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tvashtarkatena

[TR] Shuksan - NF up, skied White Salmon down 5/12/2007

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Trip: Shuksan - NF up, skied White Salmon down

 

Date: 5/12/2007

 

Trip Report:

It seems that Western Washingon finally, if temporarily, resolved its weather management issues this week. To avoid a sense of self-loathing, James (jhamaker) and I headed north to attempt the North Face of Shuksan. Our plan was to tely ski down to avoid the slogging celebrated in so many previous TRs.

 

 

The route

 

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The approach went quickly; a short stroll up to the lodge, flat ski to the end of the cat track, then a traverse to the valley with three straightforward gully crossings.

 

The valley itself is a phantasmagoria of avalanche debris; one of the largest avi fans I’ve ever seen.

 

 

Crossing Avalanche Alley

 

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Hangin’ Judge’s Glacier

 

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No Hanging Around Glacier closeup

 

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Rather than carry over, we chose to camp atop a safe knoll lower down and get up earlier the following morning. At 3:30 the following morning, we were trudging our way up to the col below the North Face. Snow conditions were horrible: breakable crust, but too icy to ski (ski crampons would have been useful here). At times, James was able to rice paper over the crust while my more corn fed frame punched clean through up to the middle of my shins. Right in the middle of a snowmobiling fantasy, I heard a snap, looked down, and noticed that my 3 section ski pole had suddenly developed a 4th section. So much for carbon fiber. My sleeping bag began to beckon me like a warm, stinky siren.

 

"Duct tape to the rescue!" James called out. He came equipped with a ski pole splint and enough duct tape to build reasonably waterproof mummy. There are definite advantages to climbing with a millwright.

 

Things quickly turned in our favor. The North Face was in perfect, firm condition. Weather was astounding. After an initial test belay, we stowed the rope and climbed. And climbed. And climbed.

 

 

It feels so good when it stops. On the North Face, Price Lake below

 

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James practices his dance moves midway up

 

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Sponsored by Value Village. Nearing the top of the North Face

 

 

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The telecrawling stage

 

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After a quick traverse of the upper Hanging Glacier, we stopped to splint my ski pole and power nap in the warm sunshine. James scooped a handful of the Crystal Glacier. Perfect corn. A fast downward traverse and short ascent brought us to the Sulfide Glacier and the base of the summit pyramid. From there we kicked buckets up to the summit.

 

Dressed for success

 

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Can we ski now?

 

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One can ski from the base of the summit pyramid all the way down the mountain; a run of well over 5000 vertical feet with only one short ascending traverse to break up the fun. We tore down the Sulfide, through the Hourglass, or Hell’s Highway, or whatever it’s being called this week, and onto the Upper Curtis Glacier. From there we skinned up a rising traverse to the Pyramid and its attending ridge, then down the ridge to the notch.

 

Man in Tights. Traversing the Upper Curtis Glacier

 

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Where’s that notch? Upper Curtis Glacier

 

 

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The mean side of the summit pyramid

 

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Once through the notch, we couldn’t see over the rollover, so we downclimbed. It turned out to be perfectly skiable.

 

This sucks: a vertical mile of perfect corn. White Salmon Glacier

 

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Carving some White Salmon

 

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Miraculously, perfect corn persisted all the way down, regardless of aspect, until about 500 feet from the valley bottom. At that point, the glop took over. James kicked down a good size wet slide, which we had to wait for like a slow moving freight train before crossing the final slope. After that it was just a matter of chattering across the avi debris filled valley back to camp.

 

 

Pardon my avalanche

 

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James had dinner duty, so I crawled into my bag. He apparently asked me a question, and got nothing but a snore in reply.

 

The weather moved in that evening. By morning, it was raining.

 

Leaving camp in the poo

 

498186581_49f63c1128.jpg

 

Our skins would not adhere the following morning. Duct tape the rescue! James seemed to have an unlimited supply of the stuff.

 

Avi conditions on the way back had become extreme; we heard three slides kick off; and I dodged one baby slide just before the first gully crossing. Wet snow slides sound exactly like a waterfall, or someone skiing, both of which were happening at the time. Some incredibly minor change in volume must have tipped me off and caused me to look up and spot the avalanche as it came pouring down. I skied out of the way, promptly fell, bounced back up like a punching bag, and watched a few death donuts roll past.

 

I’d say hauling skis up the North Face, while seemingly cumbersome at first, is a far better option than carrying over. Skis make the approach trivial this time of year. They never really got in our way while climbing the North Face, which was mostly 40 to 50 degree firm neve for us. Circumnavigating the mountain and traversing five of its glaciers is much easier and far more enjoyable on skis. And the downhill run (if in shape, of course) has got to be one of the longest and most scenic in North America.

 

After a great meal at Milano’s in Glacier (highly recommended), James took over the driving while I did what I do best these days; I passed out.

 

I awoke just as we were passing the Tulalip Casino.

 

James turned to me. "You know, you don’t snore when you’re sitting up."

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Ascent: lead climber had 1 Quark and 1 toy axe, 2nd had one light axe and a ski pole with an arrest grip. Crampons, one 30m rope, 2 pre-slung pickets. Not used: 1 screw, 3 small nuts, 2 long slings. Belayed one pitch at bottom.

 

Descent: Tely skis w/ skins. Ski crampons advisable.

 

Approach Notes:

Straightforward on skis. Lower lodge, following cat track to end, traverse and cross three gullies to valley.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Hanging Glacier: Moderately active (chunks falling every few hours), large debris field at the base of it.

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Great work guys,

jhamaker is one of the most unpretensious and gifted mountain atheletes I've had the pleasure of sharing a rope with.

Edited by BigWave

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I wouldn't climb internationally with him. I suspect he's got a nuclear power source tucked away somewhere, and customs would be a bitch.

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Very nice TR. The photo annotations are especially useful, like the route, the upper Curtis notch you need to hit, etc. I wish more folks did this with their photos.

 

Thanks!

johngo

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