Ascent of Mount Shuksan on 2018-07-28

Climber: Mark Smith

Others in Party:Austin D. Smith
Date:Saturday, July 28, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Shuksan
    Elevation:9131 ft / 2783 m

Ascent Trip Report

We opted for a one-day ascent of the Sulfide Glacier due to desiring light packs and not being able to obtain a camping permit before the issuing stations close.

Finding the trailhead was easy. Drive SR 20 to Baker Lake Road. Continue 23 miles. Eventually the road turns to maintained gravel. At the entrance to Shannon Creek Campground turn left on the obvious Forest Road 1152 and continue on gravel and a few potholes about 4.5 miles. Turn right onto Forest Road 1152-014 and follow a short distance to the trailhead on a road suitable for a standard passenger car.

After a long accident delay on I-5 we arrived and arranged sleeping bags in our Suburban, getting to bed at 9PM. We were in the midst of a once-per-decade heat wave which made sleeping in our vehicle very difficult. The 1:30AM alarm came far too soon. Lessons learned: plan for I-5 delays, get more sleep before alpine starts, and don't sleep in hot cars.

The trail proved easy to follow by headlamp. Eventually dawn broke and we were on the Sulfide. The route hugs the left ridge of the glacier and presented no crevasses until it steepened just before the summit spire.

Guided and private parties were crawling over the summit like ants at a picnic. We worked our way up cautiously, often moving out of the main chute and onto harder scrambling to avoid death by rockfall. The holds on the spire are solid, but loose rocks resting on ledges and lower angle areas abound. Car to summit: just over 9 hours.

The four-spired summit has two potential highpoints. The closest of the four has the summit register and the most room to congregate. The topographic map seems to put the "X" on the third spire which we also visited.

Yet more parties were ascending and descending as we worked our way down, which of course made progress slower and more difficult than would have otherwise been necessary. Perhaps there is a 3rd class route to be had, but we sure didn't find it. Several sections seemed to clearly cross the line into 4th class, especially given our crampon-compatible mountaineering boots. Rappelling certainly would have made the descent easier, but would have doubled our descent time as we waited in the queues and increased our exposure to rockfall. 30 minutes after departing the summit we reached the glacier with a knuckle-bump and a sigh of relief.

The rest of the descent played out uneventfully, taking six hours from the summit. With Mount Shuksan we completed the Chemeketan Eighteen Northwest Peaks Award list.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6751 ft / 2057 m
    Extra Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17 mi / 27.4 km
    Route:Sulfide Glacier
    Trailhead:2580 ft / 786 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
    Weather:Very warm
Ascent Statistics
    Time:9 Hours 6 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 2 Minutes

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