Shuksan

Shuksan, with Upper and Lower Curtis Glaciers

Shuksan, with Upper and Lower Curtis Glaciers


Sharp, heavily-glaciated Mount Shuksan is one of Washington’s handful of non-volcanic peaks over 9,000 feet. I considered doing something sporting on its north face, but opted to save my energy and climb the ingenious, standard Fisher Chimneys route. After sleeping on some random forest road, I drove up to the Lake Anne trailhead, fought the hordes of mosquitoes while I made my final preparations, and headed down the trail in my new, knobby trail runners.

Along off-route ridge

Along off-route ridge

I had only skimmed the guidebook and, reaching the saddle before the lake, I took what seemed like a reasonable climbers’ trail up the ridge to the left. The trail eventually faded, but I continued up a gully to a long, undulating ridge. Finding nothing more than the occasional game trail, and plenty of nasty krummholtz, I was increasingly suspicious that I had gone off-route, but plowed away toward the peak, through bushes, up crumbly rock, and along narrow bits of ridge, finally reaching a lobe of the White Salmon Glacier.
Crossing White Salmon Glacier toward Shuksan

Crossing White Salmon Glacier toward Shuksan

Descending across this lobe, I 4th-classed my way through a rock ridge, where I found a sling, then returned to the glacier, cautiously making my way up a steep, crevassed slope in my running shoe crampons. I recognized the upper route from the guidebook photo, and this way would get me there eventually…

Crossing Upper Curtis Glacier

Crossing Upper Curtis Glacier

The glacier flattened near a talus ridge, where I met a man hanging around camp nursing a sore meniscus. After talking for awhile, I continued up a nice boot-pack — it was good to be on-route again — then crossed a rock rib onto the edge of the upper Curtis Glacier.
Party descending standard route from Sulphide Glacier

Party descending standard route from Sulphide Glacier

The standard route climbs above a crevasse-field, then traverses down around some rock walls to a broad snow-gully leading through to the Sulphide Glacier. With my minimal crampons, I found it easier and a lot shorter to take the Hourglass, a 4th class rock gully closer to the summit. Likewise, I found it easier to follow the 3rd class southwest ridge to the summit than to kick steps up the Sulphide Glacier to the standard choss-gully finish.

Unnecessary rappel above Sulphide Glacier

Unnecessary rappel above Sulphide Glacier

Approaching the summit, I passed a party “rappelling” some class 2 talus near the summit, i.e. walking backwards while feeding ropes through an ATC. As I found a comfortable summit seat, one of them had to walk back up to free an apparently stuck rope. Up close, Shuksan has the feel of a well-used peak, from multiple rappel anchors to crampon scars covering the summit rocks. A few minutes after I summited, another group of two scrambled up near the standard route, an experienced climber leading his novice friend.

East to Pickets

East to Pickets

After checking out my past to the west (Baker) and future to the east (Challenger), I scrambled down the rappel route, passing the party of three one or two rope-lengths down from where I last saw them. I stayed warily to one side of the gully and its outward-sloping ledges covered in debris, but the roped party was very considerate in not kicking down rocks. Back on the glacier, I took the longer, standard snow route for variety, passing another day-hiking party on their way up.

Fisher Chimneys -- clever!

Fisher Chimneys — clever!

After talking again with the man in camp, I followed the boot-pack to the Fisher Chimneys, which cross the ridge just below camp. Being on-route, I had a much easier time of things on the way down, following a well-worn path that cleverly makes its way up a series of third class gullies and grassy ledges. I felt increasingly foolish as I followed the maintained, switchbacking trail past the national park boundary sign, greeting a large family headed up to set up camp. As I found out, the Fisher Chimneys route is the obvious trail traversing east from Lake Anne (it even appears on the USGS 7.5′ quad). Sometimes it pays to read the directions.

Leave a Reply