2016-07-16

Mt Shuksan (2783m) via Fisher Chimneys

Mt Shuksan.

"Mt. Shuksan epitomizes the jagged alpine peak like no other massif in the North Cascades... it has no equal in the range when one considers the structural beauty of its four major faces and five ridges... There is no other sample in the American West of a peak with great icefall glaciers derived from a high plateau, and in the Pacific Northwest it is the only non-volcanic peak whose summit exceeds timberline by more than 3000 feet... Shuksan is one of the finest mountaineering objectives in the North Cascades and its reputation is certainly deserved; a wide variety of challenges can be encountered on this quite complex mountain. The climber has a choice of rock walls, moderate firnfields, steep ice, and easy scrambling. Despite a sometimes-forbidding appearance, Shuksan has yielded 14 routes, numerous variations, and impressive subsidiary climbs, including some directly up dangerous ice cliffs."

- Fred Becky (Cascade Alpine Guide : Rainy Pass to Fraser River)

Front to back: Anton, Ralf, Matt
Archer, Matt, Ralf, Pawel, Anton

I invited my cousin Anton along for the trip. Here's what he had to say about it:

Mountaineering for dummies: wait for one of your cousins to email you a climbing invitation; accept invitation; print off gear checklist and purchase all items you do not currently own; try on new boots and crampons, walk around yard and climb up steep piles of dirt to test;

Hello Mom!
Scrambling up the chimneys.
The chimneys were mostly free of snow.

put gear in truck and drive across border into USA; sleep; wake up early, meet said cousin + backup Googlers + guides; walk for a long time through a beautiful national forest (note: it appears preferable to pick a very foggy and/or rainy day to set out); when trail becomes extremely steep, deploy climbing harness and fasten yourself to someone nearby; keep climbing; if you find a small flat spot, call it a ‘camp’ and leave half your important stuff there;

On the Upper Curtis glacier.
Scaling the steep Hell's Highway.

apply crampons and deploy ice axe; climb and/or walk around on a glacier for a long time; when you reach a steep pile of rocks, remove crampons; climb steep pile of rocks until you reach the top; take photograph;

Looking back to Hell's Highway.
The summit pyramid - we're not done yet!

it will now likely be very late and the sun will be going down, so deploy headlamp; start rappelling down off the steep pile of rocks, and half way down, for added excitement, rappel down a rope that is attached to a sling that is about to break – for maximum enjoyability, land in a small patch of snow; remind yourself how important it was that you reached the top of this particular pile of rocks while waiting for the second rope team to rescue you; keep rappelling until at bottom of steep pile of rocks;

Climbing up the summit pyramid.
Summit!
View towards Mt Baker. Not much sunlight left.

climb and/or walk around on a glacier for a long time until you reach your ‘camp’; it will now likely be 3AM, but don’t worry, it won’t take very long to set up your tents, because you don’t have any – instead, set up a small tarp that is pretending to be a tent; eat dinner; put on everything warm that you have packed and go into your sleeping bag for no more than 3.5 hours (it appears to be very important to minimize sleep while mountaineering); enjoy fantastic view of Mt. Baker on waking (bonus: because you’re not actually in a tent, you can just lay there in your sleeping bag to enjoy said view);

Anton, on a rappel shortly before the anchor snapped.
Returning in the light of the (nearly) full moon.
Setting up snow anchors.

Optional activity: shit into a plastic bag and then pack this into your backpack (note: I am still very confused by this bit of mountaineering);

Comfortably sleeps four ;-)
Contemplating the universe.
Mt Baker.
Scrambling down.

down-climb and/or rappel until the trail is no longer extremely steep; walk for a long time through a beautiful national forest (note: it appears preferable to schedule a thundershower for at least the last hour of this final walking part); if you have followed these steps properly,

Lake Ann.

congratulations, you will have just spent 31 hours going up to the top of a large pile of rocks and coming down again!

"Hey Anton! What do you think about pooping in bags and hiking in the rain?"
Delta knows what's up.