April 20-21, 2002
Josh, Jason, Ben
Author: Josh Hummel
Mount Shuksan from near the base of the Shuksan Arm.
What? Do the west face of Shuksan in two days. Sure, why not. A couple of years back we had made it up the face, but the summit eluded us due to bad weather and lack of time. The face is 4500 feet and the decent down from Ann Lake is 1000 plus feet. Long haul would be an understatement.
We got to Baker resort in no time. The Ford Expired handled well and was way more comfortable than Benís Mazda. Anyhow, we found an out of the way parking spot and began to get ready to climb. The ski up went quickly. Some people gave us odd looks. We ignored them, but not the heat. I felt like steak on a backyard grill on a hot summer afternoon.
Soon we found ourselves at the top of the resort. From there we took our time. The day was beautiful, but there was a feeling in the air that gave me the feeling that it would only be temporary. Even so we soon found ourselves at a crossroads. "Do we go on to Lake Ann, or stay on top of the Arm." Well, the weather made our decision. We set our packs down and ate some food.
Ben and Jason climbing the Shuksan Arm.
With only a could of drinks of water and no camp set up our feet began to get inchy so we took off to burn some energy. We headed down the arm with nearly no gear on our way to Ann Lake and beyond. That was the plan. I set off down toward Ann Lake at my usual pace, fast and then faster, like a dog let out of a cage. Consequently, my skis had taken there last trip around the block. Many a ski day have they seen and it seemed today they had seen there last. I hit a field of avalanche debris. The idea was to cruise across it. A chuck of ice the size of two basketballs thought otherwise. I hit it hard and did a face plant to be proud of, which it would seem, to begin long and painful trend. As I was falling my right ski snapped in half. Bummer. I did not give up here though. I went on a bit further. The next thing I know my ski is sliding away, and yet my binding is still on. I then go about falling on my face again. This is where that trend I spoke of earlier really began to take form.
The hike back to the arm didn't take long. Eventually we came to where we had earlier decided to set up camp. My mind was a little preoccupied at the lose of my ski. I soon recovered, but the lose would haunt me all night. The weather went to the toilet and flushed out all our hopes of climbing Shuksan the next day. It snowed all night. In a way I was glad. I did not want Jason and Ben to ski a sick line without me.
Josh at camp, the morning of the second.
We got up around 8am. The weather was bad, but we were not about to let it bring us down. We set out up the Shuksan Arm. Being that I had broken my skis we all decided to leave them behind. The arm was as challenging and entertaining as ever. We had during a couple of previous trips in the early days gone up the Shuksan Arm as we did this time, but with skis. Be that as it may, we made the best of what we had. We climbed up steep and then steeper slopes on our way up the arm. The last couple almost seemed too steep to go up. We did anyway. Eventually, we got to the point where going any further would be foolhardy. Jokingly, we talked about climbing the Arm to the summit with nothing but a camera. We didn't have anything else, but our ice axes. At the top we scouted what lay ahead and then began our way down.
This is the best view we got from our camp.
Ben and Jason descending one of several steep steps above camp.
The climb down took awhile. We made a few stops. These stops included some attempts at ice climbing a small wall some 15 feet high. It was a fun challenge that only Ben was able to make. Eventually, we made it back to camp.
Jason attempting to climb a wind drift.
Camp was broken down quickly. We wanted to get home. Jason and I had a long drive. Typically, the ski down would go fast for me. This time it took a little longer. If youíve ever one skied thick slushy snow down a 30-degree face in a white out with a big pack you would know what I mean. I skied all the way to the car though. It was painful and that is all I will say about that.
As we entered the resort Ben decided to take the fast way out. Picture this, hereís Ben in the middle of a racecourse with a big pack cruising through the finish line. Consequently, he screwed up the timer. Not too bright. He got some lip for that. Fortunately, both Jason and I having raced before recognized Benís mistake. This meant trekking through the woods. What a pain. I had almost wished I followed Ben.
I continued to one ski and eventually got to the car. The trip was at an end. We had accomplished little, but gained some experience and as I always say being in the outdoors is always better that sitting home.