I’ve been looking at Mount Shuksan for almost 4 years now from Mt Baker Ski Resort and dreaming about climbing the most photographed peak in the world for just as long! After snagging a permit to camp in the National Park on Friday we began our journey the following day…leaving Everett at 1:30am.

We were on the Shannon Ridge trail at about 4:30am. The first part of the trail is a pretty even grade when steepens after about 45 minutes as it heads up to the ridge. At 4500ft there are a few waterless camps as the trail breaks out of the trees and onto the ridge. Here the grad once again evens as it follows the gentle bumps of the rolling meadows until reaching the border of the North Cascades National Park.  From here the trails gets steep and rocky climbing straight up through a notch to a small pass. From here we were afforded gorgeous views of the North Cascades and our first glimpse of some of the glaciers on Shuksan. There is a split int he trail after a few yards. Take the right fork and traverse below rocky cliffs until the trail seems to just end. Look left and follow rock cairns up the lower angle cliffs to the snowfield above. Here are the low camps for Mount Shuksan. There was also a giant crevasse (usually not present). We opted to rope up here and continued over the snow headed directly away from the rocks and slightly right.

The iconic summit Pyramid finally came into view as we approached camp. There are sites near a heather bench near the base of the Sulfide Glacier and also up on the ridge to the left. We took the camps by the heather bench since there was a beautiful little blue pond next to it. The rest of the day was not all that eventful. We exploded the area and talked to climbers coming down. Mostly we tried to find shade and sleep.

We were up at 12am on Sunday to begin the climb. The moon was so bright we barely needed our headlamps as we headed up the Sulfide Glacier There is a well worn path headed up the route. The track led over a few sno bridges, around crevasses and also featured several step-overs. The steepest part of the climb is right at the base of the route. From then on the glacier is very broad and low angle until reaching the large slope leading up to the pyramid. The grade steeps some here and then gets very steep the final several yards to the rock. We made it to the base of the pyramid in 2 hours and twenty minutes.

We stashed our gear in a moat to the left of where the snow track led onto the rock and, began to grip our way, around the rock in the dark. Even with the moon it wasn’t very clear which route we should take up. We scrambled up and down looking for the gulley but nothing seemed “obvious”. We decided to wait until it got lighter. About 30 minutes later some other climbers showed up. They figured out the way to enter the gulley… some steep moves and then over a snow field. We’d left our ice gear below so i belayed Damien across the snow and then he belayed me in. The lowers rap station is on top of the snow field. From there on it there were raps every 30 meters. The route was not very hard to follow and there was a few variations. However, it is sketch with high exposure, class sustained 4 (and some class 3) moves and loose rock.The scramble took longer than the glacier climb and was very intimidating. However, we got through it and found ourselves finally at the summit of Shuksan at 7ish.

The group sharing the summit with us had sent up rappel with two 30M rope tied together and offered to let us use it since they planned to stay on the summit longer. We checked all their knots and headed down the first two pitches. From there it was 4-5 (I don’t recall exactly) more raps using our two 37meter twin ropes. This was the hardness part of the climb for me since I don’t like watching people rappel anymore from above… but I asked Damien to go first each time and bu the end I stopped shuttering at each creak of the rope. We were back on the snow at about 8:30am and back at camp at 10:00am.

With the last glacier climb of the summer season complete we began descending back to civilization. The insane amount of heat ended the season early. Now I can’t wait for winter!

 

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