Shuksan is awesome. It’s obviously beautiful, very photogenic, and despite the proximity of the Mount Baker Ski Resort, it can feel pretty wild. After our climb of the Fisher Chimneys, I’d describe Shuksan as a small mountain with big mountain terrain. It’s about 8 miles from the TH to the 9,100’ summit with a deceiving amount of elevation gain, so this is not a diminishment of the climb (it requires a fair bit of effort) but the hanging glaciers and complex rock and ice terrain beget a feeling of the greater ranges.
For our late season climb, we approached entirely on dry trails, leaving the Lake Ann Trailhead a few minutes after 4:00am and reaching Lake Ann just as headlamps became unnecessary around 5:45am. There is a very distinct left-hand break where the trail splits east from Lake Ann towards the mountain. We were surprised at how distinct and well-traveled the trails were – it would be difficult to get lost. The Fisher Chimneys were pretty easy to find. Although the trail becomes less distinct in the scree and talus fields below the chimneys, several cairns mark the way and the path generally follows a gradual slope up and across the talus to the base of the 3rd/4th class bits (there are no sneaky switchbacks or unintuitive changes in direction).
At the very base of the correct chimney (there are multiple, less-desirable options), we crossed a small drainage gully with a remnant snow patch and moved distinctly onto the rock. Once we started scrambling up, it was very easy to stay on track. In most cases, several options exist and the terrain is mostly 3rd class with bits of 4th mixed in. We passed several rap stations that could be used to belay or lower past the most vertical spots. Also, as mentioned elsewhere on the web, both Forest Service and USGS maps mark “Fisher Chimney” “Winnies Slide” and “The Hourglass” in different locations from where most climbers now reference them. This picture helps limit the confusion.
The top of the chimney deposited us on the edge of the White Salmon Glacier, where we quickly turned right (West), crossed a patch of boulders, and ascended a steep (50*) snow slope. Crampons and at least one tool were required here. Once past the steep slope, we crossed another patch of boulders and moved onto the Upper Curtis Glacier.
This northwest corner of the glacier had melted down to hard glacier ice, which was passable but slightly tenuous in aluminum crampons. We skirted around a few crevasses on the Upper Curt and then moved towards the Hell’s Highway feature. This feature was also fairly steep (max 45* near the top) but much more casual than some of the pictures I’ve seen. Once through this section, we crested onto the Sulphide Glacier, turned left (North) and walked up to the base of the SE Rib on the summit pyramid. The SE Rib was super fun, mostly 4th and low 5th class climbing on solid rock to a summit with spectacular views. This mountain has it all– definitely full-value climbing
Start: Lake Ann Trailhead- 4,700'
Elevation Gain: 7,313'
Time: 12:46 hours round trip, 7 hours to summit, 5:45 to descend