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best of cc.com [TR] Shuksan - Price Glacier via NE Chute+NE Rib linkup 8/3/2011

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Trip: Shuksan - Price Glacier via NE Chute+NE Rib linkup

 

Date: 8/3/2011

 

Trip Report:

Zloi54 and I climbed one of the 50 classics of NA list – the scary Price glacier on Shuksan - over 08/01 – 08/04/11. After my arrival from PDX on Sat 07/30, we arranged for a car shuttle between Nooksack Cirque TH and Bagley lakes picnic area. Hwy 542 was then blocked by snow and gated to Austin Pass, but is reopened now.

 

A 30% chance of showers predicted for our Sunday’s approach turned out to be 100% full on rain and meant open biving in the ditch for two nights at Nooksack cirque TH while waiting for the weather to clear.

 

Day 1. Approach to the Nooksack Tower.

 

Nooksack Cirque TH (2200’):

6013406855_059145f656_z.jpg

 

Two whitewater crossings of Ruth Creek right off the TH are currently in the brand new “fir tree” state:

6013957192_94260015f3_z.jpg

 

 

After about 3 miles on the Nooksack Cirque trail, we took the climbers trail down (just past Wilderness boundary sign) to the Nooksack river. Getting to the old log crossing along the riverbank sucked - due to high water level this year I guess, but traversing 20’ above it made the trick.

 

 

Nooksack River crossing (another classic by itself) is still solid and welcomes visitors:

6013976768_95cb700458_b.jpg

 

 

Sticking with the faint trail in the alder (about 50 m to the left of Price Creek) on the other side of Nooksack river was not that bad and brought us to the open moraine above Price lake.

 

Price Lake down below:

6013988562_3141ef2e7d_z.jpg

 

 

North side of Shukshistani represents:

6013993628_833318952e_b.jpg

 

 

“Open moraine” quickly turned into snow moraine as we continued towards the glacier:

6013991208_5819268107_z.jpg

 

 

Some beta advised NOT to head up to Price gl before the cirque seriously cliffs out. Probably being retarded, this is what we ended up doing: we headed up way early through the steep moat-mined snow, and then climbed nearly vertical muddy rock with tools and hauling packs. Getting to Price glacier somehow came at high price of wasted energy and time.

 

The cirque below from the approach:

6013452519_9608b6bb52_z.jpg

 

Approaching Nooksack Tower on Price gl:

6014002952_1a47c49f7b_z.jpg

 

 

 

Getting to the Nooksack Tower bivy sites took some imagination for crossing the crevasses below.

The approximate line, looks easier than it was in reality:

6023548215_67ecf733f6_b.jpg

 

 

Camping out by the Nooksack Tower (6600’):

6014043456_fcb400abac_z.jpg

 

Sunset and dreams about Canada:

6013489281_24714e2de5_z.jpg

 

 

 

 

Day 2. Upper Price glacier.

 

We started at the base of Nooksack tower at sunrise, sprinted through the sketchy ice chute being constantly fed by the material from the looming above ice cliff, and then squeezed through a couple of fragile chimneys before hitting safer ground somewhere in the middle of Price gl:

6014052448_13b532d3a5_z.jpg

 

At this point, routefinding choices had to be made and while trying to compromise between the contradictory beta “to stay on the left” vs “to stay on the right” of the gl, we went up in the center (red line):

6024190176_09d1448c3b_b.jpg

 

 

The ice was good, took screws well and we could not see any major obstructions ahead. Yet.

 

Z coming up first ice pitch:

6014054728_6becca1499_z.jpg

 

More ice above:

6014057092_d6fa123bd1_z.jpg

 

Z coming up on the traverse:

6013513985_8bdb819b68_z.jpg

 

 

I then led an 80 deg snow dome and hit a dead end in the maze of overhanging ice walls and our further progress had significantly slowed down. After trying a few options, we rapped down in the underground and begun traversing east (left) through the system of corridors and chimneys, most of which we soloed. The plan was to somehow get on the above snowfields to approach the rock band by the main shrund from the left where things were least broken up.

