Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Mount Shuksan/Sulphide Glacier

Surprisingly late-season conditions on the Sulphide Glacier route resulted in a turnaround.

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • Road

    Well, I wouldn't take my car on this road, but there was a Hyundai at the trailhead. I would still say only high clearance vehicles should attempt it. For us non-high clearance types, there's a nice spot on NF-1152 where you could park low-clearance vehicles and caravan up to the TH. See the Google Maps Link.

    The trailhead has a nice restroom and free blue bags.


The approach hike was nicely maintained and snow free to about 6,200ft. There were not a lot of water sources on the approach hike until about 5,600ft (nearing camp). To get to high camp we would have had to cross the glacier which had a lot of exposed ice and uncertain water sources, so we opted to stay at low camp at 6,225ft (48.80197, -121.60348). This was close to some running water streams and there was a very nice tarn from which to get water (the other tarns were all red with algae, so yeah, avoid!). The bivvy sites weren't very large but sufficient for 1-person tents and (obviously) bivvies. We pitched a 2-person tent on the snow adjacent to the rock and that worked fine. The composting toilet was available here as well. Per the ranger, don't pee in these! It impedes the composting process.


We started from camp around 2:50AM, desiring to be the first group to the summit block to minimize bottlenecks. There were only two other groups at low camp (though one rolled in late and was making a ton of noise--bring headphones or earplugs!).

We got on the glacier which had bare exposed ice from the outset. Here it is probably wise to be cautious about stepping on the snow, especially if it looks suspicious. When we tried, even in the dark, we often punched through. We got up to the flat field at 6,400ft and crossed. The Sulphide Glacier is largely bare ice now, which has pushed the route far to climber's left. This led us to the base of a large section of rock (6,700 ft) where we begrudgingly unroped and took our crampons off. After scrambling up the rock we again reached snow at about (6,900 ft). This was where our journey ended. Please refer to the photo below which was taken once we were back at camp in the light of day:


1: This is the rock section we ascended. It's about 200ft of rock. You can see how everything to the right is bare ice, meaning the only feasible climbing route (for a Basic Glacier Climb!) is being continuously pushed left. We reached the top of this section around 4:20AM.

2: The climbing route goes up and right, so we tried to take this snow tongue, as climbers the day before said there was "a thin ribbon of snow that goes". Well, this wasn't it. Where it ends in the photo is actually where it ended, and then we'd be ascending 35-40 degree ice (40-45 degrees at its steepest). We decided that no, we weren't going to do that and opted to wait until sunrise to see if the daylight made things clearer. Well, it did, but it made it clear that our option was 3...

3: One of the other groups from camp showed up around sunrise and took this way up. This is 35-40 degree ice with a thin covering of snow. I say they YOLOed it. As the season progresses, I would expect that snow to melt away toward the rock, meaning your option is bare ice. This was point where we finally called it and decided to turn around.

4: As we were descending, a guided group was ascending. We watched them from camp. It seemed like the guide had set an anchor was belaying them up one-at-a-time. However, as we packed up camp, it was clear that they had aborted, as they were belay back down.

There was a party the prior day, and this is the route they took:

Ascent of Mount Shuksan on 2023-08-13 -

This route takes you on much gentler slope angles, but note that this means you would be ascending pure blue ice with water running over it. It's about a quarter mile with a little over 300 feet of gain before it reaches snow again. In my opinion this puts it well outside the limits of a Basic Glacier Climb.


Still, despite the turnaround, it was a beautiful trip and good to get out. Hopefully this proves useful to others!


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Lawrence Anvari
Lawrence Anvari says:
Aug 15, 2023 07:39 AM

Very useful, thanks for the thorough report and explanations.

Maggie Zhou
Maggie Zhou says:
Aug 17, 2023 03:20 PM

For reference, trip report of another group ascending the same day: They made to the summit, as well as into the crevasse.