Mountain Climbing

Mt Shuksan climb

Mount Shuksan as seen from Baker Lake, south of the mountain

Location:North Cascades National Park, WA

Elevation:2, 783 meters

Mt Shuksan is its name but is most famous as Sulphide Glacier. It is a glaciated mountain situated in the North Cascades National Park in the Whatcom County, Washington.

With its peak presenting all of the most spectacular features an alpine environment can offer, such as steep walls, hanging glaciers, heathered arms, and alpine tarns, Mt Shuksan stands as one of the most beautiful mountains in the world and one most loved to be photographed.

The mountain is undeniably complex as it has seven glaciers, four major faces, and five dramatic ridges. Above open rock, cliff bands are awe-inspiring icefalls and ice cliffs, and in each of the major ridges, snake down blue-tinted glaciers. Such marvelous magnificence that this mountain has.

The mountain got its name from the Lummi word šéqsən, which means “high peak.” The Summit Pyramid is a three-sided peak and is the highest point on the mountain.

Wide view of glaciated Mt.Shuksan landscape

How to get there

Start a drive to Baker Lake Road and head on 23 miles along west and north side of Baker Lake to Shannon Creek Campground. Shift to the left on Forest Road 1152 and continue to nearly beyond four mi markers, ignoring all spur roads. Make a sharp right onto Forest Road 1152-014 spur (tree branches may obscure marker) to the trailhead.

Difficulty

The climb requires climbers with experience in basic snow and ice-climbing skills and be comfortable with glacier travel, including moving in a rope team, self-arrest, and necessary crevasse rescue. Basic knowledge and experience would be required for objectives with some rock climbing.

Options for Mt. Shuksan Climbs:

  • Beginner level: Sulphide Glacier Route

3 days – For those with prior ice ax arrest, crampons, and rope travel training

4 days – For those who lack prior training

  • Intermediate level: Fisher Chimneys Route

4 days – for climbers with experience following 4th class rock and moderately steep snow or ice

  • Advanced level: North Face Route

4 days – For climbers with steep snow or ice climbing and 4th class rock skills only (offered as a private climb only)

  • All Women’s Climb: Mt. Shuksan Women’s Seminar

6 days – mountaineering skills seminar for women, led by female guides and culminates in a summit climb on the Sulphide Glacier Route.

Routes to take

West side view of Mount Shuksan in summer as seen from Artist Point

Sulphide Glacier – Mt. Shuksan:

Whether you want to work on your basic glacier skills or simply enjoy a multi-day climb of fun and incredible mountain, with a simple glacier on the south side of Mt. Shuksan is an excellent place for you.

When you reach the Sulphide Glacier, it means the hike approaches the end, and it is also where most climbers camp. The summit day is fairly angled low until 600 feet, the pitch increases, and either requires a climb steep snow or 4th class rock up a broad channel to the great summit. The Sulphide glacier’s crevasses are perfect for ice climbing training and crevasse rescue.

Fisher Chimneys Route – Mt. Shuksan:

This is generally regarded as the Sulphide Glacier Route and more complex than the mountain’s standard route. The Fisher Chimney’s climbs start at the mountain’s north side and hike past a beautiful small lake before undertaking the complex yet very moderate rock climbing terrain of the Fisher Chimneys.

Besides Sulphide, one better option for those looking to climb Shuksan via a slightly more technical course is to climb over Winnie’s slide once above the chimneys and then ascend Hell’s Highway before joining the regular Sulphide Glacier route to Shuksan’s summit.

North Face – Mt. Shuksan:

All the Northwest climber holds dear is found at the North Face of Mt. Shuksan and that include a bushwhack approach, 40 to 50° snow and ice climbing, a committing mountain face, and intricate route finding.

However, this route is often unguided since the journey reachable for fit climbers with experience on moderately steep snow and ice, and enjoy trekking on long climbing days.

The approach generally starts on the first day, followed by the meat of the climb is on the next long day from the base of the route to the summit and then back down to the top of the Fisher Chimneys, and a third day is for the exit.

White Salmon Glacier – Mt. Shuksan:

Both the White Salmon Glacier Route and the North Face route initially start with the same bushwhack. Eventually, the two routes split, and parties to the White Salmon Glacier climb more straightforward to the glacier’s base.

The next day involves route finding and walking up the complex White Salmon Glacier with short 1 and 2 pitch sections of snow, rock, and ice climbing as various obstacles such as bergschrunds are overcome.

The White Salmon Glacier Route at about 2/3rds height joins Winnies Slide just above the Fisher Chimney’s route. The Sulphide Glacier can be climbed via Hells Highway or spiraling Shuksan to reach the east’s summit. Upon reaching the summit, the descent can be via the Fisher Chimneys.

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