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Mount Shuksan with Mountain Madness

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