 

Rapping down off ice features:

6014073140_2e18427a38_z.jpg

 

 

In the crevasse chimneys:

6014085956_1b2cb0db73_z.jpg

 

 

Contemplating the overhangs:

6013540867_71289cbdf5_z.jpg

 

 

 

By 7 pm we run out of options and pitched in the tent in between the ice walls with the haunted Nooksack Tower watching us for the second night in a row. I am not sure how often people do that, well we had no other choice:

6013542971_fb34dfa1d2_b.jpg

 

Another sunset by Nooksack Tower:

6013547427_0000f4c8e9_b.jpg

 

 

Day 3. Upper Price gl., NE chute and NE Rib.

 

For the lack of options on the east side of Price gl, we retraced our steps through the chimneys in the seracs, downclimbed and rapped down to the point where we could get to its west (right) side framed by a vertical serac wall and steeper snice slopes.

 

Z heading up the right side of Price:

6013559395_c18e321df3_z.jpg

 

West side of Price:

6016318062_fb5f55c577_b.jpg

 

Finally we got to the main shrund on Price, passing through which would have taken multiple overhanging raps as was later confirmed from my vantage point in the NE chute.

 

The green line to the main shrund and traverse to the NE chute:

6024190176_09d1448c3b_b.jpg

 

We made a good call on the safest option of all: the NE chute with its scary entrance made of delicate soft ice flutings over 100 feet deep cracks and its monstrous ice roof right above our heads ready to collapse at any moment.

 

The entrance to the NE chute:

6024103374_e8ce59a539_b.jpg

 

Typical terrain:

6014125722_bef3908383_b.jpg

 

Z coming up on the traverse to the center of the NE chute:

6014134464_e2069179db_z.jpg

 

 

Z heading up the easy snow above the second shrund in the NE chute:

6013589405_06ea38f82e_z.jpg

 

 

Z climbing up to the NE shoulder to find a bypass to the Crystal glacier – a “no go” in the current conditions:

6013591503_7f40b142d9_z.jpg

 

 

After he downclimbed the snow, I traversed and went up the NE Rib made of good and bad rock.

 

Z traversing to the NE rib:

6014146998_4ea7e6d806_b.jpg

 

Amazing views of Price lake down below:

6014158648_01590f695c_z.jpg

 

 

Solid alpine rock above on P2 - highly recommended:

6013605337_e4cc112d60_z.jpg

 

 

Z starting up on the P3 of the NE rib finish:

6024103498_dc3db61556_b.jpg

 

After we had finally crawled across one of the endless knife edge snow ridges, we found no summit pyramid to our delight, but another corniced ridge which I think is a part of the Hanging glacier.

 

So, we camp again. By the Hanging glacier snow ridge this time. And we run out of food.

6023548387_74919d27be_b.jpg

 

 

 

Day 4. Summit Pyramid and Fisher Chimneys descent.

 

Next morning we climbed up and over the Hanging glacier cornice and thank god landed on the easy slopes of the North face top out. Just about time.

 

The Summit pyramid from the north is looking mighty:

6014174054_5862854402_z.jpg

 

While traversing across the Crystal gl and up the summit pyramid, we spotted the chopper making its way towards us. It turned out the authorities were concerned that we are 3 days overdue (including one extra day we bivied at the Nooksack cirque TH waiting on weather) but provided us with so needed food for our descent! What a treat! :tup:

6014180952_fa3e2b12e0_z.jpg

 

Baker from the summit pyramid:

6013635233_f6342df473_z.jpg

 

 

Hells highway was in the straightforward shape as was the lower crossing to Winnie’s slide.

 

We took the skiers right variation of the Fisher Chimneys. After two raps over snow covered rock, we downclimbed 50 deg snow with a tool (no crampons were needed), and then merged with the left FC variation and downclimbed the rest on more often than not dry rock all way down to the moat.

