Mt Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier

We had plans to climb Shasta but the weathered turned to crap down in Cali. I told my team that we'd be cancelling and several asked for a Plan B. I scoured the NW for good weather. Surprisingly, the further North we went, the better the forecast. I proposed a few areas to a few people and we decided on Mt Shuksan. The participants were: me, Bryon Snapp (assistant), Amy (assistant), Mike McHugh, Joanna Picchi, John Coyier, Dan Sewell, Susie Callahan, Jade Ashcroft and Tim Donovan.

The Sulphide Glacier is generally the dog route up the mountain. I proposed this route since we had a 10 person team. Virtually everybody from the Shasta climb decided to travel North. I expected less than half of the team to be onboard for the change of venue. I figured dividing the last bit of pizza at the Trail Head would be the Crux of the route. We were very early in the season for the route so I took some screws, pickets and some rock pro; "just in case." Remember the three hour tour on Giligans Island?

We began hiking under clear skies. T-shirts all around. At 3000', the trail was 50% under snow. I hadn't talked to most of the people on the team since last climbing season and we all really enjoyed getting caught up on the approach hike.
At 3,500 feet the trail was completely gone and out came the Map and Compass. Both Snappy Bryon and I had GPS waypoints but they stayed in the pack. There were enough terrain features to stay on route.

At 4,600' we were in Alpine territory and we had our first real views. Everybody was ready for a break so we stopped and had our second lunch break of the day. Above, Dan gets his first real views of the North Cascades.

Above, Joanna Picchi (prounounced peekie) takes in the views. She was going strong, I think she's getting stronger every year dispite an injury. I was actually very impressed w/ the entire groups fitness so early in the season.

We passed through a col at 5,400' and began looking for campsites. I really wanted to get +/- 6,000' before camp but I didn't think it was overly important. I checked w/ the team and we decided we'd head up to a flat spot on the map at 6,200'. This proved to be critical for our summit day.

Sorry to bomboard you w/ so many shots of camp, but it's one of my favorite parts of climbing. We got to see our route. You can see summit pinnacle in the distance; the central gully was choked w/ snow. The central gully is a 4th class scramble to the summit. It would be a whole different animal in the snow, I tried to discern the best route. I wanted to approach the "fan" at the bottom of the pinnacle from the right. As I studied the summit, I tried to imagine how it would look when we're up close and personal. It looked pretty darn steep from here, especially in the small constriction of snow. When I crawled into the tent, little did I know, I wouldn't see the route again until 1200 noon the following day.

Let me tell you about a word I learned. There's chivalrous, which I already knew and then there's Chival-less. John tried to talk Joanna into carrying the tent up to high camp!???? And then Dan made Susie carry all of the water to the summit! He insisted they drink his first? He says it was an accident but I don't know. The two Chival-less gents made up for their "shortcomings" on summit day and then some.
Clouds moved in and out of camp. It was spectacular. It was also a sign of things to come.
I prepared the rope and dished out rope assignments. I lead one rope and Bryon lead the other. There was another team prepping for a summit push the next day as well. They were a Mountain Madness guided team. I saw alot of brand new harnesses and ice axe's and fortunately negotiated for us to have the first shift on the mountain. We decided to head up at 430 am.

Bryon was the lead assistant on this trip and he proved to be very, very valuable on this climb. If you have a tough route, Bryon's your assistant. It's easy to see him as a future leader for the club.

The clouds started really rolling in and I grew a bit concerned about weather. The route hugs a long cliff band all the way to the summit. If you move too far West (left), you'll fall of the cliff and you'll know you've gone too far. If you move too far east, you'll be caught in the maze of the ice fall's. You just have to stay on the high edge of the glacier.

Tim says good night and Jade offers us Peace. These two guys are great company and both excellent people to have along on a multi-day climb.

Poor Susie, I told her this was a great beginning climb, little did I know, we had a huge challenge ahead of us. Plus, she had to carry all Dan's crap which didn't make it any easier;-) OK, so maybe I'm a bit hard on Dan, I'm sure he accidently loaded her down w/ the team shovel for the summit. Wait a minute, was that me? It never occured that I too might be Chival-less. That same shovel hung up on every rock we had to climb the next day. I believe Susie is 5' tall, the shovel was half her height.

We left camp in white out conditions. There was no wind or precip but we were in heavy clouds. I think half the team thought we were going the wrong way.

Every half hour or so, the sun would poke through and give us a small glimpse of where we were headed. This picture above was one of many magical shots I had to chose from.

These fleeting moments of visibility gave me an opportunity to verify that we were on route. I'd say we had some type of visibility less than 5% of time on the way to the pinnacle.

These cliffs and features would just appear out of nowhere when a cloud passed through, they'd be gone in minutes. For reference, these rocks are the size of buildings.
I kept telling the team that I thought we'd pop out above the clouds as we ascended, they weren't buying it. I'd been saying that since we left the park n ride in the rain.

The snow began to get steep and I knew we were on the upper slopes of the mountain. I was very disappointed w/ the weather. Summits don't mean much to me if I don't have fun along the way. I was afraid we were going to put forth all of this effort for a summit certificate. In my opinion, that's not even close to worth it. You go to the North Cascade for its beauty not to wander around in a white out.

