Mt Shuksan - North FaceDate:
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. 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:
Andrew started us up the face:
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:
We topped out of the face on the relatively flat upper part of the Hanging Glacier:
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:
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:
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:
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:
We spotted several interesting iceflows above the Upper Curtis Glacier:
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.