The Complete North Ridge of Stuart was a project 12 years in the making. Glenn tried it with another team in 2004, but inexperience on long routes of this difficulty led to falling behind and bailing halfway up, back across the Stuart Glacier.
Since then, Jeff has made Stuart his mountain, with 2/4 successes on the upper North Ridge, and a trip on the West Ridge. Glenn also did the West Ridge in 2006, with a strong team that finished cleanly in good time, arriving at Ingalls Creek right at dark.
So as we talked, it seemd logical to team up to finally finish the complete ridge. We have both had great trips with Karen Natzel, who was on Jeff's last Standard North Ridge trip, so she was the obvious 3rd team memmber, and her climbing partner Sarah Raff completed a strong team. Success seemed assured, if weather cooperated.
And it did - the 20% chance of a thunderstorm only indicated that temps were moderating from the previous blistering weekend, that would have wiped us out on the approach. Two 5-minute miniscule sprinkles was all we ever got - not enough to dampen the rock or our spirits.
Oh what a climb! We will all treasure this one in our memories for the rest of our lives.
The lower half holds the most challenging, sustained, and steep climbing, the upper the finest exposed ridge position, on solid clean granite throughout. The length demands the full range of alpine rock skills: efficient movement, fast anchor and belay changeovers, efficient simulclimbing, 4 well-planned pack hauls, and ruthless gear paring. Both sections have classic old-school 5.9 pitches: pitch 3 on the lower, a long smooth shallow-angle diedral and tricky finger crack, and the Great Gendarme on the upper, with a classic overhung lieback and a burly vertical arm-bar off-width.
Jeff and Glenn both passed the heady lead test (except once again Glenn takes two falls on the lower crux pitch - this time without the excuse of foolishly tring to lead it with a pack on!) Sarah, whose experience was a bit higher than Glenn on his first attempt, nevertheless made a big leap forward, and handled the climb with ease and enthusiasm. Karen captured all the style points - both in movement and clothing.
Approaching Goat Pass
First view of most of the full ridge, from Goat Pass across the Stuart Glacier. First view of the very toe and bivvy sites.
Sunrise - time to climb!
TBD: accurate topo of first 4 pitches goes here...
Funky sloping chimney at the top of pitch 1, Jeff prepares the tiny pack haul, then calmly scootches his way up with pack on!
Amazing, very old-school 5.9 pitch 3. (Glenn's previous team felt it was a 10!)
Hauling at the top of pitch 3, as the stunning views start to unfold below us.
Fantastic position and exposure at the top of pitch 4.
Regaining the ridgetop and the notch at the top of pitch 6.
Fetching water from a prime perch down a gully on the east side of the bivvy notch, overlooking the "very active" Ice Cliff Glacier. Glad we aren't over there!
First good look at the Great Gendarme. Getting nervous...
Jeff showing how liebacks are done on the first Pillar pitch on the Gerat Gendarme, Sarah stylin' on the 5.8 above. In-between, Glenn is too busy with the upper Great Gendarme pitch to take photos!
Where the 20-ton boulder that Jeff slept on last time used to be...and where it went?
Is 100 feet from the summit too soon to start contemplating the next objective?