Mountaineer Ridge by Mount Stuart in The Enchantments / 登山者脊

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Mountaineer Ridge rests in the southwest corner of The Enchantments. Its western tip meets the junction of Jack Ridge and Stuart Range. The long ridgeline is also the closest vantage point to view Mount Stuart‘s dramatic north face.

See more trip photos here.

Mountaineer Ridge at a Glance

Access: Bridge Creek Campground
Round Trip: 20 miles
Elevation Range: 1320′-7680′
Gear: helmet, snowshoes, crampons, ice ax
Route Info: Jake Robinson, Luke Helgeson, Rodica Manole
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

Mountaineer Ridge

There are a few places in The Enchantments I would still like to visit. But I didn’t want the hassle of a permit. So I came into the area before the season starts in less than a month. Many groups have also done the same.

The closed gate by Bridge Creek Campground limits foot traffic during the off-season. So that meant an extra four-mile walk to Stuart Lake Trailhead. Snow showed up at 3000′. Then it was continuous half a mile before the trailhead.

Gated entrance
Gated entrance

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Stuart Lake Trail

There were two campers by the entrance. I took a break to put on snowshoes and organized my pack. Then I proceeded to hike the snowy trail. Despite recent boot tracks en route, snow consistency varied. The postholing boot tracks looked exhausting.

The bridge over Mountaineer Creek was sketchy. One tall, thinning snow chunk filled the middle of the bridge. So people had to step over it to cross. I didn’t want to put my weight on it. So I walked with one foot on the rail and the other on the ice.

Stuart Lake Trailhead
Stuart Lake Trailhead

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Colchuck Lake Trail Junction

Snow was firm past the bridge. Then I followed the defined path up to the 4500′ junction. From the fork, most people likely went up to Colchuck Lake. Less foot traffic went to Stuart Lake. So the snow wasn’t as firm past that point.

From the junction, it was another 2.5 miles to reach Stuart Lake. Later two climbers walked by as I took photos of Mountaineer Ridge in the wetland. The next day, I’d come back through here on firm snow before re-entering the forest.

Dragontail Peak from the junction
Dragontail Peak from the junction

See more trip photos here.

Stuart Lake Camp

I lost the path at one point. But later, I found the actual trail through the north of a knob. Then I went out into the clearing northeast of the lake. I thought there would be others. But it turned out I was the only one. The lake had partly thawed, so I couldn’t cut across it to save time.

Soon, I made my way over to the west shore. I found a decent spot by the peninsula to set up my tent. So I could be close to Mountaineer Ridge. It was the earliest I’ve ever camped. My summer season usually starts over Memorial Day weekend.

Stuart Lake at last
Stuart Lake at last

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Mountaineer Ridge North Couloir

Later I walked through the peninsula. Then with the helmet on, I made my way over the open slopes. Meanwhile, I aimed for the prominent north couloir. From the lake, the gully looked vertical. Closer up, it was still steep but not as threatening.

I left snowshoes and poles at the base of the gully. But not before I put on crampons and grabbed the ice ax. Though, for the next 1400′, going through the powder was slow. It would’ve been great to share the grunt work with at least one other person.

Mountaineer Ridge north couloir
Mountaineer Ridge north couloir

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The Final Stretch

At the top of the gully, I stayed right to bypass the buttress directly overhead. Then I remembered Jake‘s detailed report about reaching the summit via the false peak. I saw I could go up to the saddle between the two high points. But I went up to the sub-summit first.

Soon, the top of Mount Stuart poked out from behind the slope. A little preview was always exciting. Before long, I was on top of the false peak. Then a short traverse west through boulders and a steep incline put me up on top.

Final ridge traverse on Mountaineer Ridge
Final ridge traverse on Mountaineer Ridge

See more trip photos here.

Mountaineer Ridge Summit Views

Shazam! It was the closest I’d seen Mount Stuart from any angle. The beautiful, classic north ridge route was virtually in my face. Sherpa Peak also looked enormous from here. For a summit under 7000′ in The Enchantments, Mountaineer Ridge had lots to offer.

I could only see five of the ten Washington highest peaks here. Axis Peak blocked Cashmere Mountain from view. Then on the far east was Cannon Mountain. It took a few seconds to realize Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak blended into each other.

Mount Stuart's impressive north face
Mount Stuart’s impressive north face

See more trip photos here.

Back to Lake Stuart

Glad I decided to spend the night. So that left me with plenty of time to enjoy the views. Not sure if I’d climb the peak in one long day in lousy snow. I left one hour before sundown through the saddle. Then it only took an hour for me to reach camp at sunset time.

I found water partway up the shore. Meanwhile, I heard the murmuring on the other side of the water. They were the people I saw from the couloir earlier. Then I enjoyed my Mountain House meal and crashed after a few episodes of Kim’s Convenience. It was a restful night under a starry sky.

Stuart Lake panoramic view
Stuart Lake panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

Outro

So glad the night wasn’t as cold as I expected. It even turned out warmer than the forecast. But the minute the sun came up from behind Cannon Mountain, it heated up fast. Then it took me a while to dig out the stakes in frozen snow.

On the way out, I walked through the marsh in the open. But as soon as I went back into the shade, the snow was crappy. Later I met a few groups on the lower Stuart Lake Trail. They had hoped to make their way up to Colchuck Lake for the day.

I also met a few late starters on the roadway. Then I advised the groups to consider turning around. None had prepared to hike out in the dark. Though, crossing the sketchy bridge at night, hm…

One final look at Mountaineer Ridge
One final look at Mountaineer Ridge

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Peggy Shih

    Stunning view of frozen Lake Stuart and also photos of rock formation on the peak. Thank you for another great post.

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