for an interesting read...
By Kevin MP
From: Redmond, OR
Oct 9, 2016

Casual as a two-day mission with a bivy on the route, and quite spectacular all-around. Would be a huge one-day push but doable for a fast party after knowing the approach and general routefinding. As for water on a late-summer ascent, to avoid carrying unnecessary weight, bring just enough to make it the first 4 miles up to Ingalls Lake. At the lake you can grab water, just enough to get you over Stuart Pass, up over Goat Pass, then down and across the bottom of Stuart Glacier. There is a large stream running from the glacier all summer and you will cross it, last chance to fill up before you continue onto the route. From the summit you can access small snow patches, then there are nice fresh streams when you make it to the bottom of the Cascadian Couloir.
By Jaddles
Jun 21, 2017

Check out this Trip report for doing the DNR with Gendarme Approaching from Lake Ingalls trail head and descending Cascadian couloir. I laid out the pro's and cons for the many approach/descent and route choice options which I hope will be helpful. I also listed at the bottom of the blog post some other blogs that were especially helpful including Steph Abegg's, Eric and Lucy and John Plotz.
By Hans
From: Squamish, BC
Jun 28, 2017

By Calvin Landrus
From: Bend, OR
Aug 1, 2017

Climbed the DNR on 7/31 with my 22 year son (I'm 56) on 7/30. We had two cars so we approached via Mountaineers Creek for a bivi at base of the route in the afternoon of 7/29, climbed the route in 8.5 hours, descended Cascadian Couloir and then up and over Longs Pass. Everyone's beta was pretty accurate. The Gendarme pitches are really, really good!

BETA COMMENT: Not sure how long this has been in place but the road for the south approach, the Esmeralda/Ingalls Lake/Longs pass Trailhead, is blocked off about 1.5 miles before reaching the trailhead proper (as of 7/30/17). Not a big deal but must factor in at least a 1.5 mile longer hike.

Does anyone know why this closer is in effect? There was no obvious road damage to cause this. Please update this if you find the closure is no longer in effect.
By ChiHarris
From: Portland, OR
Aug 8, 2017

The Esmeralda Trailhead parking (South Approach) is no longer blocked as of this last weekend when I attempted to climb Stuart. The washout in the road has been repaired.

Also, If approaching from the south you will encounter moderately steep snow field crossings to gain the base of the Direct North Ridge. My partner and I were not prepared to have to cross snow and it lead to a lengthy, tiring 6 hour circumnavigation across talus/scree that was the primary reason we didn't successfully climb Stuart. Plan to bring an ice axe to safely traverse the two 50 foot sections of snow if approaching from the south.

I highly, highly recommend the two car approach (enter from North via mountaineers trail, summit, descend via Cascadian Couloir/Longs Pass/Esmeralda Trail.
By Jen Wiebracht
From: Lakewood, CO
Aug 13, 2017

Myself and three partners did the Direct North Ridge June 21-23rd, 2017. We approached from Stuart Lake via Mountaineer's Creek. We included the Gendarme pitches and took the Sherpa Glacier Descent.

Here is the link to our trip report.
By Charles Rackson
Aug 17, 2017

I wish I hadn't brought a #4! I tried to place it, and almost got it stuck. The crack is just too small for a #4, probably why there's a fixed one there. A 3.5-inch cam would be ideal (what my old guidebook recommends). A somewhat tipped-out #3 worked just fine and felt secure. Also, there are multiple good nut and small-cam placements next to the fixed #4. Even without the fixed 4, a single #3 plus small gear would sew this up decently well.

By the way, the crack didn't feel off-width at all to me. I have small-ish hands and always had very secure fist jams.

A doubled 60m rope is too short for the 5.9 pitch near the bottom of the ridge (the first hard pitch on the lower ridge). If a recently-deceased tree at the top of the pitch had been alive, 30m would have been fine. But I had to go slightly farther to reach a good anchor - we had to simul-climb a bit.

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