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Matt Kidd

[TR] Mt. Shuksan - Northwest Arete 09/26-28/2009

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Trip: Mt. Shuksan - Northwest Arete


Date: 09/26/2009


Trip Report:

My partner Nick and I had met in Squamish while bouldering, and had planned to get into the mountains before the summer was out. With the season winding down and an amazing weekend forecast it worked out that we both had time to take advantage. I had wanted to get onto Shuksan for a while, and was attracted to the variety and situation offered by the Northwest Arete. Nick was into it, so down we drove on Friday night.


The plan was to approach and climb the arete on Saturday, and complete the ice, summit, descend the Chimneys, and head back to the cars Sunday night. Neither of us had been on Shuksan before so we gave ourselves an extra day for route finding and late season conditions, which turned out to be a good idea.


Saturday went smoothly, we left the car at about 6:45 and headed down the forest service road which is also the approach for the North Face, and was also quite overgrown with alder. When it was convenient we dropped off toward valley bottom and followed game trails and older growth to the creek. The crossing was easy on logs. There was a roughly flagged route up to the ridge crest which we sometimes followed, but mostly we just stayed in the trees. The only important beta is to avoid walking too far up the drainage before heading for the ridge crest as it gets steep if you go too far. Once on the ridge crest stay there. The temptation is to contour but it is easier to stay high. The approach took us about 3.75hrs, right on according to the book and we weren't setting any land speed records.


The route crosses mellow snow/ice to an indistinct arete which becomes more obvious the higher you climb. The lower arete is mostly 4th class with some low 5th on pretty good rock, and as you climb higher the exposure increases and rock quality decreases. We only took out the rope for two pitches, and they were quite loose. One was at the elevation of the terminal serac of the Hanging Glacier, was loose, run out and required a bit of gardening. Maybe 5.6/7? There were other possible chimneys, this one was the second closest to the ridge crest. The ridgecrest chimney looked really loose/nasty.


After the pitch there was some scree walking and some fun low fifth to a beautifully clean biv site where I believe most usually drop down onto the glacier. We took advantage and enjoyed the sunset/sunrise views of Baker.


Sunday morning we dropped down to scout access to the Hanging Glacier. It was pretty broken up so we opted to climb higher on the arete. There was a loose gulley followed by a short pitch (the second one we roped for, again 5.6/7?) that we only roped due to rock quality. We ended up climbing out the entire arete and rapped down into a col with a walk on approach to the Hanging Glacier.


The route then has two pitches of AI2+, Nick's first alpine ice. It was fun, but quite broken up at the top and required a fair amount of time to negotiate. Definately late season conditions, as was the traverse to the south side. Lots of end running/routefinding.


Once on the south side it was getting on, and neither of us had done the Fischer Chimneys, so we decided to forego the summit and head down. Hell's Highway was quite broken and melted out, and we decided to rap it (1 rap on a picket, 3 on v-threads). It was getting on by then, and we were thinking about bivy sites. We spotted a tent on the Upper Curtis, and headed up to say hi. Nice couple guys from Colorado, one formerly from Squamish. They suggested heading to the rock between the Upper Curtis and Winnie's Slide for the nice spots and running water. It was great advise (thanks guys). Windy night under the tarp, and an uneventful descent down the Chimneys and back to the road around 11:30 I think, and a great Forest Service guy gave us a lift down to the picnic area on his tractor (thanks a lot!!). A nice lady from Bellingham gave us a lift to the beginning of our forest service road (thanks a lot!!) And then 2.5kms later we reached our car.


Oh yeah, if you're headed up the Chimneys it is a good idea to bring at least a couple ice screws.


Gear Notes:

Nuts and cams #.5 to 2., a couple pins which I didn't place (but could have). Brought 7 ice screws but less would do if your party is comfortable on ice. 2 tools, I think one would be fine in earlier season depending on comfort level. 2 pickets.


Approach Notes:

Take the ridge approach in late season. According to some Japanese climbers the White Salmon Creek approach was a nightmare.

Edited by Matt Kidd

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Route takes rib to left of the Hanging Glacier



Upper 2/3 of arete



Mid Arete



Terminal Seracs of Hanging Glacier



Sunrise on Baker



Rapping to Col



End of Arete, Beginning of ice



Hell's Highway

Edited by Matt Kidd

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The anchor in the pic is a v-thread. The top was a picket rap because I hate bollards. The whole route was pretty much ice, but I'm sure there's a good 6-8 inches of snow now at least if the Baker seracs are any indication.


Seemed like this route had a bit of a reputation for being dangerous after the '91 accident, but I think it is not exceptionally so for an alpine route. There is for sure loose rock, and entry to the Hanging Glacier could be interesting, but a bit of care keeps it all reasonable. I would encourage people to get on it!! Will post more pics of the arete if Nick has some good ones.


Edited by Matt Kidd

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