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Alisse

[TR] Mount Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys 08/04/2019

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Posted (edited)

Trip: Mount Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys

Trip Date: 08/04/2019

Trip Report:

 

Kyle and I climbed Shuksan via the classic Fisher Chimneys route + SE rib on Sunday. A memorable climb: we had an open bivy on the little ridgetop in great weather, the glaciers and snow were in good shape for casual travel, we added two people to our party at the summit, we added two more on the descent at Winnie's Slide, we came across an accident in the chimneys and watched all the helicopter action, we swam in Lake Ann, and finished the day off with Chair 9 pizza and beer.

 

I was able to secure the last permit (or so they said) for us at 8:30 AM on Friday morning in Glacier and we slept at the trailhead that night. We got a leisurely start on the day Saturday and made it up to the bivy spot in good time to claim the high spot with amazing views of Baker, American Border peak, Slesse, and friends.

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Views from the trail from Lake Ann of the Lower and Upper Curtis Glacier, Hell's Highway leading up to the Sulphide in the center-left of the photo 

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In the chimneys

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Sick bivy view of Koma Kulshan

Kyle presented me with a surprise tallboy of imperial IPA as my reward for getting the permit. We did a couple rounds of z-pulleys and then added a c to it to make a 6:1 system, which I'd never done (thanks, Kyle!). Wow, we really had tons of time to chill up there! I enjoyed it, listening/watching pieces of the Curtis fall off. As the afternoon progressed, the hordes started showing up (a total of 11 climbers ended up in the vicinity) and two of them were people Kyle knew, and one of them I had run into at the Burgundy Col in June! 

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Z-pulleying at the bivy, Upper Curtis Glacier behind

The breeze was just right for an exposed face cowboy camping and the stars were fantastic. We got up at 4 AM, I even got to drink a cup of coffee, and we started onto the Upper Curtis around 4:45 with no other climbers yet stirring. We roped up above the steeper slope, and made our way up Hell's Highway and onto the Sulphide with the sunrise. So great, very type 1 fun! We got onto the SE rib and scrambled up with just a few moves of low 5th class. Kyle topped out the summit with a heel-hook, and it was at that moment that I hit something on my phone to make it sepia-toned??

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Mandatory heel-hook move onto the summit

On the summit, we met two climbers who had come up from the Price Glacier (O.o their account sounded as ultra-spicy/sporty as everything else I'd read/heard and only added to my desire to never go up that way) and after Kyle impressed them with his peak identification, they got our phone numbers and they asked to hop on our rappels (they only had a 30m rope). Lots of other climbers were on the summit, but we were the only ones in the gully on the descent, thankfully. Kyle opted to downclimb everything which looked fine, the other guys and I rappelled with no incident. 

Made our way as now a party of 4 down Hell's Highway, back up and around and step over a crevasse or two, down the steeper section, packed up our stuff (I changed into approach shoes and shorts), and at the top of Winnie's Slide, ran into Kyle's friends we'd camped with the night before, rappelling. We rappelled too, and we made our way down the chimneys....

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Making our way back across the Upper Curtis (photo by Kyle)

We came across a party rappelling down one of the gullies and saw they'd forgotten a backpack -- we communicated with them and Kyle rappelled with their backpack on their line. Then we found out that one of their party members had slipped and rag-dolled down the gulley approximately 200 feet, had some head lacerations, and that a helicopter was on the way (an InReach SOS was activated, and then a 911 phone call went through). They had been able to move the patient out to a grassy knoll away from the cliffs/rock. Our Price Glacier summit friends were both ER nurses and I think their conversations were useful to the rest of the party. The party reported the patient to be conscious and verbally responsive, PERRL, and not showing signs of decompensation/ICP/other scary head trauma signs. The six of us took some of the party's gear to drop at their car at the trailhead, and continued down, periodically stopping to watch the helicopter action. I had never seen a helicopter rescue so close up and the precision and skill involved to drop the medics so gently was impressive.

We continued on our way, it was hot AF, and we stopped for a good swim in Lake Ann. We continued on our way up seemingly endless sunny switchbacks, trying to be fast to ensure we got the climbers' stuff to them before they left the trailhead. At the parking lot, we heard that the patient seemed to only have the head lacerations and not any skull/brain damage... we were so relieved. It was a really good reminder that even "easy" class 3 terrain can have dire consequences. This person could have easily died from this fall. It also put lesser injuries into perspective: what is a broken leg, compared to a head injury? Scary stuff, good reminders to always have in mind.

We had a mini-smorgasbord with car-warmed bubbly water, we took our Price Glacier summit friends and their bike back to their car, and we all met up at Chair 9 for a good final chat and dinner.

Gear Notes:
We each brought a picket and two screws; did not use any of it. Brought and used a 60m half/twin rope + crevasse gear for the glaciers. Light axes. Steel crampons. I carried my light mountaineering boots to the bivy, as my crampons wouldn't work on my approach shoes -- I was unsure about the carrying an extra set of shoes, but in the end I was happy with that decision.

Approach Notes:
Follow the trail and scrubbed rock.

Edited by Alisse
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A classic, well done!

And, given the near misses on the Price in the last few decades, I'm surprised that there hasn't been a horrific accident.  At least I don't recall one?  It is a gamble, pure and simple.

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Classic route indeed!

That was one of my earliest alpine routes; it was memorable for two reasons:  (1) we came across a bear halfway up the chimneys who took one look at us and vanished uphill at blinding speed, and (2) we bivied below the chimneys and in the morning my partners' alarm failed to go off, meaning that we got a late start, and they both had to catch a 5 am flight the next morning to Boston for a meeting , so it made for an exceedingly long day.  I'm pretty sure they were completely worthless at that meeting.

Jealous of you for getting into the alpine, I could only find cragging partners this weekend and the heat in Leavenworth was enervating.  We didn't get much done.

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