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Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Mount Shuksan/Sulphide Glacier

Caught perfect weather for a great ski mountaineering trip to Mount Shuksan.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The FS road to the Shannon Ridge TH is washed out .9 miles from the TH adding a few bonus miles to the round trip. 

    There is also an area of blowdown tree “hang fire” leaning over the FS road which we mitigated by driving under it very quickly.

    The trail turns to continuous snow a mile past the TH.  Below this there are several blow downs, washouts, and a foot of water flowing on the trail but all very manageable.


After getting on-line “walk up” NCNP permits to camp on the Sulphide the day before (apparently you can longer get NCNP permits from the Sedro-Woolley Ranger Station), we got stopped on the Shannon Ridge FW road by the first two of two road washouts.  We started hiking up the trail around 9:30 with skis on packs.

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Continuous snow started a mile up the trail which allowed us to stash approach shoes and start skinning.  After picking our way up through the dense trees to where they began opening up close to Shannon Ridge, we grabbed lunch around 4500’ with great views to either side, and then skinned up to the 5500’ saddle crossover into North Cascades Nat’l Park above Sulphide Point.  This aspect is SW so all the new snow was getting plenty of sun and there were death cookies from previous wet loose slides but no active pinwheeling.  Nevertheless, we carefully picked our skin track to maximize islands of safety and went one at a time through the gentle terrain traps to mitigate the softening snowpack and exposed rock trigger points above.

Once on the ridge we sidehilled across the cirque below the exposed cliff back and beelined NE to reach the foot of the Sulphide Glacier.  We also took this area one at a time due to rock fall potential and to mitigate wet loose slides since this aspect had been hammered by the sun all day.  Just before gaining the glacier proper, we did watch a small wet loose a few hundred yards to our left released from the expose dark rock band.

We chose to bivy in the lower (6500') vs higher bivy site.  For a ski trip this is absolutely the way to go because the 1000’ pitch from the upper to lower is the best skiing on the Sulphide!

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Sunday morning we skinned up to the upper basin and then crossed to the base of the summit pyramid. 


We dropped skis and booted up and right to just under the ridge and then did a rising leftward traverse into the summit gully which was 100% snow with no exposed rock.  Because of the unprotectable nature of this snow, we climbed it unroped as with all other parties that day.

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We hung out on the summit long enough to let a private party of Foothills branch members get to the summit and then downclimbed back to our skis for the fun part!

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Congrats to Heather on her Basic graduation climb.  Although in her words “there were a lot of firsts” on this trip, she did extraordinarily well and I couldn’t help but think that skiing the Sulphide and soloing the steep snow of the summit pyramid was about as rad a graduation climb as there is!

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As a volunteer climb leader, getting to offer that sort of opportunity to someone with as great a “mountain sense” and general stoke as Heather perfectly captures what makes leading trips, as opposed to just always getting out only with your friends, as rewarding as it is.