 

Traversing the snow covered boulder fields was OK, but getting through the moat on the last rap off the tree took more time than expected. There are a couple of options here: either shorter 10’ overhanging steps to get on the snow slope or a 20’ vertical section, both requiring crampons and a good tool.

 

The descent to lake Ann was under snow, and will probably be for another month. We took the shortcut through the snow-covered slopes rather than sticking to the trail in the trees.

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

5 screws, 3 pickets, rock pro to 1 inch, KBs could have been helpful, and were brought but not used because I am lazy.

 

Approach Notes:

Nooksack Cirque to Lake Ann carryover

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Wow! :shock:

 

That is one hell of a climb! I bailed on it a few years ago after watching an avalanche come down the central face. With it all melted out now, it looks like quite an adventure! Well done!

 

.

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It turned out the authorities were concerned that we are 3 days overdue (including one extra day we bivied at the Nooksack cirque TH waiting on weather) but provided us with so needed food for our descent! What a treat! :tup:

 

Treat? Sounds embarrassing to me.

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Sounds like an amazing adventure. It's unfortunate the park got a chopper to rescue you when you didn't need it. That illustrates why carrying a sat phone or other device might be useful - it could have saved others substantial time, money, and worrying.

 

Glad you came out in one piece.

 

That's a long time to be in the firing zone!

 

The green line to the main shrund and traverse to the NE chute:

6024190176_09d1448c3b_b.jpg

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It's possible to rent a sat phone pretty cheap these days - either online or at a place on Westlake in Seattle.

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I'm guessing a little $120 ham radio would do the trick too. They are "legal" to use without a license if your life is in danger (to stop the unneeded rescue). There are public and park service repeaters (like a cell tower, but for ham radios) up in that area and you can find those frequencies online.

 

These are just as powerful as the ones the rangers use, though obviously not as durable.

 

I have one of these, and it easily reaches 40 miles in the lowlands. (Gig Harbor to Tiger Mountain repeater).

 

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/9380

 

Up high like you were it would reach even further. They are cool little radios.

 

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If you are going to have epics, and for some reason write them up, be prepared for criticism. An new Iridium sat phone can be found for under a $1000.00. Sounds like a bargain, much cheaper than helicopters!

Glad you got out okay.

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So it would have been too hard to bail on the day you were supposed to be out? It seems odd to me to continue on when you know a rescue will be initiated, unless the way back is too hard/dangerous to reverse (or would take longer than going up). Maybe this is so, but it wasn't addressed in the narrative.

 

But . .. I admire the determination that you guys obviously displayed. Strong work!

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I would say, two very long days if you head up the NE chute and have a snow free deproach to the Austin Pass TH.

 

The upper east face variation of Price currently cliffs out at the shrund and did not look easily passable in any of the three usual spots.

 

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N, looks like you did all the leading. did your worthless partner share in any of the work or was it you dragging him up the mountain? tell me he at least melted snow, made dinner or pitched the tent, or something...

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In July 1999, Jim Nelson, Bob Davis and I were half a day overdue in the minds of two wives (mine and Bob's), but not per our registration in Marblemount. We were climbing the NE Rib of J'Berg and tried it as a day climb. It took us two days and we had no cell phone with which to call and let the wives know we'd be late. In the early evening of day two, a helicopter was dispatched and found us in the Cascade Pass parking lot changing our clothes and just about to crack a celebratory beer. Out hopped Kelly Bush. While everyone was glad we were safe and sound, I can say that it was an expensive and embarrassing experience on a number of levels. The word "treat" certainly does not come to mind. While the new digital cell phones seem worthless even compared to the old analog phones we used to carry, the satellite phone may well be a good idea for a committing route like the Price. Other than that, my advice would be to never cause loved ones and rangers to have to worry if you can avoid it by turning around. Sometimes being late cannot be helped -- we've all been there. But if you have the choice (and maybe in this case you did not for the reasons Jason mentioned), the responsible decision is to save the climb for another day. In any event, good work on the tough route.

