Mount Shuksan, Elevation 9,127ft
December, 30 2000 - January, 1 2001
Ben, Troy, Josh, Jason
Summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Our ascent is in green and our ski descent is in red.
It was a few days before new years and we were trying to figure out a mountain to climb. The Hummels and I came close to climbing Shuksan a few weeks earlier. We camped near the base of the Sulfide Glacier and had two days of excellent powder skiing from a peak just shy of the summit. The road was open then and it hadn't snowed much since so we assumed that we could make it to the trailhead.
I figured we should give it a shot. Convincing Troy to go was fairly easy. I just showed him the photos from a few weeks back. Convincing the Hummels wasn't quite as easy. They had a friend visiting from back east (John) and they were staying at their dad's house in Morton. It was raining there when I called and they were 4 hours drive from the trailhead. Nevertheless, I convinced them to meet us that afternoon. They decided to bring John along even though he didn't have any skis. They scrounged together some gear for John, including an old pair of snowshoes from their dad's basement, and crammed into their Jeep for the long drive north.
Our plan was to camp at the trailhead the first night and climb to basecamp (the saddle) the following day. We hoped to summit and return home the third day -- new years.
Troy and I met the Hummels and John at a gas station around 2pm. The trailhead was up another 30 miles of backroads. Troy drove Josh and I in his F250 Diesel 4x4 and Jason drove John in his Sport Truck 2x4. We hit snow about 5 miles before the trailhead. Troy continued up in four-wheel drive and Jason managed to skid up another mile before having to put on chains. There were a few cars parked where the snow began but we felt that it was necessary to drive all the way to the trailhead. The Ford trudged its way up through the foot or so of heavy wet snow and the Jeep bounced behind in the tracks. We eventually came to a stop 1 mile short of the trailhead. Troy was in no mood try and go further so we called it quits. We backed down our tracks for about 0.5 miles where we managed to turn around. We parked along side of the road and gathered some wood. It was getting dark by then but the fire kept us entertained until 9 or 10pm.
Clouds moved in overnight and it started to rain by the time we reached the trailhead. I ended up taking off most of my clothes because I didn't want to get everything wet and have it freeze later on. We passed a group of three skiers and continued until we reached Shannon Ridge. I stopped there while the others caught up. The rain had changed to snow and I put the rest of my clothes on.
Josh and Troy on Shannon Ridge.
We reached the saddle after another hour of skinning. I wanted to camp higher where the Hummels and I stayed a few weeks earlier but the others convinced me to camp there. Besides, the weather wasn't too inviting -- high winds and poor visibility. We found an excellent camp a few hundred feet south of the saddle. Several hours of digging and our fortress began to take shape. We made a few finishing touches and began to unpack.
A little extra weight made for a luxurious evening. Troy brought a dozen hotdogs, two bags of buns and a bottle of ketchup. Josh brought a minidisk and speakers (he forgot to make sure the batteries were charged so we ended up using our transceiver batteries). I brought a gas lantern so we could see while we ate and listened to music. We each had numerous pops.
Our new years fortress. Notice the kitchen table and seating.
Josh was getting restless so he decided to go for a night ski. The rest of us thought he was crazy as he hiked up the ridge behind our camp until we could no longer see him. He came busting down several minutes later and convinced the rest of us to join him for anther run. John agreed to carry the lantern up so we could see better. I skied down with my headlamp and found it to be quite entertaining. We all took another run before heading back to camp.
At 10pm we decided to go to bed and wake up in a couple hours to ring in the new year. Josh set his alarm for 11:30pm. I woke up a short while later and checked my watch to find that new years had already past. It was 2am but I didn't seem to care. I went back to bed.
My alarm went off at 5am. It was still dark out so I started the lantern. I ate breakfast and packed hoping that the others would wake up to the sounds. I ended up doing my usual nagging. We left camp shortly after 6am.
The sky was clear and we could see everything that was hidden the previous year (the day before). I was surprised to see how much snow had fallen since our last visit. Most of the rocks were covered which made for an easy skin along the ridge. We ended up hiking most of the way to the base of the Sulfide Glacier because there were boot tracks to follow. John ended up carrying his snowshoes.
Troy making use of the boot tracks. Our camp is on the ridge directly above him.
It wasn't long before the sun had risen and began to warm things up. The light was incredible.
We passed a tent near the base of the Sulfide. It was the three skiers that we saw the day before. I remembered them passing our camp on their way up. It looked like they had a rough night based on the location of their tent. We tried to pass without waking them up -- we wanted first tracks.
Troy and Jason continue up the base of the Sulfide.
The boot tracks came to an end as they veered from our destination. It looked like the folks who tried to climb Shuksan the day before had turned around. Good thing because their tracks were heading straight towards a crevasse field. The visibility must have been pretty bad.
We put on our skins and headed up the west side of the Sulfide. There were a few crevasses but they were easily avoided.
Back on track.
Aiming for the pyramid.
Avoiding the crevasses.