Trip Report    

Mount Shuksan/Sulphide Glacier

Route still goes as of 8/20/23 but conditions deteriorate in the afternoon. Lots of ice, lots of crevasses.

  • Road rough but passable

Mount Shuksan Sulphide Route C2C 8/19/23:
Road to Shannon Ridge TH is in good shape, one section where there was a washout that it would be nice to have high clearance but overall not a bad FS road. Shannon Ridge trail itself is in good shape and easy to follow, there was recent sawyering done on lots of big trees that had fallen across the trail, so thanks to whatever org did that!

Started at 12:30am Saturday as a team of three. Clear and cool weather. Followed the most recent GPX already on PeakBagger so I didn't track another one. Took off with a team of four at the same time and leapfrogged with them all the way up the glacier. Reached the top of the ridge on the trail after two hours or so of hiking, it's not as bad as it looks on the topo. Got to the glacier at around 4:00am. Took some time to get transitioned and get the rope in shape, 4:30am onto the glacier. There was a strong overnight freeze on Friday and the initial slope on the glacier was very icy. No penetration with an ice axe but the crampon points dug just enough to make it perfect cramponing condition so we scooted right on up. There's cracks immediately so be ready to avoid them. Most seemed to run parallel to the ascent route so maybe they're just giant runnels from the melt? Regardless it's a hazard to avoid. We were all the way climbers left but there's an easier way to go up the initial slope climber's right towards the camp area. Basically move right a rock rib or two if you're all the way left. It's really hard to see in the dark though and the initial slope is fine so it's not totally necessary. This is the one spot I wish I had tracked. The glacier is doing as glaciers do and there's lots of crevasses at this point in the season. There's no established bootpack on the lower Sulphide since it's all ice so it's choose your own adventure. Basically stay climber's left and avoid crevasses. There's one one more steep section around maybe 6480' - 7000' that was also very icy. At the beginning you can go up a snowfield between two rock fingers or transition and scramble the rocks on climber's left. There were cracks at the base of the snowfield before the slope that looked hard to avoid so we chose to scramble the rocks on the way up. The group of four we started with went up the snowfield and said it was fine but they were planning to scramble the rocks on the way down. The rocks are glacier polished bedrock so they're slippery slab, be careful! After that it was back on the glacier for the last steep, icy section. Cramponing was great here too so it wasn't much of an issue. There's a big crevasse field climbers right here so stay left as much as possible and pay attention on the way down. It's simpler terrain after this and a bootpack picks up since there's still some seasonal snow. There's a few big flatter sections without crevassing so it's a cruise. A bit before the Fisher Chimneys intersection there's snowbridges over some real big crevasses, it was holding and was super solid in the morning but will likely fail at some point soon. It's not far to end around these. There's more of a bootpack once you hit the intersection with the Fisher Chimneys route but it's changing every day. Lots of guided groups coming up the Chimneys. There's a few spots where the bootpack ends in a crevasse where there was obviously a snowbridge before. The section right after the intersection is somewhat spicy and the bootpack goes through lots of crevasses. If this is ever out, there looks to be an option to go climber's right into a bowl and ascend left from there but you'd lose a good bit of elevation and might not actually be able to avoid the crevasses completely. Made the base of the summit pyramid around 8:00am. Overall the glacier is breaking up a good bit but it's still navigable, just need some extra time. Take the snow as far as possible climber's right, there's a bit of a bridge over a moat and some rocks to hop over. SE Rib starts right, gully scramble starts left from the top of the snow. The group of four we started with took the rib and we took the gully.

The scramble up the pyramid was solid class 3 to me. Some good moves but not too much exposure. The pyramid looks intimidating from afar but once you get close there's actually an obvious gully that goes up the center. There's some route choosing within the gully and it's possible to get into class 4 or low class 5 terrain but overall everything is solid. Summited around 9:15am or so. The smoke was starting to blow in from the fires at this point so views close were starting to get obscured. Spent a bit of time on the summit and started the descent. We were the second party up and the first was already down so we didn't get stuck in a conga line of rappels luckily. Did the first rappel, downclimbed a section, rappelled twice more, then one more downclimb to get to the dirt/scree above the snow. Rappel anchors were all in good shape. The last one has one piece of good webbing from 5/23, one old piece of webbing, and two pieces of cordelette that looked like they were getting older. It felt safe but could probably use a reset of the old webbing and cordelette. We didn't want to hold up the rappel line behind us any more than we had to so we left it as is. Hit the snow at 11:30-ish, two hours or so to descend. We could have been faster here and had some trouble with the rope getting twisted/knotted while transporting during the downclimbs. Started back on the glacier around noon.

The snow was getting soft at this point but it was only the surface layer so we were able to get purchase with crampons still. Followed the ascent route for the most part besides ending around the big crevasses mentioned above. We got too far skier's left coming up to the upper ice section and got a bit stuck in the crevasse field. We picked our way through but were going between crevasses where we could hear water rushing through/under. Definitely a no fall zone! Even sticking skier's right to the ascent route makes you descend complex, crevassed terrain on slushy ice. Again, be confident in the team's abilities. This was the spot I felt like there was the most significant hazard. Transitioned as soon as we could to the rock finger, a bit higher than on the ascent. Scrambled down the slippery slab to the snow below. This was my least favorite part of the day. Being tired, hot, and downclimbing slick rock was not fun. Roped up one last time and made our way to above the first ice section. We ended up being skier's left of where we ascended and saw an easier way down so we took it. Had to do some cramponing over rocks for a section unfortunately but it avoided another section of complex, crevassed terrain on slushy ice. At that point it's just snow so we unroped for the rocks and back to the end of the snow. You could transition completely and just scramble rock at this point as well. About 3:00pm when we got off the snow. Two and a half hours back to the car had us off trail at 5:30pm after pretty damn close to exactly 17 hours on trail! We didn't see the team of four again after we split off at the base of the pyramid and I think they got stuck at the end of the rappel line. I hope they made it down safe and the glacier conditions didn't get much worse for them!

Two things I would change if I did this again in the same conditions:
- I wouldn't rope up until after the second ice section and we were on seasonal snowpack. Most of the way up in the morning was totally bulletproof ice on the lower Sulphide and individual or team arrest was impossible. One person in a crevasse can't be helped if everyone goes with them. The crevasses are also all obvious and there's no snow bridges to cross. This is clearly a team risk decision but I think the main point here is that the whole lower Sulphide is a no fall zone in the morning so parties should be aware of the risk and confident in their crampon skills. The seasonal snowpack wasn't much better in the early morning but I think team arrest there would have actually been possible and there were snowbridges instead of obvious crevasses in bare ice.
- I'd get permits and haul camping stuff up. Still leave super early, scramble the pyramid in the dawn light, greet the sun at the summit, and get the hell of the glacier before the ice got slushy on the lower sections. Permits aren't easy to come by, but a C2C in these conditions exposes you to a lot of hazard late in the day. Being wildly fit and more dialed on transitions and rappels would help, but there's only so much faster you can go and I don't think it'd be enough on a south facing glacier on a sunny August day.