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ilias

[TR] Mt Shuksan - North Face 4/16/2016

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Trip: Mt Shuksan - North Face

 

Date: 4/16/2016

 

Trip Report:

On Saturday, Andrew and I climbed the North Face of Shuksan. Calling this climb the North Face of Shuksan is a bit of a misnomer... out of the 18.5 hour climb, 2 hours and 40 minutes were spent climbing the north face. What it really is is the circumnavigation of Mt Shuksan and the traverse of 5 of its glaciers.

 

gps_track.jpg

http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgICwkJOgCgw

 

We started from the car at the White Salmon lodge gate at 12:45am and got back at 7:15pm. The approach to the base of the North Face included one interesting creek crossing but was generally snow-covered after that, with little/none of the bushwhacking I'd read about in other trip reports.

 

We made it to the traverse that leads you out onto the face just before sunrise:

 

20160416_063836.jpg

20160416_063847.jpg

 

Andrew started us up the face:

 

20160416_064336.jpg

 

The face was in great (though variable) conditions and we never took out the rope, soloing up the face in good time. We encountered everything from very firm snow where only the frontpoints of our crampons would go in, to soft snow where our legs went in up to the calf. Looking down and up the face at different points:

 

20160416_070815.jpg

20160416_081350.jpg

20160416_081357.jpg

 

We topped out of the face on the relatively flat upper part of the Hanging Glacier:

 

20160416_091534.jpg

20160416_091625.jpg

 

From here, we traversed around the E face of the summit pyramid. We unfortunately picked a path that stayed too high, it would probably have saved us at least half an hour and a lot of energy to have dropped down lower onto the Crystal Glacier to traverse around the E face. After motoring up the N Face as quickly as we could and doing this traverse, we were pretty tired and took a long-ish break at the top of the Sulphide Glacier before heading up to tag the summit. We briefly considered skipping it on account of how tired we were by this point, but neither of us had been to the summit before and it was a beautiful day and snow stability had been very encouraging thus far, so we went for it.

 

Andrew near the summit:

 

20160416_122533.jpg

 

The main gully up to the summit was surprisingly steep, on par with the North Face, and probably the steepest climbing we did on the whole trip was the last 20 ft to the summit up a narrow ~60 degree gully, just above Andrew in the above photo. The summit was windy and cold so we spent no more time than was needed to take this horrible summit selfie:

 

20160416_123233.jpg

 

On account of the surprisingly steep last bit of gully and being fairly tired, we decided to rappel off the summit off a picket we placed. We thought we'd be giving up the picket, but a party that had just skied up the Sulphide came up to the summit and downclimbed it, bringing down our picket with them. Thanks guys!

 

After descending the summit pyramid, we walked down the Sulphide to the col where Hell's Highway comes up to meet it:

 

20160416_132130.jpg

 

Descending Hell's Highway onto the Upper Curtis Glacier, the snow conditions quickly changed from stable and confidence inspiring to a bit worrying. I started a small slab avalanche (~3 inch crown). Here's Andrew coming down after me and you can see the crown above him:

 

20160416_140729.jpg

 

We spotted several interesting iceflows above the Upper Curtis Glacier:

 

20160416_141753.jpg

 

Looks like that would be a fun climb (has it been climbed?) except for the giant scary cornice hanging above it. Also a crazy free-hanging ice dagger off to the right.

 

After traversing the Upper Curtis Glacier, we were at the top of the White Salmon Glacier. Here, the snow conditions were even more worrying, with me sending down boulder sized pinwheels with every step. We down-climbed and ran down this slope as fast as possible to minimize our exposure time, at last returning to where we had stashed our snowshoes at the bottom on the approach.

 

Overall, a very fun day and definitely one of my biggest 1-day pushes in the mountains so far. 8000 ft of elevation gain (and loss), of which probably half was with 2 ice tools in hand.

 

Gear Notes:

We brought 3 pickets and 2 ice screws. Used 1 picket to rappel off the summit but that's it. 2 tools are a must.

 

Approach Notes:

Going high as shown in our GPS track really makes the most sense even though you really don't want to gain/drop that extra elevation. The valley below is overgrown and the snow-slopes broken up by tree holes and glide avalanches. Staying at the elevation shown you mostly just traverse a nice uniform snow slope.

