The log crossing
Mt Shuksan’s Price Glacier has been on my tick list for years but I never seemed to get around to doing it. This summer I have been taking mini vacations to do some of the longer trips in the Cascades where I live and climb. This approach has worked out well as I have done a number of routes that I have wanted to do for years.
Price Glacier, in addition to offering a challenging ice climb, has a logistical problem as well. Climbers typically approach from Nooksack Cirque trail head and come out Lake Ann trail head 13 miles away after descending the Fisher Chimneys route. We solved this problem by stashing a bike at the exit point. When we got out I would ride back to the car and drive back and pick up my partner, Jesse, who would be waiting with our packs. I had climbed Fisher Chimneys 3 times so I knew the descent route. It was a foolproof plan.
We started out Saturday morning under heavily overcast skies. The approach follows an abandoned road bed for a couple of miles then crosses the Nooksack river on a log and climbs steeply up a forested hill. We got very wet climbing through the wet brush. Three hours after leaving the car we were on the moraine above Price Lake. We could not see the mountain as it was in clouds. We followed a ridge to the climber’s left of the lake climbing through steep heather until able to traverse to beautiful granite slabs. We hiked the slabs until we found a great, flat site below the glacier. There was even running water.
Close up of Price Glacier
The first bivi
We ate dinner and went to bed early hopeful the weather would clear. At 3:00 AM I looked out the tent and saw stars and clear skies. Woo-hoo! I went back to bed and woke up at five and made coffee while waiting for Jesse to wake up. We ate breakfast and packed up and were walking by 6:30. We traversed the glacier below Nooksack Tower onto the Price Glacier. Rambling ice for 3 pitches lead to easier snow fields, then more ice, and so on. The crux of the climb came as bergschrunds we had to climb into and then out of. Some pitches were on overhanging ice. Just following was hard; I can’t imagine how Jesse led those pitches.
Climbing low on the route
A steep pitch
At one point a serac calved off right above Jesse. I thought I was going to watch him be killed, but the brunt of the ice fell into a crevasse and Jesse was unhurt by the shrapnel. Some easier snow slopes and a final steep pitch deposited us on the glacier below the summit pyramid. We topped out and descended just as it got dark. We camped on the glacier that night.
High on the route
Just before nearly getting clobbered by serac fall
Looking down the summit pyramid
We woke up early and were moving by six, melting only enough water for coffee. We hoped to find running water on the descent. Even though I had done the descent route 3 times, I made a series of very bad route finding errors. We descended to a small pocket glacier south of the Lower Curtis where we wanted to be. We could see Lake Ann where we wanted to be, but no easy way to getting there. We decided to descend a forested rib to the valley below Lake Ann then hike back up to the Lake and catch the trail out to our bike.
We down climbed and rappelled the ridge, uncertain it would go. We got very lucky and eventually were off of the difficulties 9 hours after leaving camp. We made the grueling hike back up to Lake Ann, soloing easy 5th class rock in one spot. We made the easy walk out to the bike, happily chatting with day hikers out for a stroll. The ride out was cake – it was mostly downhill and I made the first 10 miles in 23 minutes. I fetched the car and picked up Jesse and drove home.
The descent route