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| | |-+  April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
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Author Topic: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse  (Read 2318 times)
kurthicks
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April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« on: 05/03/16, 09:11 AM »

I’ve been dreaming of traversing the entire Stuart Range on skis for years. Over a period of five days last week, Erin Smart and I threaded a fantastic line across the range from east to west.

Everyone who has been into the Enchantments knows that getting there takes some motivation and a decent amount of effort. We spent most of our first day hiking up the Snow Creek trail, until we were able to start skinning near Nada Lake. That night ended at Leprechaun Lake without making a single turn.


Erin skinning under Prusik Peak on day 1.

The second day dawned with calm, cloudy conditions and we were soon on our way for the first turns of the trip. A mellow skin up Little Annapurna had us at our first summit. Firm and fast turns took us down to the Snow Creek Glacier under the east side of Dragontail. From here, we booted to the summit and hoped for it to clear. It didn’t.

We ended up booting over to the top of the Pandora Couloir, which is what we recommend calling the sw-facing gully that drops down from Pandora’s Box to Colchuck Col. Conditions were edgeable, but engaging, while dropping into the milk with 50’ visibility. Another quick boot took us to the summit of Colchuck and more time spent waiting for it to clear. Then it was down the south face of Colchuck and around a sub-ridge at 7400’ and a glide towards Argonaut.


Dropping into the Pandora Couloir on Dragontail on day 2. Erin Smart photo

The east gully of Argonaut was a bit unknown for us, but it ended up providing a quick climb to a tiny col. We had hoped to climb to the summit, but visibility was still nil and we bagged the idea. From the col, a fantastic SW couloir took us down to snowline around 5400’ in Ingalls Creek. That night we camped at the base of the Cascadian and slept serenely on dirt. What a luxury for April!


Skiing the SW couloir of Argonaut down into Ingalls Creek.

Day three began sunny and warm for our ascent of the Cascadian. We carried skis once again for a while to gain the snow. After tagging the summit (in the whiteout again), we skied from the false summit down the Sherpa Glacier into Mountaineer Creek basin. I’ve never tired of the fantastic camping under the north side of Stuart. We lounged about, pondering what the second half of the traverse entailed, over many afternoon coffees.


Erin hoping the snowline is lower than it looks in the Cascadian.


Ready to drop into the Sherpa on day 3.

We knew that the fourth day was going to be long. Up we went to the Stuart Glacier, then did a quick ski of a mini-Slot Couloir down towards Stuart Lake. Our next climb took us to Jack Lake and up over the ridge just west of Point 7492 (Dudley Spire). The following east facing descent and glide into the head of Eightmile Creek was a nice surprise. The next few hours were the slowest going of the tour as we climbed up and over Point 7793. The descent off this summit towards Eightmile Mountain may be the technical crux of the entire route. We were able to downclimb some exposed snow on the north face, but others may want a rope here. Another climb had us atop Eightmile Mountain in short order, pondering which line we should take—we decided on the NE Face since we couldn’t see the North Couloir. Camp at Little Caroline Lake was a welcome site after the biggest day of the tour. Steady winds and blowing snow tempered any remaining psyche we had for good weather.


The slot below the Stuart Glacier.


Looking back at the rest of the Stuart Range from below Cashmere Mountain.

Cashmere Mountain stands alone from the rest of the Stuart Range, but its dominance over the Icicle Valley is undeniable. Finally after four full days in mostly whiteout conditions, we were overjoyed to awake to sun. With just daypacks, we cruised over to Cashmere, finding just enough snow to make it go on the south slopes. We soaked up the warm rays of the sun and took in the view while waiting for the South Couloir to soften. Of all of the summits I’ve been to in the Cascades, this has to be one of the most spectacular vistas. It was a special moment and we savored it.


Dropping into the South Couloir on Cashmere. Mount Stuart standing proud in the background. Erin Smart photo

We exited the traverse via the trail from Lake Caroline and walked down the closed road to our second car at Icicle Creek.

This traverse is highly recommended. After skiing the Spearhead, Haute Route, and Chiwaukum Traverses in the past month, this tour is better than all of those. Excellent fall-line skiing, varied terrain, and incredible views make it a classic.


