Mt. Shuksan from Boulder Cleaver on Mt. Baker. Photo by Derek Franzen
Mt. Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake
"Mt. Shuksan epitomizes the jagged alpine peak like no other massif in the North Cascades...[it] has no equal in the range when one considers the structural beauty of its four major faces and five ridges...There is no other sample in the American West of a peak with great icefall glaciers derived from a high plateau, and in the Pacific Northwest it is the only non-volcanic peak whose summit exceeds timberline by more than 3000 feet....Shuksan is one of the finest mountaineering objectives in the North Cascades and its reputation is certainly deserved; a wide variety of challenges can be encountered on this quite complex mountain. The climber has a choice of rock walls, moderate firnfields, steep ice, and easy scrambling. Despite a sometimes-forbidding appearance, Shuksan has yielded 14 routes, numerous variations, and impressive subsidiary climbs, including some directly up dangerous ice cliffs." Excerpted from "Cascade Alpine Guide : Climbing and High Routes : Rainy Pass to Fraser River" by Fred Beckey. I highly recommend that you read about climbing Mt. Shuksan in this guide. It can be purchased from Amazon.com or at REI.
More Shuksan ImagesClick on the thumbnail for a gallery of spectacular aerial photos of Mt. Shuksan in winter by John Scurlock.
Getting ThereFisher Chimneys route: Drive State Route 542 from Bellingham to the Mt. Baker ski area. Continue on gravel road about 1½ miles upward to the parking lot at Austin Pass, 4,700 ft (1,433 m). Hike trail #600 to Lake Ann.
Sulphide Glacier route: Drive State Route 20 east from Interstate 5 at Burlington. Turn left on the Baker Lake-Grandy Lake road and drive 23 miles to just opposite Shannon Creek Campground. Turn left on road No. 1152 and drive 4.5 miles. Turn right on road (1152)014 and drive another 1.4 miles to the end of the road, 2,500 ft (762 m). Hike the trail on an old logging road bed to the end in a brush-covered clearcut. Hike the trail steeply up onto Shannon Ridge above into the virgin forest. Follow this trail in forest to the open ridge with views of Mt. Baker. Then hike the ridge to its end below a pass that leads onto the southern flank of Mt. Shuksan.
Red TapeAll trails and some picnic areas and campsites on the Mt. Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest require a regional pass costing $5/day or $30/year. Golden Age and Golden Access Passport holders may purchase the above pass at a 50% discount. The Golden Eagle Passport will not apply to the Regional Northwest Forest Pass.
You can get them at these stores or these ranger stations. The pass can also be purchased online from the Washington Trails Association. A backcountry permit is required for overnight stays within the National Park, which includes camps on Shannon Ridge and on the mountain itself.
When To ClimbJune thru September would seem the best months to climb the two most popular routes. Probably July is optimal for both routes. Fisher Chimneys should be free of snow, which will occur at varying times each year. The summit couloir is fine with either firm snow or bare rock. This is a complex mountain, so weather can be a major safety factor. Wands should be used on the glaciers if there is any possibility of clouds enveloping the mountain.
CampingCamping is allowed on Shannon Ridge and on the mountain. A backcountry permit is required, and can be obtained at the same ranger stations as were mentioned under Red Tape above.
Mountain ConditionsFor trail conditions see the official trail report for the Mt. Baker Ranger District.
Topographic Prominence and "Spire Measure"Mt. Shuksan's topographic prominence is 4,411 feet (1,344 meters), making it the 13th most prominent peak in Washington. Shuksan is a perfect example of a weakness in the prominence concept. The local relief around the peak is great. For example, there is about 7,500 feet of relief within under 3 horizontal miles between the summit and the Sulphide Creek basin. However, because Shuksan Arm provides a 4,720-foot saddle to the higher Mt. Baker, Shuksan's prominence is greatly reduced.
By contrast, Shuksan provides a great example of a newly devised mountain measurement formula tentatively called "Spire Measure". This measure was developed by participants in the Prominence forum. The idea is to factor local relief and slope so that greater local relief or steeper slope increase the rating. Many radials leading from the summit are calculated, looking for the maximum value. These maximums are then averaged to arrive at the mountain's rating. Not surprisingly, because of the huge local relief of Mt. Rainier, it has the greatest Spire Measure of any mountain in the 48 states, at 944. Mt. Shuksan's rating is 602. Here is the list of the top 50 peaks in the 48 states in a slightly modified version called "Reduced Spire Measure" (RSM), in which Shuksan is pushed down due to it's proximity to Baker (I fought to get rid of RSM and measure mountains in isolation, and "they" finally came around to my position, however RSM hasn't disappeared yet). Here is the list of Washington's top 50 in "pure" Spire Measure, with Shuksan at number 6.
In this photo taken in August 2001 from the summit of Mt. Pilchuck, Mt. Baker is on the left and Shuksan is on the right in the distance. Between them in the foreground is a rounded summit called, not surprisingly, Round Mountain, elevation 5,320 feet. It is the highest point in a small range surrounded by three rivers, so that the highest saddle between Round and a higher summit is only 540 feet, giving Round a prominence of 4,780 feet! This is 369 feet greater prominence than Mt. Shuksan, and makes Round the ninth most prominent mountain in Washington. This photo was used by Aaron Maizlish in a lecture for the North American Cartographic Information Society, NACIS, as an example of one of the problems with the concept of topographic prominence. Maizlish also created a wonderful set of maps showing the 2000-foot+ prominence peaks in the western US.
- Cascades 2002 Trip including Rainier and Shuksan
- Great photos from a Sulphide Glacier climb
Includes some spectacular panos.
- Eric Hoffman's trip report
- Mount Shuksan via Sulphide Glacier (Photos)