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Wwp 70 2048

Wounded Warrior

MM alpine guide Arthur Her­l­itz­ka checks in after a three-day ascent of Mt. Shuksan’s Sul­phide Glac­i­er route, with a group out there for a great cause. 

We start­ed out Thurs­day morn­ing just like any oth­er Moun­tain Mad­ness north­west adven­ture. Intro­duc­tions in the AM at Ascent Out­doors rolled into a gear review to make sure we had every­thing we need­ed (but noth­ing more!), and a quick brief­ing on the itin­er­ary for our three-day adventure. 

This trip, how­ev­er, didn’t have the sum­mit of Shuk­san as the sole goal of our mis­sion. We were out there to pro­mote and draw aware­ness to the orga­ni­za­tion Wound­ed War­rior Project, a mil­i­tary and vet­er­ans’ char­i­ty ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion empow­er­ing injured vet­er­ans and their families.” 

A quick review of our climb­ing team: MM guest James Alexan­der, a sup­port­er and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Wound­ed War­rior, accom­pa­nied by a bud­ding pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er Patrick Duffy to doc­u­ment our adven­ture. Thurs­day morn­ing was the first time James, Pat, and I had met face to face.

A truck bed filled with gear – always excit­ing. Arthur Her­l­itz­ka photo

After the nec­es­sary prepa­ra­tions at Ascent Out­doors, we loaded up Pat’s truck and head­ed off to the trail head at Shan­non Ridge, with a quick stop to pick up our climb­ing per­mit at the ranger sta­tion in Sedro-Woo­ley. Around mid-day, we donned our back­packs and start­ed the approach to our base­camp over­look­ing the Sul­phide glac­i­er. We enjoyed shady trail hik­ing through the woods, and sweaty trail hik­ing with stel­lar views of Mt. Bak­er once we left tree line. 

Patrick (L) and James ® on Shan­non Ridge. Excit­ed to be in the moun­tains! Arthur Her­l­itz­ka photo

Upon arrival to camp after 4 – 5 hours of hik­ing, we set up our lux­u­ry accom­mo­da­tions and entered direct­ly into learn­ing the essen­tial skills we would need to sum­mit the next day. We cov­ered cram­pon sizing/​movement, rope team trav­el, and essen­tial tech­niques for self-arrest. After a tasty din­ner and pho­to shoot, we went to bed ready for an ear­ly depar­ture and sum­mit push. 

Arthur teach­ing self-arrest tech­nique. Pat Duffy photo

Sum­mit day! With an ear­ly morn­ing depar­ture, we donned our glac­i­er trav­el equip­ment, roped up, and left camp direct­ly onto the snow. The first chal­lenge of our day was to ascend the snow-cov­ered Sul­phide glac­i­er to the base of the rocky sum­mit pyra­mid. At camp before­hand we had dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of climb­ing the more exposed/​slightly hard­er SE Ridge of the sum­mit pyramid.

Bak­er views while ascend­ing to camp. Pat Duffy photo

Ascend­ing the snow slopes from camp. Arthur Her­l­itz­ka photo

At the base of the pyra­mid, we changed trav­el tech­niques and tran­si­tioned into rock climb­ing mode. We climbed care­ful­ly and effi­cient­ly, mak­ing quick work of the 500ft+ of rock climb­ing and find­ing our­selves short­ly perched at the sum­mit! The SE Ridge was a go!

James on one of the crux por­tions of the SE Ridge. Arthur Her­l­itz­ka photo

With great weath­er and con­di­tions, we took our time on the sum­mit. We exchanged high fives, took pho­tos, and enjoyed the incred­i­ble loca­tion. Of course, we couldn’t leave the sum­mit with­out a few pho­tos with the Wound­ed War­rior Flag!

L‑R: Arthur, Pat, James… and two oth­er MM guests on a sep­a­rate Denali Prep Course! Pat Duffy photo

We then re-traced our steps and descend­ed back to our base­camp to enjoy some well-deserved rest. We spent the rest of the after­noon bask­ing in the sun, rest­ing our legs, and reflect­ing on a spec­tac­u­lar day. It is one thing to climb a moun­tain for your­self, and anoth­er thing entire­ly to do it in sup­port of a good cause. We felt priv­i­leged to be a part of the oper­a­tion, and thanked our bod­ies for being strong and adaptable.

Our final day on the moun­tain. We awoke to yet anoth­er beau­ti­ful sun­rise, leisure­ly packed up our camp, and bid our adieus to the oth­er MM group that was shar­ing our camp­site. Leav­ing the moun­tains is always bit­ter­sweet. We took men­tal pic­tures of our sur­round­ings, lis­tened to the roar­ing sound of snow melt cas­cad­ing from the glac­i­er, and all three vowed that this wouldn’t be our last time in the moun­tains. We then began our (quite rapid) descent to the car, and wrapped up our trip in the best way pos­si­ble: swim­ming in Bak­er Lake, and burg­ers and fries in a near­by town. It was a plea­sure con­tribut­ing to a great cause, and shar­ing a rope with two inspir­ing peo­ple. I look for­ward to our next adventure!

–MM Guide Arthur Herlitzka

A beau­ti­ful project, a beau­ti­ful moun­tain. Pat Duffy photo