We reached the constriction in the gully and the snow sucked. I was gathering all of the snow I could to try and build steps. The snow was just too soft and wouldn't hold body weight. In addition, where the snow was shallow, you'd slip on the ice that crusted the rock below. The angle was somewhere around 60 degree. If we proceeded up the gully, one slip by anybody and we'd have wiped out both rope teams. I knew the rock would be more difficult but atleast we'd be able to get good protection in. I also knew this would gobble up hours but sometimes speed isn't safety.
We belayed everybody onto the rock past the ice covered rocks that border the snow. Above Joanna patiently waits for me to find the best route. The mini-roof above was probably 5.5 in difficulty but you add wet, down sloping rock, a backpack and marginal rock and it felt rather difficult. We ended up fixing almost all of the pinnacle.

What would have been an easy 5.3 dihedral turned into a full-value mixed climb. Above, Jade gets ready to test his boots on the wet icy rock. Generally we fix lines and ropes "just in case." This trip I'm pretty certain every anchor was tested w/ several falls.

Susie only slept seven minutes the night before and here, she enjoy's a few more z's. We had no idea how close to the summit we were. I figured we were within 200' and I could only hope the terrain would ease up. Normally 200' is just around the corner, on this day, we had to scratch and claw for every yard.

Just as the weather came and went, so did our moods. You can see Susie lit up when she found out we were moments from the summit!

Amy in th foreground about to bury her axe, you can see the slope angle in front of her was 60 degrees. I have to take this opportunity to thank John Coyier for punching in some of these last steps while I built the anchors. Everybody on the team contributed in big ways. This route, in these conditions was on the outside edge of what a 10 person team can accomplish. Had everybody not brought their A game, I would have turned us back long before. Joanna is preceding Amy accross the slope, I was able to carve out some ice and get a good nut placement in the rock Joanna is traversing. On the sky line at the end of the fixed line, you can see John Coyier guiding the way.

Tim and Jade are on the final stretch before the summit. It took some Bill Saur- ish route finding, lots of team work, lots of personal responsibility from each member on the team and everybody's positive attitude, but we did it.
Who's your Daddy? Dan? Wait a minute, it almost looks like the clouds are thinning?
You've got click the above picture to see some of the expressions on Mike and Joanna's face, its one of my favorite pics.
The team begins decending the route. Little did we know, we were about to get some very dramatic views. The mood was a bit anxious. We had alot of work to do. This route took every trick I had in my bag. Down climbing most of the stuff was simply out of the question for our team. We ended up setting up a few rappels. I've never had to leave gear behind on a route and hated to do it. It's not really the money, just the principal. I looked around at my friends and almost all of them were worth the safety of rappelling versus the danger of down climbing; so we left some gear.
While the team was on the summit, I began prepping for our decent. This is one of the best pictures I have of myself. You can see the giant pyramid in the background about 1000 vertical feet below. Moments later, we were in full sun. Having the weather straighten out was such a Gift. We were given views of the Pickets (2010, any takers?) Baker, Ruth mtn, Icy peak and the many ridges that make Shuksan the most beautiful of our 18 peaks. In my opinion, its the most beautiful in the west. I don't know how you quantify that but its just how I feel.

Snappy Bryon and I can finally smile. I know I took a few minutes to decompress when we reached the safety of the 45 degree slopes. For me, seeing our team laugh and joke in the safety of what will be forever known as "Poop Rock," was the most rewarding moment of the climb. As I said earlier, summits don't mean a bunch to me but seeing my friends basque in the sun after a huge days work, that's what it's all about.

Here's that same giant pyramid. We're now above the clouds and the views made everything worth it.
The whole time we were on the summit pinnacle, we heard voices trailing us. During breaks in the clouds we could see a queue building but only one group of 5 made it up. Several rope teams turned back on the steeps of the snow constriction low on the pinnacle. We enjoyed time w/ this other group. I was a tiny bit bitter that they were able to use all of the steps that we kicked and were only able to find the summit pinnacle by following our boot path. They thanked us and I felt lots better about it. Our teams did a great job of staying out of each others way and not dropping stuff on each other.

The team looks back at our accomplishment. Way to go guys!

I don't generally like parking lot shots but this was one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had.

The Team
Tim Donovon is great company and unlike most of my friends in many ways. Very selfless, He's the antithesis of me.
Jade Ashcroft is an excellent climber, new to the club last year and I'm guessing he'll be pushing me as a rock climber in no time.
Mike McHugh is a great team guy, very quiet. My favorite thing about him is he'll climb anything, no matter how many times he's done it.
Joanna Picchi is very inspiring to me. She's always smiling and she's still out there getting it done.
John Coyier was instrumental in getting the team up and down the route. W/out him and Bryon, the burden would have been too much for me.
Susie Callahan and Dan Sewell are some of the nicest, most generous people I know. Susie was a trooper. I got her in way over her head but she kept fighting. Dan is battling Amy as the most encouraging person in the club.
Amy is the best. The rest is none of your guys' business.
Bryon helped tons cleaning anchors, fixed lines and helping watch over the flock. He also down climbed lots of the route to make sure the knot wouldn't get stuck after the rappels. This stuff saved hours.

Thanks for sharing in our adventure. I apologize for being so wordy but there's a little bit of Keith Garlinghouse in everybody.

Oh yeah, it was my 18th peak. I didn't have any excitement about this because Robyn Smith wasn' there. When we climb this mountain again in July, then it'll mean alot to me.

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