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In July 1999, Jim Nelson, Bob Davis and I were half a day overdue in the minds of two wives (mine and Bob's), but not per our registration in Marblemount. We were climbing the NE Rib of J'Berg and tried it as a day climb. It took us two days and we had no cell phone with which to call and let the wives know we'd be late. In the early evening of day two, a helicopter was dispatched and found us in the Cascade Pass parking lot changing our clothes and just about to crack a celebratory beer. Out hopped Kelly Bush. While everyone was glad we were safe and sound, I can say that it was an expensive and embarrassing experience on a number of levels. The word "treat" certainly does not come to mind. While the new digital cell phones seem worthless even compared to the old analog phones we used to carry, the satellite phone may well be a good idea for a committing route like the Price. Other than that, my advice would be to never cause loved ones and rangers to have to worry if you can avoid it by turning around. Sometimes being late cannot be helped -- we've all been there. But if you have the choice (and maybe in this case you did not for the reasons Jason mentioned), the responsible decision is to save the climb for another day. In any event, good work on the tough route.

 

Last weekend I filled out a volunteer climber's registration in Sedro Woolley outside, prior to the office being open. Upon my return to sign out, it was missing. The rangers had no idea what had happened to it. I asked them to look for it and sign me out. 2 days later I got a call that it had turned up in Marblemount(???!!!). I'm glad they did not send a helicopter out....

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One of the things Kelly has said is that when you do the volunteer climber's registration MAKE SURE YOU SIGN OUT! They track down every single one of those cases.

 

On mountain trips, which have sadly been less frequent since kids, I tell my spouse not to call for help until at least noon on the day AFTER we say we'll get out. That way we can bivy if needed and come out the next morning without worrying about someone calling in a rescue.

 

SPOT and other systems provide a cheaper alternative to buying a sat phone. There are pros and cons each way. Climber 9-1-1 But I think people are starting to appreciate that these devices are not just used to bail you out of trouble. They can save a lot of headaches, allow you to reschedule a Ross Lake pickup (as a party did we met on the summit of Challenger), or allow you to wish your spouse a happy anniversary when you're on a climbing trip, which I did last time out. Gotta keep the boss happy. :kisss:

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So, I am wondering why, if an itinerary is left with a responsible party and said party is clearly instructed to NOT call in for help until a set time, would anyone do the volunteer registering?

I personally leave my plans with my wife and my mom with clear instructions about when and if to call out for help. I do not register (even on hikes at the trailhead). I have been late and I have been very late, with no incident.

My idea of climbing and adventure is one of self reliance and a trust that between you and your partner/s no matter what happens: accident, forced bivy etc. that it is your parties responsibility and only your parties responsibiliy to get in, out and or initiate a rescue if need be, not to burden others unnecessarily.

I am sure one can make a case against this ideal on many points but it just seems like the volunteer register thing is an easy way to cause unnecessary expense and trouble for people, who should be ultimately responsible for themselves and not chaporoned by the park service or mountain rescue or whomever. I mean we are all adults aren't we, who are putting ourselves in these situations on our own volition?

 

Burly work Mito! Intense!

 

 

Edited by Tyson.g

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Yes, I'm all for self-reliance. In NOCA, registration for climbing is voluntary. Take it or leave it. Registration for overnight/camping permits is mandatory. The thing is, by registering for the latter you often give them a date when you're coming out, which can also trigger searches if you're overdue.

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True enough Rad. I personally choose not to camp anywhere permits are necessary. True I will miss out on some classic spots nut there are plenty of places I can practice my preferred non regulated style. :)

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The word "treat" certainly does not come to mind.

 

:tup: Seriously, in the above TR, where's the "I'm so grateful for the park service's helpful attention, and humbled to see the effect of my choices reverberate through the community. I owe you one!"

 

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