Argonaut Peak, a large bastion of clean granite in the Stuart Range, offers many moderate climbing choices in both the spring and summer. Argonaut often gets overlooked by its slightly larger neighbors to the northeast, Dragontail and Colchuck, and the largest peak in the range, Mount Stuart. The advantage of this is no crowds and a real wilderness experience for the few climbers that attempt it every year.
The moderate rock routes on Argonaut have been well documented in the Cascade Alpine Guide. However, it is winter and spring climbing that I feel Argonaut holds it greatest potential. I noted in the summit log at the summit that our ascent date of May 2nd is the earliest recorded since the log was started in 1983. It seems climbing Argonaut early season offers some good potential for first ascents.
The first ascent of Argonaut Peak was in September of 1955 by Lex Maxwell, Bob McCall, and Bill Prater.
Argonaut Peak has three separate summits. The southeast spire is the lowest of the three, but is the most technical. The central spire is slightly shorter than the main summit. The west spire, the main summit, is the tallest of the three and features a large block tipped on its side with a small cave between them. The west spire requires a short section of nonexposed class 4 climbing to reach its highest point, after the third class ridge traversing to get to it.
South Route - A loose rock class 3 gully reported to be very unpleasent. Tops out on the ridgeline between the central and main summits.
South Face - A steep 300 foot route on excellent rock directly below the main summit. Class 5.3.
West Ridge - A long ridge traverse from Sherpa Pass featuring some exciting climbing over spires near the summit. Low fifth class.
Direct West Ridge - A variation that climbs the steep rock on the edge of the south face. Class 5.6.
Northwest Arete - 7 pitches of rock up to class 5.6.
North Face - A moderately long but complex series of steps, gullies, and ramps ascending the face near the central buttress on the north face. 4th Class
Northeast Buttress - A long rock climb that features mostly scrambling on the lower section that finishes on a steep dihedral offering four pitches of good climbing with optional aid. II 5.8 A1
East Gully - A prominent 45 to 50 degree snow gully accessed from the basin just southeast of the ridgeline connecting Colchuck and Argonaut. A single dihedral pitch offers access to the summit ridge. Best in early season. II 5.6
Northeast Couloir - The prominent couloir just east of the Northeast Buttress route.
Southeast Ridge - This route is reported to be very good, topping out on the southeast spire. 8 pitches of solid rock including two single, or 1 double rope rappel into the notch. II 5.6
The approach depends on what side of the peak you are climbing.
For southern routes, an approach via Ingalls Trailhead then bushwhacking up the creekbed just west of Porcupine Creek is preferred. Access to Ingalls Trailhead is via US Highway 2, or Teanaway Road.
For northern routes, the preferred method is via the Stuart Lake Trailhead through Leavenworth. Access to the slopes is gained via the east fork of Mountaineer Creek.
I would suggest climbing Argonaut as a day trip, or with a bivy on the route. Here is why:
The peak and approach lie in the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This area is very popular with hikers and sightseers. Most weekend camping spots, especially during the fall larch season, are booked by springtime. Good luck trying to get a camping permit via the lottery, the odds are stacked against you.
Read this for specifics: Regulations and Permits
When To Climb
All year round. Dry rockcliming is best from July through October. Mixed alpine climbing is good from January through June.
Camping is very highly restricted, see the red tape section.
Please visit this website for more information.
Views from Argonaut
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