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Mount Stuart Activity

Sol Wertkins beginning the direct finish to Gorillas in the Mist (5.11). [Photo] Jens Holsten

According to Fred Beckey in Cascade Alpine Guide, “Mount Stuart has been pronounced the single greatest mass of exposed granite in the United States and dominates the Central Washington Cascades.” Jens Holsten recently added a direct variation to Gorillas in the Mist (5.11) up Stuart Peak. Holsten along with partners Mark Westman and Sol Wertkin added five pitches to the original Gorillas in the Mist route that he established last year with Wertkin and Blake Herrington. Gorillas in the Mist, on the West Face Wall of Mount Stuart, is named for the wet, misty conditions that left the team climbing amongst the clouds on the day of the first ascent. The crux first pitch is followed by exciting 5.10 climbing on excellent granite.

Holsten has kept busy in the Stuart range recently. Exploring the Dragontail northeast face at the end of July, Holsten discovered that “Chasin Tail” was not the same quality rock that he has come to expect in the Stuarts; however, another route on the NE face of the Dragontail, Dragons of Eden (V, 5.11+) offers some of the best, “proudest” climbing in the area. “The Stuart Range in Central Washington is quickly becoming a Yosemite like playground with alpine flair. Perfect in my book!”

Colchuck Balanced Rock and the West Face Wall of Mt. Stuart have seen the most development over the past two years. Holsten says the route establishment in this region is relatively new. Holsten, Herrington and Wertkin found a few bolts marked 1993 on their first ascent of GITM, but no other record of an ascent. They knew that the headwall above the first three pitches would offer more of the same great climbing all the way to the top. After climbing the first few pitches of the original line, the team headed left into a stemming pitch instead of following the original route to the right. The pitch breakdown is as follows: Pitch four starts the direct with 5.10a stemming followed by 5.10b jamming up a beautiful dihedral, then 5.10d stemming leading to 5.9 face climbing, a 5.10b traversing finger crack, a pitch of 5.10b varied cracks and 5.7 cracks leading to the top.

Jens Holsten predicts more incredible lines on the West Face Wall of Stuart Peak. “A true blessing is when you establish a classic for the ages. GITM Direct is surely one of those lines.”

Sources: Jens Holsten, Cascade Alpine Guide: Climbing and High Routes, Vol. 1, Columbia River to Stevens Pass, Third Edition, The Mountaineers, 2000.