Ascent to Mount Shuksan-Summit Pyramid on 2018-05-05

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Eric Gilbertson (Went on ahead) -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Saturday, May 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Mount Shuksan - Summit Pyramid
    Elevation:8500 ft / 2590 m
    Remaining Elevation:631 ft / 193 m (9% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Left Car: 3:34 AM
Put on Skis: 4:29 AM
Bikram Turns Back: 5:10 AM
Base of Summit Pyramid: 10:31 AM
Start Ski down: 12:33 PM
Skis off 2:09 PM
Back to Car: 2:53 PM

On Friday I had a long day of work, and then a social event from 7-9 PM. So I left home a bit after 10 PM, got to the trailhead at 12:30 AM, and crashed in the back on my car. I was still pretty tired at 3 AM when Eric woke me up. I met Bikram for the first time and we were soon hiking up the road and then the Shannon Ridge trail. Snow was quite discontinuous and eventually we all put our skis on our packs.

At about 3050 feet we finally found continuous snow and started skinning uphill. Bikram, however, was not feeling well and found the uphill bushwhacking and kick-turning past tree wells difficult in his condition, so he elected to turn back (and leave Eric's stuff near my car so he could head home without waiting).

Eric and I made good progress skinning up through the trees, then we booted up a short and steep slope to a ridge (with a very impressive avalanche slab crown area we bypassed). We went up and over some ridge humps and then put our skis back on for the infamous traverse--this is probably the scariest part of the approach, cutting across a very steep slope where you don't want to fall to the depths below (or get hit by anything coming down from above). The track already there provided a good platform for us and the 10 other skiers we were now playing tag with.

After the traverse corner the terrain eased off--a large zone of frozen avalanche debris chunks not long after was the only real issue. Otherwise it was just endless uphill skinning on the vast open slopes of the Sulphide Glacier. Up here I started running out of gas--at first Eric and I were at the head of the dozen-strong pack of skiers on the mountian today, but my lack of sleep and lack of food started taking its toll and soon everyone had passed me (except for two skiers who turned back).

I finally reached the base of the summit pyramid at about 10:30 AM, a good half hour later than Eric. I was pretty much toast, so I elected to rest while Eric (and the others) did the ice climbing up the 700 feet of summit pyramid. Eric had no ice-axe (just a whippet ski pole) so he borrowed my axe while I rested, ate, drank, and recovered my energy for the long ski run down. That was my main goal anyway, since I had already summited the peak in 1995. I had a great view to the south, and I could see clouds moving towards us, enveloping peaks on its way, but it looked like we still has plenty of time to get down before any real weather hit us.

Eric was back down by about noon, and we rested a bit more, then hiked up about 100 feet to get more turns and started our epic ski run. By the numbers, we skied 5450 vertical feet down in 1 hour 36 minutes, covering 5.85 miles. The scenery was totally awesome and the snow mostly quite nice--the best stuff was up high, a nice velvety corn layer, but even the slush down lower was OK. There is actually very little fall-line skiing on this route--it's mostly a long rightwards traverse down the upper margin of the Sulphide, but there are still many fun turns. There are also several spots where you have to move uphill by skating, sidestepping, or herringboning, a mild annoyance but no big deal.

The avy debris section down low had softened up, and the scary traverse was also easy soft snow but still demanded some concentration due to the exposure. After some ups and downs on the minor ridge we dropped off at the first open notch and were soon buzzing down into the trees. We followed the downhill tracks made by the other parties--challenging but fun ski-bushwhacking. We lost the tracks at one point and had to follow faint paths, diverging quite a bit from our upward track, but with GPS we got reoriented and were soon back on the main path. Shortly afterwards had to remove our skis at the first dirt patch, at about 2:10 PM. It was still warm and sunny (and almost hot) down in the forest.

We hiked easily back to the car and arrived just before 3 PM. After organizing our gear we were on our way, and I dropped Eric off in Seattle before arriving home a little after 6 PM. I was happy I had all day Sunday to relax and recover from this adventure before work.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The foreshortened summit pinnacle of Mount Shuksan from the Sulphide Glacier in spring (2018-05-05).
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6240 ft / 1901 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6240 ft / 1901 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.3 mi / 24.7 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Skis, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6140 ft / 1871 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 6020 ft / 1835 m; Extra: 120 ft / 36m
    Loss on way in:120 ft / 36 m
    Distance:7.7 mi / 12.5 km
    Route:Sulphide Gl
    Start Trailhead:Shannon Ck Rd  2480 ft / 755 m
    Time:7 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6120 ft / 1865 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6020 ft / 1835 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Gain on way out:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:7.6 mi / 12.2 km
    Route:Sulphide Gl
    End Trailhead:Shannon Ck Rd  2480 ft / 755 m
    Time:2 Hours 20 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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