Mount Shuksan, Elevation 9,127ft
Ben, Troy, Josh, Jason
West Face of Mount Shuksan. Our route follows the Shuksan Arm to camp (blue dot). We then drop several thousand vertical before climbing the West Face. Ascent is in green and ski descent is in red. The Sulfide Glacier approach is in yellow. The arrow points towards Lake Ann.
Several failed attempts led us to believe that it would take a minimum of three days to climb the West Face of Shuksan from the Mount Baker ski resort. Memorial Day weekend provided us with the opportunity that we had been waiting for. This was the biggest snow year on record and we wanted to take advantage of what was left. The Hummels and I had made several one and two-day trips to this area throughout the winter so we had some idea of what to expect -- huge terrain, beautiful scenery and no people.
Three-day weekends are notorious for having bad weather. Weathermen often trick us into thinking otherwise and this time we took their bait.
The lifts were closed although there was still plenty of snow to ski. It's nice being able to skin up the slopes without having to listen to all the wise cracks from the people riding them. We topped out at the highest lift in less than an hour and began making our way up the Shuksan Arm. We rounded Rumble Gully (the scene of several avalanche fatalities that year) and continued up the arm. Troy was pretty stoked by this point and views kept getting better. We stopped to absorb the sun and views that surrounded us.
Troy absorbs his surroundings.
Once we got on the arm it wasn't too long before we were skiing our way down to Lake Ann. You don't really notice how much time has passed because you're caught up in the surroundings. We probably spent an hour climbing and skiing a series of ups and downs before we were finally able to drop south off the arm and traverse to the lake.
We found an excellent camp just north of the lake. The Hummels set up their tent as we settled in. A fridge was dug to store our meat and dairy products. When the approach is only a few hours we end up carrying a lot of luxuries. Josh managed to carry two liters of Sprite but that didn't last very long. Our camp was fit for a king.
Troy and I posing in front of theHummel's tent.
Photographer: Jason Hummel
There was plenty of daylight left so we decided to explore. Troy and the Hummels skied down towards Lake Ann while I packed my camera. Just as I was about to catch up with them, beauty struck. It turned out to be one of the best photos that I've ever taken. Everything seemed to combine into the perfect setting. I felt fortunate to be a witness.
Beauty strikes. Troy and theHummels waiting above Lake Ann.
We skied down to the saddle and skinned up the opposite face. The wet snow made for easy avalanches. They were slow enough to outrun but it was best to avoid them altogether. We cut the slope and skied safely down their paths.
The clouds had thickened considerably so I decided to go back to camp and cover my gear. Jason joined me while Troy and Josh skinned back up for another run. They wore shorts and t-shirts and were willing to get wet as long as I took care of their gear. It was snowing by the time I got back to camp. I set up my bivy sack and threw the rest of my gear in the tent. I was a little concerned about Troy and Josh but I knew they were having fun. By the time they got back to camp the snow had stopped and it was beginning to clear.
I had never seen anything like it. The weather was playing games with us. We eventually won and it cleared up entirely.
Jason keeping an eye on the fridge.
After dinner Jason decided to try a few backflips. I agreed to take photos. Troy and Josh had gone to bed because we were planning to get an early start. The kicker we had in mind was a few minutes from camp. They are standing on it in the 'Beauty strikes' photo seen above.
Jason's first flip didn't go so well. He didn't quite make it around and ended up doing a face plant in the corn. He hiked back up for another try, "more speed" he said. I told him to hurry because the sun was getting low. I tried a different angle to get more light. Jason let loose but missed it again. One of his skis might have made it but the other one didn't.
Josh must have heard our screams because he woke up and skied down to show his brother how it's done. He nailed it his first try and this made Jason want to try again. Third time was a charm for Jason so they both were happy. Josh's second try didn't go as well and he ended up with a ski tip in his neck. The sun had gone down so they decided to call it quits.
Jason about to face plant on his second backflip.
We were in bed by nine but that wasn't early enough. We had a long day ahead of us.