May 30, 2009 Shuksan Via Sulfide Glacier route
It was after 3 pm when we finally pulled out of the roller rink. We had to drop of Robert's kids with his wife before we could head for the mountain. It seemed like no time before we were in the city of Concrete WA... which was about 4 miles past the turnoff to head toward the trailhead. We had been so stoked talking about climbing we went right past the 2 foot tall sign hidden in the trees.. ( If your not paying attention this baby will go right by.) Any way we whipped a U-turn and headed back to the Baker lake turnoff. Then on for another 45 min. up and over the dirt road to the trail head. After getting all the gear sorted out we headed up the trail in the now quickly approaching twilight. There was about one hour of sun and maybe another hour to an hour and a half of dusk we were counting on to reach the Sulfide glacier to camp for the night.
Well as we got going the trail was in fair condition. We were only dodging the occasional tree and hopping over the infrequent rock that had fallen into the trail. Having the ski's on the pack makes this more interesting as there is always that question.. "did I bend over far enough to not catch the tips on the tree?" With these pleasent reminders that there had been a bit of snowfall this past year. We arrived at the portion of the trail where it was almost fully covered in 2-3 feet of hard pack. We debated skinning from there but, the conditions were tough with all the trees so we hiked on. Up a few more min. we turned round a bend and left the trail for a quick elevator route to the top of the ridge. This saved us some time as the sun was now gone and the shadows were growing.
As we began skinning we passed a few climbers coming down. Man they looked beat down.. :) I mean its a hell of a hike in good weather and the weather was warm so the snow was soft and they had been through it. As we crested the ridge top we could see Mt. Baker in the twilight. The silhouette reminded me why I love the mountains.
I was glad we had not tried to skin up the slope much earlier as the hot temperature had made the edging difficult on the steeper sections. Yet on we went into the night. Finally arriving at the Col near the base of the Sulfide at just past 10 PM. Finding two other guys sacked out in a section of rocks at the top of the col we dropped off the back side and leveled off a spot to get some sleep.
The sun came up at just after 4 AM. It found us making our way round the base of the Sulfide and up on to the arm of Glacier which hangs down into a valley below. The Soft snow had turned to solid ice and so we were hiking the approach.. Much to my Chagrin. All the way across the sulfide we carried ski's and snowboard. The beauty of the morning kept me from getting upset over carrying all the alpine gear. We roped up for the last mile or so as you could begin to see the dips from sagging snow bridges. We noted other parties had traveled directly over the ripples with no apparent interest in walking round them. We opted for a bit longer approach and worked our way between the snow bridges. Arriving at the base of the pyramid in time to meet the first party coming down. There turned out to be about 12-14 people in the group. We worked our way up as was possible amid the never ending stream of 2 to 3 man/woman teams coming off the top. The summit was gained in about one hour from the base to the top. It was about 4 or 5 pitches if you belayed them we climbed simultaneously making only two stops for a couple of sections which had some Ice that was a bit rotten.
The Summit view was superb. It was mid morning now and we wanted to be off before the snow softened any more. Reaching the bottom of the pyramid we strapped on the ski's and off we went putting deep turns into the Sulfide. It was rough going in some sections as the Cascade Concrete was getting full power this day. After collecting our cache at the col we headed for home. Arriving tired but, stoked at the car with another beautiful day logged in the PNW.
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