For our second outing, Jeff and I planned to climb Stuart, Sherpa and Argonaut. With two weeks of recovery from our first trip and time to refine our gear and food systems, there was only one main concern for the weekend: weather! The forecast was predicting a significant chance of thunderstorms Saturday afternoon with a small chance on Sunday. With little wiggle room in our schedule, we decided to go for it and hope for the best.
We departed Ellensburg at 06:45 Saturday morning. We had a beautiful ride along highway 10 with surprisingly little traffic for a Saturday. Temps rose quickly and it soon felt like a full-blown summer day. After a quick snack stop along Red Bridge Rd, we began the pedal up the Teanaway. Easy going until the pavement ended, then the road got progressively steeper and we got progressively sweatier.
We reached Ingalls Way Trailhead around 11:00. Another quick snack and water refill, then we packed our packs and started off towards Longs Pass. The hike was exceptionally hot and without a kiss of wind. We were both glad to have our sun hoodies to protect us from the UV. Snow started around 5,000 ft and was almost continuous to Longs Pass.
Jeff gazes at the south face of Stuart from Longs Pass
From Longs Pass, the decent to Ingalls Creek was fast. Some mellow glissading and snow walking brought us to the log crossing.
We ran into a group of three skiers here, who had found little success in their corn harvest. Hopefully they still had a good time!
Just after crossing the creek we unloaded our overnight gear to lighten the packs. We used the same camp location as the August 2022 Shambergeeta Stuart trip. We left camp heading for Argonaut Peak around 14:00. We made it maybe a mile before the distant sounds of thunder and growing overhead clouds had us questioning our plan. After a thoughtful discussion, we decided it would be wise to conserve energy at camp and try for an alpine start Sunday Morning. Maybe we could climb all three peaks in a day?
With a leisurely schedule for the afternoon, we took some time to take in the spring bloom. Lots of Trillium, Spring Beauty, and Glacier Lilies.
I took a little ice bath in the creek. Very refreshing but short lived. My cold water tolerance could use some work.
We had an early dinner at 16:00 and were off to bed an hour later. Frequent thunder but no rain. Yet... We slept long, but woke frequently. Lightning, thunder, rain, and hail persisted intermittently through the night. Our original wake-up time of 03:00 was postponed by yet another thunder storm.
Finally, the storm passed and we got up and going at 04:15. A hot cup of Mate followed by some oatmeal and we were on the trail by 05:00.
We had a beautiful morning on our hands and temps were perfectly cool. Walking down the Ingalls Creek Trail became progressively challenging with more and more blow-down.
Upon leaving the trail, we met many downed trees and slide alder to shwack through. There is no "trail" to Argonaut peak. One could try and describe what appears as faint game trails in sections, but even that is a stretch.
Above treeline, the walking became easier. By 6,000 ft, there was snow in the gullies, which made for an easier accent as we headed up the main gully towards Argonaut. This takes you to the ridge just below the summit.
I think we took a slight alternate route here which provided a fun move on rock before reaching the easy scramble up the ridge.
One final move and we were on the Summit at 08:30. Beautiful views in all directions, and surprisingly good cell reception.
Jeff standing on the Summit of Argonaut Peak with Mt Stuart behind.
Colchuck Peak on the left, Dragontail center
We descended the same route to around 7,000 ft, then began a downward traverse towards Sherpa. High elevation snow made the travel faster. As we lost elevation, the snow gave way to sub-alpine vegetation: bushy trees and lots of Manzanita.
Our pace slowed through here, but I think it was still faster than dropping all the way to the valley and having to regain the elevation. We dropped to 6,100 ft before starting back up towards Sherpa Peak.
We followed the main gully upwards, veering right towards the ridge east of Sherpa Balanced Rock.
Great view of Longs Pass and Mt Rainier
Nearing the ridge there is a slaby route that veers left. This looked enticing enough for us to start up. We then realized that this was probably not the easiest route, and instead traversed right to the ridge proper.
From the ridge, I'm not sure the best route. Jeff and I took slightly different paths. Mine ended up being quite exposed on the north side of the ridge as I linked ledge systems with some moderate scrambling. The exposure made me take my time.
Jeff on the ridge proper from a ledge on the north side
Jeff crossed right below the balanced rock while I navigated the north side of the ridge. Our paths met just below the summit.
Jeff in a moment of pure bliss on the summit of Sherpa Peak
Summit time 13:00
Looking East from Sherpa. Argonaut center right, Colchuck center left
After enjoying the spectacular summit exposure, we opted to rappel the west ridge instead of down-climbing our route up.
4 raps and some down-scrambling brought us to the Stuart-Sherpa Col.
We jumped back on the snow, descending a few hundred feet before climbing back up a gully towards Stuart.
This gully is the site of Jeff's 2015 accident, where he broke off a chunk of undercut snow and took a tumble. He had a compound fracture in his pinky and other cuts and bruises, but was able to hike himself out. Just another reminder for us to be as careful as we can out here.
The top of this gully meets the Cascadian route on Stuart. More snow to the false summit, then a mix of snow and 2nd class scrambling to the summit of Stuart.
The rare photo of me. I have taken my place as the man behind the camera, but there have to be exceptions
We reached the summit of Stuart at 16:15 . We took in the incredible views and soaked in a moment of tranquility before the long haul home.
We descended the Cascadian Couloir and enjoyed speedy glissading to about 7,600 ft. Then, we "enjoyed" the loose, sandy, and rocky Cascadian Couloir to the valley.
We packed up our camp and Jeff ate his leftover oatmeal breakfast. With heavier packs, we headed towards longs pass.
Longs Pass at 19:10. The wind really shows off my uncontrolled mop
We got one last view of our three peaks. From left to right: Stuart, Sherpa, and Argonaut.
We quickly descended from longs pass back to the trailhead. We packed up our bikes at the trailhead and were riding by 20:30
My memory of the bike bike ride home is fuzzy. It was very windy, luckily at our backs for most of the way. Made it home right at midnight, legs wobbling.
Trip Stats: 112 miles, 16,691 ft. vert, and 3 peaks in 42 hours.
Next trip: Mount Rainier and Little Tahoma!