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