True North - Mt Baker & Mt Shuksan Alpinism
Why climb one when you can climb two? The True North Alpine Climbing week pairs the best climbing route on Mount Baker with one of Mount Shuksan's classics. Together they make one unforgettable week of climbing. First we tackle the North Ridge of Mount Baker, then we pop back to town for pizza, beer and some quality sleep before packing up and heading back into the mountains to take on the North Face of Mount Shuksan.
The North Ridge of Mount Baker is a one-of-a-kind alpine ice classic. With massive relief, expansive glaciers, pitched ice climbing and incredible exposure this climb is simply exhilarating. In terms of pure fun, this climb ranks at the top of the list.
The North Ridge balances technical skill with endurance, and entails ascending over 5,500 feet of glacier, snow, rock and ice to the summit at 10,781’. An incredible challenge with equal rewards, this climb alone is a gem.
The North Face of Mount Shuksan is 3 more days of classic Cascade alpinism. We usually approach the North Face via the Fisher Chimneys, which offers fun climbing on exposed rock. Once above the Chimneys, we descend the White Salmon Glacier and climb back up to our camp near the base of the North Face. The next day we start early and climb many pitches of steep snow and glacial ice while enjoying views of Price Lake and the Mount Baker Wilderness before topping out on the Upper Curtis Glacier. From the Upper Curtis we have a multitude of options for gaining the summit, all involving 4th to low 5th class rock climbing.
Once we're on top we descend via the Sulphide Glacier and take Hell's Highway back to camp just above Winnies Slide. It's a long day and we set up camp, make dinner and head to bed early before our final day descending the Fisher Chimneys. The descent back to the trailhead involves down-climbing exposed 3rd and 4th class terrain before we hit the trail back to Artist Point.
This climb is demanding and is for experienced climbers with confidence that they can complete the North Ridge of Baker and either the North Face or Fisher Chimneys Route on Mount Shuksan. You should have experience on similarly demanding climbs. Climbers attempting these routes should have experience with technical rock and vertical ice climbing. Both climbs are challenging and committing and require climbers to move efficiently on steep terrain. If you are unsure of whether you have the experience or fitness for this undertaking Contact Us. We’ll help you pick a climb that is perfect for your level of experience or set you up with the training you need to accomplish this climb.
|Ratio (Climbers: Guide)||Trip Cost Per Climber|
Dinner and Gear Check in Glacier, 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, and choose how much food and water to bring.
Approach to Hogsback or Coleman Glacier Camp. We’ll get an early start, get to camp and scout the glacier approach to the base of the route before getting to bed early for the alpine start and summit attempt.
The Climb and return to the trailhead.
Break down camp and return to Glacier.
Hike into Shuksan, climb Fisher Chimneys, descend White Salmon Glacier and set camp at the base of the North Face (long day!).
Break camp and begin climbing the North Face. Summit via the most appropriate way to the top and return to camp above Winnies Slide.
Break camp and descend the Fisher Chimneys. Hike back to the Lake Ann Trailhead.
True North - Baker Shuksan Alpine Week
6 Day Gear Guide / Packing List
- Climbing Helmet
- Headlamp - with fresh batteries
- Climbing harness (alpine or rock harness)
- Two Locking carabiners - Petzl Attache, etc
- Double length sling - (sewn runner)
- Belay device - BD ATC Guide, Petzl Reverso
- Climbing boots - LaSportiva G5 or Nepal Cube with gaiters, Scarpa Phantom Tech or Mont Blanc with gaiters
- Gaiters - OR mini gaiters to keep snow out of boots, optional for built in gaiter boots
- Crampons (Steel crampons that are compatible with your boots)
- Semi-technical Ice Tool. This should function as both an axe for walking on the glacier and a tool for climbing steep ice. Ideal tools are Petzl Sum-Tec, Petzl Quark, CAMP XLight, Black Diamond Venom, Viper or Swift
- Technical Ice Tool. Any of the above tools are acceptable as a second tool, but more aggressive tools are also fins, including: Petzl Nomic, CAMP X-Dream, BD Cobra
- 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 ( a Patgonia R1 and Nano Air are great examples)
- Puffy - Mid Weight Down/synthetic, Patagonia Fitzroy or similar
- Waterproof Shell Jacket with Hood - Gore-Tex (or similar) - basic, lightweight shell, NOT insulated
- 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 trailhead, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather Forecast)
- Long johns (bring to trailhead, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather Forecast)
Camping & Backpacking Gear
- Sleeping Bag (20F) - down preferred due to weight and packability.
- Sleeping Pad - Inflatables are comfortable, but make sure it is insulated for sleeping on snow! Therm-a-rest NeoAir X-Therm is 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
- 4 Just-add-water Dinners (freeze dried or other quick meals that can be made with only hot water):
Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai, and Mountain House Pasta Primavera are pretty decent options. If you know you don’t like or do well with Freeze Dried, please let us know and we can suggest some “just-add-water” options.
- 4 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 or ½ liter Nalgene Bottle (for hot drinks). I prefer the ½ liter Nalgene so that I can use it for water on the climb as well.
To keep things light and compact, you can use the freeze dried dinner bag for your breakfast bowl. Some people don’t like the remaining flavors, so if you think you’re in that camp, 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 - 6 days worth of snacks.
- Water - bring two liters capacity. A ½ Liter Nalgene for hot drinks and a soft/collapsible 2L Hyrdrapack Bottle is a great combination that keeps your kit light and compact) Please bring at least one hard sided water bottle.
- 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.
Blackbird Mountain Guides will supply all of the group gear for the trip, including:
- Fuel for Stoves
- Snow Pickets (if required)
- Rock Protection (if required)
- Guide’s First Aid Kits
- Wag Bags (Solid Human Waste Disposal Bags)
Know Before You Go
North Cascades, WA
The North Ridge of Mount Baker and the North Face of Shuksan are difficult climbs in their own rights. They each require great fitness and a variety of alpine movement skill. Glacier travel, steep snow, ice climbing, cramponing on rock and descending thousands of feet on moderate snow and glacier are all part of these climbs. Together they make for a very strenuous week of climbing.
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