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PowderHounder

[TR] Mt Shuksan - Fisher Chimney 8/13/2011

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Trip: Mt Shuksan - Fisher Chimney

 

Date: 8/13/2011

 

Trip Report:

https://picasaweb.google.com/anthonyw.clark/Shuksan?authuser=0&feat=directlink

 

After some issues tracking down a part for our stove, the four of us (Mt Shuksan Virgins) got off to a much later than expected start leaving Seattle. We got to the Lake Anne trailhead around midnight and opted to head out, with the intention of making it through the Fisher Chimney before the sun came up. (with help from a very bright full moon)

 

This plan quickly turned south as we weren’t able to immediately find the trailhead (the road to the trailhead is still closed due to snow cover a mile or so down road). In our search we ended up following a set of reflectors along a ridgeline for a good hour and a half until we realized we were not going to be descending into the valley anytime soon. The beginning of the actual trailhead is still covered in snow, with the sun melting off the top layer of snow daily there is no boot pack to follow per se, so if you’re planning on heading out in the next few weeks, DON’T follow the trail of reflectors.

 

Just as the sun was breaking through (around 5am by now) we came across a decent looking flat spot probably 700 vertical feet below Lake Anne. We decided to set up a small camp and rest for a little bit (so much for getting through the chimneys by daybreak!) dug out a small bivy site, made some water and slept for about 2 hours.

The hike to the base of the chimneys was pretty uneventful (except for running into a man that was attempting to bike from Bellingham to the base of Shuksan, summit Shuksan via the chimney, summit Baker, and bike back to Bellingham in 33 hours).

 

The first moat we encountered was quite sketchy. We were able to kick step into the side of the moat and eventually hit a point where we could extend a foot out onto the rocks, and push off the moat to safety, although I could see things melting off just enough to make this impossible within a couple weeks.

We made pretty quick work out of the first portion of the Chimneys until things started to get exposed. This was just after a second moat which was equally, if not more sketchy than the first. I won’t get into the details of how we crossed it, but be prepared if panning this route. From here forward the Chimneys were slow going. Although they aren't technically difficult (5.6, maybe an occasional 5.7 pitch at most) it is incredibly exposed. We opted to forgo some of our speed and set up belays for a few of the very exposed pitches. This conservative approach ended up biting us in the ass timewise, but seemed like the smart thing to do all being first timers on the route.

 

The ropework combined with arduous route finding through the chimney made ended up delaying us quite a bit (a common theme so far this trip). It took us about 5 hours total to get through the chimney. We all agreed that a subsequent trip, now that we know the route, should be doable in 2-3 hours.

We set up a camp at the bivy site at the base of Winneys slide. Set the Alarm for midnight, and hit the sack. The next days summit push was pretty uneventful. Both the slide and Hells Highway were in great shape, firm snow, no ice. We ended up setting a running belay on both of these. We were at the base of the summit pyramid just before 5 am and looked back to see Baker engulfed in a layer of black storm clouds that were heading our way. There was another layer of clouds much lower that was looking pretty nasty. We huddled up and made a very tough call to turn back. We made this decision both because of concern about getting caught on the pyramid in a nasty storm, as well as concern about getting down the chimney if it was indeed caught in a rain storm, as it looked like was the case from up above. This was such a tough call, but at the end of the day the mountain is not going anywhere. After a couple hours of descending it looked like the storm had stabilized over Baker, leaving Shuksan untouched. This stung a little bit, but I feel like it is best to not second guess these decisions once they are made.

 

The descent was relatively uneventful. The Chimney was damp, and misty, but we avoided the rain that we were fearful of. If you keep an eye out and stick to the worn trail there are quite a few rap stations. We ended up rapping three pitches and were down within an easy 2 hours.

 

All in all, a great trip, bagging the summit would have been great but we had a blast either way. For those of you looking to attempt this for the first time, Buckley’s description of the route is spot on, as are the many trip reports out there. The one thing I would add would be just how exposed the Chimney is in places, although the rock is not technically difficult, be prepared to climb 5.6’s with loose rock and a thousand foot sheer drop below you.

 

Gear used: Three pickets for running belays, four sections of webbing for devising anchors and protection through the chimneys

 

Edited by PowderHounder

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we had the exact same plan but ended up bailing, very regretfully, after seeing sundays forecast. couldn't justify the drive from portland--sunday was showing high chances of suck. figured best to wait for a weekend of sun.... and yes we 2nd guessed it all weekend under the sun in the wallowas.

 

thanks for the updated condition report and details about the crux (chimneys). Bummer about the turn back but sounds like the wise choice even if shuks didnt get bombed.

 

cheers

 

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Thanks for the report. The only thing I'd offer is a different perspective on the actual chimney pitches themselves.

 

I found them to be very reasonable and comfortable to solo up and down, in boots -- so based on my experience and calibration of climbing grades, that would make them more like 4th class than 5.6, honestly. I am not a bold or particularly strong climber, relatively speaking.

 

I am not saying that they're not steep and exposed, or appropriate to rope up on if needed -- just striving for a more precise description in the interest of sharing accurate info. I'd hate to see people bring lots of gear to protect 5.6/5.7 climbing for what is usually perceived as 4th class (or 3rd class in some descriptions).

 

Thanks again for a report from a great part of the range.

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Great point goatboy. Agree 100%. I didn't mean to come off that the chimney was primarily 5.6/5.7. Def primarily 3rd and 4th class. I would estimate a coupe short pitches pushing 5.6, and maybe a 5.7, although not the norm at all, and I wouldn't pin myself as an expert either in climbing grades. Just to be clear for those doing recon on the route, I think rock gear is unnecessary, we were able to use webbing and runners around rocks, roots, and trees when necessary. Just be prepared for plenty of exposure.

 

Thanks for the clarification.

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Nice effort guys!

 

I second what GB said though. FC is class 3-4 with the obvious rap slings in both left and right variations. It sounds like you guys were off route if you went up 5.6/5.7?

We descended FC 2 weeks ago when the route was partially snow covered and the rock was wet but with a good tool it went pretty smoothly.

 

I would however add that the second moat on the deproach to lake Ann was less straightforward and required rapping down in the moat in crampons and then getting up and over steep snice sections to get to the snow covered boulder field above.

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Hey PowderHound. Thanks for recalling that you saw us on Shuksan, and thanks for commenting on my trip report. I guess we saw you twice, once at Lake Ann and next on Winny's Slide on our way down from the Summit. You guys looked quite relaxed there sunning on the rocks, and while that seemed like a great idea we did have a lot of work ahead of us heading to Baker so not much time to chat. That was smart for you to abort your summit bid. Yes, Baker was ensconced in fog, but at 5am (the same time you were at the pyramid), we were half way up the Park glacier and committed to summiting Baker and above the clouds it cleared up nicely between 6 and 7 AM but the 8 AM summit was fogged in as can be seen in my photo. Anyway, it was nice to see that your party was having a good time, and it's nice to know that someone saw us on that leg of tour journey. Give Shuksan another try. You'll find the pyramid will present similar challenges to what you found in the Chimneys. It took us the same time for both, so it will for you also, probably so plan your time accordinging. So good job and think of it as a recon, providing info for the future.

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