Breaking Through the Clouds on Mount Shuksan Climb in the North Cascades
“Our Mount Shuksan Sulphide Glacier climb began with a great clear day making for firm snow and great views on our way to the notch camp at 5,600 feet on Shuksan. Once we arrived at camp and I finished celebrating that I finally got to a camp with dry gear (it’s been a wet season), we dove into skills needed for the following days summit attempt. Mid way through our skills the rain and wind moved in sending us into the tents in hopes of staying dry for the next day’s summit. I had set my alarm for 3am and awoke to steady rain. Since I knew our third day’s forecast was for mostly sunny conditions, we opted to work on crevasse rescue and some other basic mountain skills and go for the summit on our third and final day.
Summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Dave Ahrens photo
“The plan worked smoothly, we got to sleep early and woke up at midnight to head out onto the Sulphide. We worked our way up the glacier by headlamp in a thick cloud, making for the occasional dreaded vertigo feeling. Once we approached the 7,000 foot level we started to view stars unobstructed by the clouds and we hoped to bust above the cloud layer completely before hitting the summit pyramid, which holds the technical crux of the route. At this point in the season the summit pyramid is totally draped in snow making for a steep and direct snow climb right up the gut of the pyramid. At 7:30am we found ourselves on top of the summit pyramid with an amazing morning view of Mount Baker, the North Cascades and all the way down to Rainier! After a short time on top we headed down to beat the morning sun and make use of our great foot steps to safely descend back to the Sulphide.
Happy team on the summit! Dave Ahrens photo
“Once on the Sulphide we were greated by a group of 8 and a group of 3 heading up the pyramid. We wished them luck and headed back to camp. The heat turned on during the descent as we shed the mornings layers and the brisk start became a distant memory. At camp we wasted little time melting water and breaking down our tents for our last leg of the trip. By 2pm we were back at the trail head drying out and organizing under sunny skies. In all, it was a great trip! My team was heading out to Rainier’s DC Route after our trip, so I wish them luck and hope it went well!”
~ MM Guide Dave Ahrens
View of Mt. Baker from the summit. Dave Ahrens photo