Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Mount Shuksan/Sulphide Glacier

Early-season conditions were no match for this group of excellent climbers!

  • Road rough but passable

Our group met at the Shannon Ridge Trailhead Friday morning and started walking at 10 AM.  We had prepared to walk the road a ways as trip reports from earlier in the year indicated that the road was washed out, however we were presently surprised to find that the washouts were indeed passable.  A good omen, perhaps? 

The approach from the trailhead to camp was unremarkable but pleasant.  We encountered a small handful of washouts, all of which were easy to work around.


The traverse from the ridge at 5400' was very straight-forward thanks to the high snowpack.  Nearby rock faces already shed their snow, reducing the concern of being taken out by a huge snow slab.  We did deviate from the summer trail once we rounded the bend (refer to photo below where the bootpack curls around the rock band) as snow slabs remained on the upper rock bands.  Some of these slabs gave way overnight, validating our decision to give the area a wide berth.


We elected to set up camp at the plateau at 6400' and were rewarded with gorgeous views of Mt. Baker and Baker Lake.  The group made excellent time on the approach which gave everyone plenty of time to melt snow, eat dinner, and get ready for the big day ahead.


We awoke to a sky full of stars and views of the Milky Way the next morning.  We departed camp around 2 AM and made steady progress towards the summit pyramid.  Crevasses were of minimal concern given the high snowpack.


 We knew that the summit pyramid was going to be filled with snow and prepared accordingly.  The team scrambled the traverse from the base of the pyramid to the start of the south gulley, then deployed the ropes for the remainder of the climb.  I established a series of fixed lines to the summit utilizing the three ropes and six pickets carried by the team.  The climbers then attached themselves to the rope(s) with a prusik hitch and booted up the bucket steps thankfully established by a guide service a week earlier.


I opted to top out on the ridge climbers'-left of the summit.  Once on the ridge, all that remained was a small scramble to the true summit.  We had all climbers on the summit by 8:30 AM.  It should be noted that we were the only group to attain the summit that day.  Multiple groups started up the summit pyramid but turned around prior to the start of the gulley.  Our level of preparation set us apart from the rest.

We descended from the summit utilizing a combination of lowering climbers on a rope as well as downclimbing.  We had to build our own anchors along the way as the typical rappel anchors were obviously buried under snow.  All climbers were back at the base of the summit pyramid by 11:30 AM.

All that remained was 6 hours of trudging through ankle- to calf-deep mashed potatoes.  The good company (not to mention the wall-to-wall views of the North Cascades) definitely helped with the drudgery.