Trip: Mount Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier / South East Rib

Date: 8/10/2014

Trip Report:
Our party of 2 attempted our first serious solo alpine summit and multi-pitch rock climb Aug 9/10 of Mount Shuksan via the Sulphide Glacier and climbing the South East Rib.

We got our permits a day ahead of time, it paid to go a day early to get permits on Friday so we would have time to get up higher to a high camp away from the weekend crowds.

We started up around 8:30am and got to the lower camps (3500+ gain) in just under 4 hours). Took a long lunch break and refilled water just below the lower camps at the only place we found running water (at about 6000ft).

Stopped for a break at one of the worlds most scenic toilets looking out over Mount Baker and chatted with a guided group camped out there.

We roped up here at around 6400ft and climbed up to around 7800 to make our high camp just across the flats from the summit block. We figured this would give us a head start on everyone else in the morning and would make for an easier summit day.

Camping out at the high camp turned out to be incredible sunset, moonrise and sunrise views, especially with the glow coming from the haze of the (unfortunate) forest fires. We were treated to an golden sunset with a full moon (almost super moon) rising at the same time.

We got up around 4am and being up well ahead of the weekend crowds took our time getting ready and were off to the summit around 5am. Just as we were approaching the top of Hells Highway two groups of 4 appeared from the Fisher Chimney route. They were all heading to the central gully luckily. When we looked back, over the horizon came a freight train of about 15 climbers (one group of 11 and looked like a party of 4) - all heading to the central gully as well.

We got to the rock island just below the rock climb and dropped a pack and geared up for the rock climb waiting until the sun had a little time to warm up the rocks. The approach to the South East Rib was pretty straight forward but a bit trickier to get over up the chockstone in climbing boots so I switched to rock shoes which made it an easy walk up.

Not having ever been to Shuksan or able to see pics of the whole rib and being the only ones there we did get off route for a moment and wound up near the gully so had to hop back up onto the rib (which was probably a 5.8 move from what someone else there said). It was easy to get off route seeing footprints in the dirt heading that direction (and ran into someone else there who had done the same thing their first time). Basically stay in the sun on the rib the whole way.

We did it in 4 pitches (not counting the short hop up to get back on track). You can run out sections on scramble class rock no problem, most of the time there were large horns and blocks to throw slings over. The few 5.4 moves along the way sometimes were easy to protect otherwise just find the hand and finger holds and go up a few feet to find more lower 5th class climbing. Pretty straightforward.

Due to so many people heading to the central gully we were concerned there would be a huge clusterf#@k getting down. And there was but thankfully we missed the bulk of it.

Met some cool guys on the summit who had done an insane approach from the Nooksack/Price approach and on their way out the Fisher Chimneys. That was impressive to read about later.

We did listen to constant calls of "rock" crashing down the central gully as we were heading up the rib and while we were waiting to rap down which was disconcerting. I wouldn't want to be in the middle of the gulley further down with anyone up above.

There was a huge cluster of people at the last rap station and the two guys ahead of us did one rap and then downclimbed the rest of the gulley to not get stuck behind the large group. We waited for them to get out of the gully before starting our descent.

We did 4 rappels and used shoulder slings to feed out the rope instead of throwing ropes down to help avoid rock fall. Most of the rap route was clean but there are sections where there is a bunch of loose rock, so gingerly took our time getting down and avoided knocking anything down.

By the time we got to the last rap station the last person of the large group rapped off and we got off without having to deal with the bottleneck.

Huffing full packs all the way up to 7800ft also meant that much extra hiking out but only took half an hour to get all the way down to the lower camp and was an easy walk out.

All in all the climb went great, weather cooperated and were able to mostly avoid issues with the crowded gulley.



Gear Notes:
standard alpine and glacier travel gear
for rock climbing the rib - used one small nut and a few small cam placements (cams probably not even necessary but were nice to have a handful), 8-10 double slings. 60m glacier rope.

Approach Notes:
Trail crews had cut through all of the blowdowns on the trail within the week or two before our trip. Made for a more pleasant approach. Snow was in great conditions all the way to our high camp at 7900 feet.


Edited by Ian Lauder (08/12/14 08:15 PM)