Mt Stuart, Cascadian Couloir Ski

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18 May 2003

Mount Stuart Mt Stuart was wearing a hat early in the day.

East of the crest seemed like the place to be in hope of good weather. Corey had been planning an excursion to Ingalls Basin. I liked the area he had picked, but naturally I wanted to go for the biggest thing there. Thus I was gunning for Mt Stuart. I allotted one day to the quest. Corey wanted the full alpine experience, so he and Dave left Seattle Saturday afternoon to camp near Long's Pass. I left Seattle with a new recruit, Paul Belitz, around midnight. Paul had suffered through one of my lab sections and he still wanted to go skiing with me. Furthermore, he was willing to forego sleep for the early start. Paul was definitely showing promise.

Sherpa Peak The view to the east from below Long's Pass, with Sherpa Peak

Luckily for Corey and Dave, who had not finished pitching camp until two in the morning, Paul and I went astray and drove all the way over Blewett Pass to the Ingalls Creek Trailhead. We considered more foolish propositions, but in the end we made the correct decision and returned to Cle Elum for a map. We took Teanaway River Road and found the correct way until I high-centered the Justy three miles from the end of the road. I took a running start and slid over one drift, but we wisely decided to park the car and get to stepping before any more shenanigans.

Summit Ridge Looking down the summit ridge after the clouds cleared

Skiing off the summit of Mt Stuart Corey skis from the summit, with my tracks already in place.

Corey near top Corey skis above the couloir

My turn I enjoyed the good snow. Photo by Dave Coleman

I found Corey and Dave camped just below Long's Pass by six thirty and proceeded to enjoy the role of alarm clock, "Wake up, lovebirds!" Corey and Dave prepared. Then, while waiting for Paul, we lounged in the tent and perused Corey's camping menu, which included fine medicinal herbs and spices. Paul arrived before I got too worried, and announced to us that he would soon claim his title as "number one suck skier of the day."

Long's Pass provided great views and a cool breeze. I rummaged through my pack to get the camera while the others finished the hike. Mt Stuart's summit was hidden by clouds, but the day seemed promising. I did not have the slightest idea which couloir was Ulrich's. It seemed like taking the more obvious Cascadian Couloir would be a good idea. The ski down was fun; the snow became nice corn after losing a little vertical. I stopped to watch the others descend. Paul was last and he was having a good time with the debut of his randonnée gear. He made a few kick turns off the top and he seemed to have good survival skiing skills.

We regrouped in the trees, looking for the best way across the valley. Corey, Dave, and I stopped below a big boulder. Paul was hesitant when he saw the precise path around the boulder and he gave his skis a stiff check to stop. He hadn't adjusted the DIN on his new Fritschis, so they released. He took a scary tumbling fall over the rock. Fortunately, his pack broke his fall. Paul took stock of the situation and decided he could have fun making turns around Long's Pass for the day. I loaned him my screwdriver so that he could change his DIN.

Three of us, still in the quest, proceeded to find our way through the trees and cross a few creeks. Across the valley, Cascadian Couloir was still obvious and we made a rising traverse to it. There were a few steep rolls in the couloir, but it fairly easy climbing. I finally put my crampons to use near the top where there was an icy section. There were some boot tracks from the false summit to the summit, making life easy. Clouds flirted with the summit, but I was convinced that they would come and go. I reached the summit and Corey was yelling something about a whiteout. I responded by suggesting that he join me on the summit, which was motivation enough.

The clouds cleared and we saw Dave retreating toward the false summit. We donned the skis to enjoy some really nice, steep powder turns off the true summit. We were able to traverse to the false summit on skis without trouble, which I hear is unusual. Below the false summit the snow was a bit icy, but it became friendly, smooth slush shortly. The couloir was a blast; the whole thing had softened wonderfully.

We traversed high to return to Long's Pass. I was relieved to hear a shout from Paul at the top of the pass when I began yelling for him. Just below the saddle I quit skinning and enjoyed Paul's boot-pack. I was glad to hear that he had enjoyed himself on good snow throughout the day. Paul and I skied down from the pass before Corey and Dave were ready. We waited to say goodbye to them at their camp, then we skied to the trailhead. From there, it was a three-mile walk to the car. Everyone later agreed that three miles was an exceptional distance on this day. Maybe the road was in a boosted reference frame relative to us.

I left a beer in the middle of the road for Corey. The drive to Seattle seemed to take forever, probably because I was worried that I had committed a major faux pas and that Corey would not find the beer. I was relieved to learn later that he did find and enjoy the tasty beverage. A Mirror Pond Ale and some jalapeño flavored Tim's Cascade Chips were barely enough to sustain me. It was good to have Paul along to share the primary alembic of my existence. Keep skiing, Paul, you'll be ripping Triple Couloirs in no time, just ask David Parker.

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