Descending the Eightmile Trail on the last day.

Stats: 46 miles, 23,000’ gain
Summits: Little Annapurna, Dragontail, Colchuck, Stuart, Pt. 7793, Eightmile Mountain, Cashmere Mountain. (And almost Argonaut)

More photos on Facebook.



 
« Last Edit: 05/03/16, 11:07 AM by kurthicks » Logged
Kyle Miller
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 05/03/16, 10:54 AM »

Beautiful traverse!
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In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO HAPPEN....no matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 05/03/16, 11:46 AM »

Thanks for the post. Looks like a cool trip.

I would not have thought to hook it all the way around to Mt Cashmere.
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jwplotz
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #3 on: 05/03/16, 01:42 PM »

Man what a fantastic tour!  So many possibilities I bet it was difficult to decide.  Just on Mt. Cashmere alone, you have so many descent options.  Throw  in a summit on Cannon Mtn and you would have tagged 8, 8k peaks on this tour!

Well done you two and thanks for posting the TR and photos!

Kurt, I'd love it if you could share the mundane details like pack weight, bivi methods and food to pull off this tour. Comfort to mobility ratio.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: 05/03/16, 01:53 PM by jwplotz » Logged
kurthicks
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #4 on: 05/03/16, 02:27 PM »

Thanks guys!

We talked about skiing Cannon, but it would have added a day (and I only had 5 days since I had to work on Sunday). It would be pretty easy to add Enchantment and McClellan Peaks in there too from a basecamp on the plateau...collect all 10!

My pack weighed 33lbs when we left, plus water. The pack certainly was a bit heavy when we were carrying skis and boots on the approach/descent, but was otherwise great for moving in the hills. The key bivy strategy was to camp on dirt or rock (accomplished 3 of 4 nights) and sleep down low to be A) warmer and B) have more running water. We took a tent instead of the usual tarp so we could set up camp faster and keep our stuff drier, even though it weighed almost two pounds more than the tarp. We were able to find water almost whenever we wanted it, including at all of the high lakes. This allowed us to save a bunch of weight and time not melting snow.

And the gear details:
48L pack
Camping: BD Firstlight, xtherm pad, FF 20* bag, Arva shovel
Cooking: Jetboil, 3x 8oz fuel canisters (only used one), tupperware bowl, Ti spork.
Climbing kit: aluminum crampons, Camp red ice axe, ski crampons
Misc: Repair kit, Sat phone, toiletries, etc.
Food: 10lbs total, couscous & potato dinners, lots of cheese & meat, bagels, etc. (ate it all)

Team tech gear (none of which we used, but split between us): 30m half rope, 3 stoppers, 1 petzl orange ice screw, 20m of 6mm cord, 2 carabiners, camp race harnesses
1 full bottle of Bulleit whiskey which Erin carried (and we drank all of it).

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Oyvind_Henningsen
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #5 on: 05/05/16, 06:12 AM »

Erin and Kurt - this is a good trip!
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Lytt til erfarne fjellfolk!
LangleyBackcountry
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #6 on: 05/05/16, 10:47 AM »

Wow. What did the snow level look like on the S side of Ingalls Creek (N side of Teanaway peaks) and around Ingalls Lake and Headlight Basin/Fortune? Trying to decide on a destination for the weekend next week.
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Mark Langley
Cascade Backcountry Ski Patrol
Langley Backcountry Consulting
langleybackcountry.com
cascademystic
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #7 on: 05/05/16, 11:42 AM »

magnificent
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kurthicks
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Re: April 26-30, 2016, The Stuart Range Traverse
« Reply #8 on: 05/05/16, 12:15 PM »

Wow. What did the snow level look like on the S side of Ingalls Creek (N side of Teanaway peaks) and around Ingalls Lake and Headlight Basin/Fortune? Trying to decide on a destination for the weekend next week.

Coverage looked pretty decent a week ago. It looked like most northern aspects still had snow down to Ingalls Creek. We didn't get a view into Headlight Basin, but the snippet of Ingalls Peak we saw made it still look quite snowy there. It's the steep southerly slopes that are done for the year.
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