Thursday, November 5, 2009

Challenge of the Stuart Range

Coming home from the desert this week has been quite a treat. A nice high pressure system has made for great climbing. From the boulders of the river valleys to the winding couliors of the alpine realm, options for ascension this week were quintessential Leavenworth; pretty much endless. The only option you won't find in this varied mountain environment is sport climbing. Oh well, no skin off my back (I really do enjoy clipping bolts sometimes). I spent one day rope soloing at Careno Crag, one day chasing power on the boulders, and one, huge day in the Stuart Range.

The North Ridges of Sherpa Peak and Stuart, both wonderful climbs

Oh man, why do I do this to myself....

On Tuesday evening, my buddy Max drove me out to the Mountaineers Creek parking lot. Or he tried to. They had closed the dirt road to the trailhead extra early so I started with an unexpected extra four miles. No matter...good training for winter climbing, when the road is always closed, adding snowy miles to any adventure. Even though I was not planning on climbing (I took crampons and trekking poles, but no axe), I was challenged with early season terrain. Verglas covered rock, dustings of snow over icy blue glaciers, patches of slide alder football fields long, it seemed that even the easiest sections were difficult. Many times, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I bivied tuesday night under the NW flanks of Colchuck Peak. At first light I climbed up to the ridge between Colchuck and Argonaut Peaks. This ass-blasting slog through thick brush almost had me in tears at a point or two, but I pushed on. Gaining the ridge, I pushed through a few feet of snow, around Colchuck Peak, over ragontail and out the Snow Creek trail, where I arrived at 5:30 to find my friends celebrating my safe return. We swallowed a couple of beers and then went out for Mexican food, a perfect end to honestly, quite a hellish day. In 24 hrs (I slept for eight of those) I covered at least 30 miles, gaining and losing a total of 20,000 feet. The conditions were barely passible for me at points, but creative thinking always won the day. Even though this seems it would be an easy "hike", this was one of my toughest outings in the mountains. Perfect training for the suffering of the coming winter. Psyched.
Fun terrain, high on the traverse

1 comment:

sol said...

what a psycho, NICE!