Mount Stuart, 9415 Feet
May 9th, 2004

Ice Cliff Glacier Ascent, Sherpa Glacier Descent

Story By: Josh Hummel

Photo's By: Jason Hummel

WHO: Josh and Jason Hummel, Sky Sjue, Josh Kaplan, Eric ?

Eric at the top of Mt. Stuart, chillin'.

The plan was to do Ice Cliff in a day. Just the other month we had attempted this climb and failed. The prospect of getting in an avalanche kept us at arms reach and we felt that conservative was the optimal decision. The ski to pain ratio was nill, so we had to come back to justify our original effort. We ended up doing 20 miles that day if you include the 10 miles of road. And? How many turns do you think we got? About five! Pride demanded that we come back and finish the job.

So here it was, already May, with another dreary weekend forecasted. All week there was a glimmer of hope of sunshine and an opportunity to ski some sick lines. We wanted to climb and shred something big, but the weatherman would not cooperate. It rained much of Saturday, but Sunday showed some promise. With the day chosen and the usual suspects called, we were off.

The second hardest part of any one day painfest is performing the miracle of getting our mighty selves out of a comfortable car. In this case, a warm one. With that soon accomplished, we are on our way. Josh K and Eric took the lead with myself nipping at their flanks. Jason, Sky, and Donnally filled out the back of the pack.

We overshot Mountaineer Creek. We had to backtrack a quarter mile. At the turnoff, we wait for Donnally and Sky. While there we decidedly drop off any excess gear. This includes our shoes and any other baggage. Just about that time Sky shows up with Donnally.

In front of us is a creek crossing, to our right is tangled brush, tight trees and large boulders. Luckily, we found the climbers trail next to Mountaineer Creek. No small thanks goes to Eric. His recent foray into the area added a spice of, "Hey we know where we are going." The rest of the way to the base of the Ice Cliff went well for everyone but Donnally. He had a difficult time crossing the boulder fields with downhill ski boots rather than rondo boots. By the time he reached the base of the Ice Cliff he was having second thoughts. These concerns soon dissipated when he saw the route.

Girth Pillars and the Lower Ice Cliff.

The Ice Cliff supersized with three climbers to go.

The Ice Cliff consists of two cruxes. The first is the imposing ice cliff in the middle and the second in a overhanging cornice at the top. We quickly gear up at the bottom of the route. Josh K and myself only wish we had beefed up our gear selection. At the bottom of the Ice Cliff Donnally decides it wise to bail. He didn't look comfortable climbing unroped, but we knew he would have no problem skiing down and wish him luck. He shouts us the same.

Josh K and his aluminum crampons, one whippet and light glacier axe were hardly adequate in clawing their way up the climber's left side. He was sweating and I could tell. The cliff was a sustained pitch of 70 degree ice that only worsened the closer to the top one neared. Sky and Eric made their way easier by being fully equipped if not more talented. My brother and I shot straight up the middle with directions from Sky. There was still plenty of ice here. I found that my aluminum crampons with tele toes were being pesky. They cover most of the front points, which makes sticking them in the ice less optimal. My glacier axe merely bounced off. I made the smart choice and yelled for a rope. Now that's first class service! Josh K was nice enough to oblige, which I was glad for. I roped the 20 feet of ice without the ease of being nimble. Did you fall? Words of wonder from Sky afterward. Jason followed without incident.

Sky and Eric beefin' up there ice climbing skilz.

Josh working his way up the Ice Cliff.

After the ice cliff, the slope eases off and allows for a much needed break before the last push up the upper face. It looked pretty steep and several hazards. Two large crevasses at the bottom and a cornice at the top. The crevasse was easier than expected and fun. I found at this point of the climb that I was really glad to have my glacier axe. The long shaft made it easy to get leverage and haul myself up. Jason, had some trouble clawing his way up.

Yeah baby!

This is were the ice axe shaft came in handy.

The slope was a sustained 50 degrees for the most part. We all made short work of the upper section and kept moving. At the base of the cornice Sky and Eric climbed unroped. A rock shelf hung over the right side. Without skis I'd imagine just a slight inconvenience, but we found skis more than a minor annoyance and this made for some hilarious ski acrobatics. Eric had to pull Sky's skis off mid-move so he could get over the cornice. As soon as they mounted the col, they tossed a rope down to us. After clawing my way up both Jason and then Josh K made short work of the cornice. I think they were both fearful of debris following off overhanging, sunsplashed cliffs above. Their worry was not unfound.

Josh K. climbing the top overhanging cornice.

While the others went to the summit I napped and babied my feet. This is definitely not a trip to take a brand new, shinny pair of ski boots. Especially tele boots! Over an hour later they were back and ready to rock. The days light was running low on fuel. Sky still wanted to ski the Ice Cliff Glacier, but I was barely able to walk. It required two raps and the word, "Ice" would be written all over the slope. Not to mention a crevasse jump at the bottom of the upper section. It would go, but not in these conditions.

It was a wise decision as the Sherpa Glacier would show us. Even Sky conceded.

Sky at the top.

We quietly pray for nice, smooth corn, but all we receive is small patches of sugar. We found several harsh turns up high, but many fine ones further down. The skiing may have been bad, but nothing is worse than down climbing. Eric had the auspicious privilege of doing exactly that down the entire route. He gets the dubious distinction of, "Climber" instead of "Ski mountaineer". We wait a bit in order not to bash Eric's head in with any chance ice chuck. Sky and Jason take their time snapping photos. Sky got some good ones. Jason should of took more.

Sky finding heavenly corn.

Eric soon finds a space out of shooting range and we ski the rest of the way to the lower glacier.

On the lower slopes we entered the light and heavenly corn. We popped a few turns, snapped a few photos and crackled the sound barrier as we straight ran the final 800 vertical. We met up with Donnally at the bottom of the Sherpa.

Looking about the basin, we could see Donnally's tracks.

Sky exciting his sugar mama.

Now that's just too good.

The Shepa Glacier.

With the skiing nearly done, we search for a patch of snow that would extend our skiing. As usual a dish of trees awaited. Some ski schwacking led us back to the trial. We recover our gear and more importantly our shoes.

The trek to the car was a race. The reward, food and water.

The drive home was hilarious. None of us could drive more than 10 minutes without swerving dangerously. I guess not getting any sleep for a couple of days tends to do that. We had to switch drivers more than a meteorologist changes the weather forecast.

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