 

We used snowshoes. Skis would have worked just as well. One of the two is definitely useful for the approach, the snow is soft and it would be a lot of postholing without.

Edited by ilias

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20160416_141753.jpg

 

Looks like that would be a fun climb (has it been climbed?) except for the giant scary cornice hanging above it. Also a crazy free-hanging ice dagger off to the right.

 

I believe this was climbed around 10 years or so ago by Paco (Eric Sweet) and partner. They named it 'Satan's Sidewalk'. Or it could be a different formation.

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I believe this was climbed around 10 years or so ago by Paco (Eric Sweet) and partner. They named it 'Satan's Sidewalk'. Or it could be a different formation.

 

Just read their description, that sounds right. Cool! Looks like it's in much better condition now than when they did their FA!

Edited by ilias

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I believe this was climbed around 10 years or so ago by Paco (Eric Sweet) and partner. They named it 'Satan's Sidewalk'. Or it could be a different formation.

 

Just read their description, that sounds right. Cool! Looks like it's in much better condition now than when they did their FA!

 

I seem to recall one belay of their's that consisted of a V-thread in frozen turf backed up with an ice tool planted in said frozen turf.

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I believe this was climbed around 10 years or so ago by Paco (Eric Sweet) and partner. They named it 'Satan's Sidewalk'. Or it could be a different formation.

 

Just read their description, that sounds right. Cool! Looks like it's in much better condition now than when they did their FA!

 

"partner" = JayB, used to be a mod here, don't know if he's still around.

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I suppose it's telling that the only reason that I found this thread was because my four year old wanted a bedtime story - so I scrolled through the memory banks and decided to tell her about this route. Then she wanted to see pictures - so it was off to Google and here we are.

Here's a picture of the route in the condition that we found it in early November.

[img:center]http://cascadeclimbers.com/plab/data/505/2319route_web.jpg[/img]

 

...And here's a picture of the belay. It's been a few years now and it's fair to say that just about every moment from the point in time where I caught the first glimpse of that anchor until I was clipping in a 22cm screw that I'd ground allllll the way into gloriously fat, plastic ice that I reached at the end of a brief mixed traverse were quite memorable. I swear that I can play just about every second like a VHS track in my mind.

[img:center]http://cascadeclimbers.com/plab/data/505/2319scary_web.jpg[/img]

 

Part of the reason that we wound up with the textbook, Freedom of the Hills style belay you see above is that the rock in the vicinity of the belay was tightly jointed and there just wasn't much to work with. The main reason was that for some reason or another I think we were expecting to find the route completely touched-down and had only packed a skimpy rock rack in the event that we found ourselves in a stance or two where we might have to resort to some rock pro for backup.

 

Eric's full 60M lead up to that stance with all of ~4 pieces of pro remains the single most impressive lead I've ever witnessed, and that route stands out as the most profound experience I've ever had in the mountains. If I play my cards right, I'll never have an experience *quite* like that again - but by the same token I can't say that I'd necessarily rule out the chance to head back up there in the spring and take a much different version of myself up what appears to be a much different version of the route that forms up by springtime.

 

 

Edited by JayB

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It was pretty wild for me at the time - but at the same time I've always been realistic enough about my abilities or lack thereof to realize that what was the definitive apotheosis of all things climbing for me would have almost certainly been a pretty casual day out in the hills for lots of other folks.

 

There's something profoundly affecting about spending any time whatsoever in a state where you feel as though your eyes have been propped open clockwork-orange-style, you're staring at the back of Plato's cave, and you've got a completely unobstructed view of the universe's sublime indifference to your existence, much less your fate in that particular moment, and all of existence has been distilled down to an essence composed of bone, sinew, synapse...rock, ice, steel...and the mute laws of physics. Beautiful country - but a brief visit on a tourist visa was enough for me.

 

 

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I remember when you did that route with my partner, Eric Sweet. He became very good, very fast, then moved on to other things. I think he races motorcycles now.

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Cool memories, maybe I'll get on the North Face when the snow settles a bit. Last time I was up there, many years ago, we got lost in the bushes, soaked by torrential rain (and bushes), broke an ice tool trying to chop some firewood, and then bailed like wet rats having never set foot on the face. We were doing it wrong. :moondance:

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