Mount Shuksan North Face
If you love steep snow and ice and are looking for a next level climb to challenge your movement skills on moderate rock, huge glaciers and large-scale, exposed slopes, look no further. The North Face of Mount Shuksan is a climb with a myriad of climbing challenges.
With a commitment rating of Grade IV, this climb is involved. Starting with the approach day, the climb involves three long (and exciting) days of climbing with full packs. We typically approach via the 4th Class rock gullies of the Fisher Chimneys, descend the White Salmon Glacier, and set camp at the base of the North Face.
Our alpine start begins with a hot breakfast and packing up camp before dawn to get an early start on the massive slopes of the North Face. After surmounting the challenges of the glacier and many pitches of steep snow, we arrive at the top of the face. From there, we have a few options to get to the summit, including the Northeast Ridge, the Southeast Ridge and the normal route. They all involve moderate rock climbing between 4th Class and 5.6, and all culminate on the exposed summit block with 360 degree views of the North Cascades.
This climb is for experienced climbers who move well on 3rd class rock terrain, steep, firm snow and are up for the challenge of 4th class with a full climbing pack. It’s a demanding climb that requires excellent fitness and some technical movement skill. Without efficient movement, this climb will feel much more difficult. Reach out if you’re unsure about whether or not this climb is right for you!
Day 1 - Gear Check and Approach to Winnies Slide
Gear Check: Meet early for a gear check in Marblemont, WA. Our guides will double check that you have all the right gear for the trip and help you minimize weight, decide on the perfect layers to pack, and choose how much food and water to bring.
Approach to Winnies Slide Camp: This is some of the most interesting and engaging climbing as summit day! After a beautiful hike through fir trees and alpine meadows, we walk past Lake Ann and get into the engaging terrain of the Fisher Chimneys. The chimneys are huge gulleys, with breathtaking exposure overlooking the Curtis Glacier. The climbing is fun 4th class terrain with packs filled with camping gear, so it can feel strenuous if you are unaccustomed to this type of terrain. The approach to camp is a long day that often takes 6-8 hours.
We rise early and start with a moderate pitch or two of snow or ice to gain the Upper Curtis glacier. From here, we stretch our ropes to a glacier interval and traverse towards Hell’s Highway, which is a steep steep of snow that brings us to the Sulphide Glacier. Once on the sulphide, we’ll navigate crevasses toward the summit pyramid where we’ll remove crampons and get onto the 4th class rock that leads to the summit. The summit is a small block with 360 degree views of Baker and the North Cascades. From the top, we downclimb and/or rappel back to the glacier and make our way back to camp where we’ll spend the night.
While not quite as early as day 2, our final day will be an early start to pack up camp, descend the Fisher Chimneys and hike back up to the trailhead. This usually takes around 5 hours.
❏ Climbing Helmet
❏ Headlamp - with fresh batteries
❏ Climbing harness (alpine or rock harness)
❏ Two Locking carabiners - Petzl Attache, etc
❏ Climbing boots - LaSportiva trango, Scarpa Charmoz or similar
❏ Gaiters - OR mini gaiters to keep snow out of boots
❏ Crampons (Steel crampons that are compatible with your boots)
❏ Ice Axe (55 to 65cm Axe)
❏ Trekking Poles - adjustable preferred
❏ Sun Hat
❏ Sun Glasses
❏ Warm Hat
❏ 2x Buffs or face masks (These are for warmth and wind protection and are
required for Covid-19 face coverings)
❏ Long sleeve base layer top
❏ 1 to 2 fleece weight upper layers (I'm using a Patgonia R1 and Nano Air)
❏ Puffy - Mid Weight Down/synthetic, Patagonia Fitzroy or similar
❏ Waterproof Shell Jacket with Hood - Gore-Tex (or similar) - basic, lightweight shell, NOT
❏ Gloves-TWO pair
❏ one pair light/mid weight for warm temps
❏ one mid/heavy weight for cold
❏ Socks - TWO pair. Both mid-weight wool/synthetic
❏ Underwear - wool/synthetic
❏ Sports Bra - wool/synthetic
❏ Goggles (bring to gear check, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather
❏ Long johns (bring to gear check, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather
Camping & Backpacking Gear
❏ Sleeping Bag (20F) - down preferred due to weight and pack-ability.
❏ Sleeping Pad - Inflatables are comfortable, but make sure it is insulated for sleeping on
snow! Therm-a-rest NeoAir X-Therm or X-Lite are expensive, but excellent.
❏ Compression Stuff sack for sleeping bag
❏ Backpack - 50L (or the smallest bag that fits all of your gear and your share of the group
gear). Black Diamond Speed 50 or similar work well for this.
❏ Sun Screen (SPF 30 minimum)
❏ Lip Balm (with SPF)
Food and water
❏ Two freeze dried dinner meals (or meals that can be made with just hot water):
I recommend Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai, and Mountain House Pasta Primavera, but
everyone has strong opinions on freeze dried meals. If you know you don’t like or do
well with Freeze Dried, please let me know and I will forward some
❏ Two Breakfasts:
Grits with cheese, oatmeal, cold cereal with powdered milk, bagel and cream cheese,
PB and J sandwich, mountain house freeze dried.
Bring whatever sounds appealing for a midnight breakfast.
❏ Instant Coffee (if you’re a coffee drinker, now is a bad time to kick the habit!)
❏ Decaffeinated tea for evening hot drink
❏ Cup of 1⁄2 liter Nalgene Bottle (for hot drinks). I prefer the 1⁄2 liter Nalgene so that I can
use it for water on the climb as well.
To keep things light and compact, I use the freeze dried dinner bag for my breakfast
bowl, but some people don’t like the remaining flavors. If that’s the case, bring a light
bowl (lightweight tupperware works great)
❏ Spoon - choose a long handled spoon if you’re eating freeze dried food out of the bag.
Normal spoons make it hard to reach the food and it gets messy.
❏ Snack Food - 3 days worth of snacks. I usually break this down as:
❏ Water - bring two liters capacity. I prefer using a 1⁄2 Liter Nalgene for hot drinks and a
soft/collapsible 2L Hyrdrapack Bottle) Please bring at least one hard sided water
❏ Hand Sanitizer (Bring extra due to increased use for Covid-19)
❏ Toilet Paper
❏ First Aid/blister Kit
❏ Chemical hand warmers
❏ Hydration System (Camelback, etc). Please bring an additional hard sided water bottle if
you choose to bring a hydration system.
Know Before You Go
Mt Shuksan, North Cascades, WA
Mount Shuksan's North Face route is a challenging and sustained effort on each day. It requires a wide range of movement skills. Your ability and efficiency will have a major bearing on how difficult this climb feels to you. Cramponing on steep snow, climbing 5th class rock, down climbing in mountain boots or approach shoes are all techniques that will be employed during the trip.
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