Shuksan via the Sulphide

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 48.83140°N / 121.6015°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 7, 2007
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring

The Prep...

Mt Shuksan April 7-8th via the Sulphide Glacier...

Alright! Mt. Shuksan guys, who wants in? Gerard, Cody, Scott, Pete, Jay, Andrew, Caleb... Holy shit! Who DOESNT want in?! Who’s roping with who? Are you guys tenting together? Are you bringing snowshoes? Crampons? Ice screws for the pyramid? How about some nuts? OK, Ill bring the rope and you bring the pro. Got it? Got it... What?! You’re not coming? Why not? What gives? Weren’t you just giving that guy shit for not coming? Which route guys? White Salmon? Ya, I know the approach is shorter, but I don’t wanna deal with that 50-60 degree ice up on Winnies Side! I don’t own a second ice tool... Let’s do Sulphide! It’s much more gradual. Albeit the road is washed out 5 miles before the trail head, who cares... It’ll be a GENTLE mountain bike ride up the road. We can do it! Ok, Sulphide it is! Meet at Cody's at 7 with mountain bikes...

It went from 8 people down to 4 for the actual climb. Cody, Gerard, Pete and I. The plan was to bike from the road washout to the trailhead in about 30 minutes to an hour, giddy up the ridge line, up a small snow slope and establish base camp at the base of the Sulphide in 4 hours or so... Funny how plans go...

From Breakfast to the TH...

Down a couple waffles, as usual, and pick up my 37lb pack and head out the door... Damn pack is STILL too heavy! Dammit! Its drizzling as I drive to Cody's house... As were sitting at Cody's house, we’re trying to decide if we should go with plan B or maybe even plan C, Colchuck and Vantage, respectively. We all had our hearts set on the Shuksan pyramid with its 5 sweeping ridges, so FUCK IT, let’s do it... Rain is rain, that’s why we have rain coats right?!

On the road we go... I’m hungry, so is Pete... Head to Mickey D's and order an egg McMuffin... There goes my 6 year absence of fast food... mmmmmm... Sign in at the ranger station and see another group ahead of us planning to ski the Sulphide today... Awesome! We will be the only team on the mountain! Seeing Shuksan and especially the pyramid from the road got the blood moving! The summit pyramid was covered in snow and looked STEEP AS SHIT!!!

We drove to the washout at the 23rd milepost and SHIT that’s a fuqqen WASHOUT!!! About 40 feet deep and 50 feet wide! No road to be seen... Getting our gear situated for the climb, I notice that Cody has no snowshoes! What gives? 'Oh, just trying to shave some weight, and if I don’t bring any, then that means that I don’t have to break trail!' 'Damn you Cody,' (oh, the story goes on...)…

We grab our gear and bike over to the front of the washout. As I bike over to the washout I hop a 7 inch branch and nearly crash. Shit! Going 3mph with a pack on and trying to jump a small branch, Gerard laughs at me, scoffing, 'amateur' under his breath. As we look back to Pete biking on over, he approaches the branch and I swear, the following happened in slow motion... He's adjusting everything while riding at the daredevil speed of nearly 2mph. As he hits the branch, his bike comes to a dead stop and he topples over and bashes his head on the branch. The backdrop is great. 20 feet from the cars on a flat road, falling on a small branch. The best part: his hands didn’t come off the handle bars to stop the fall! His head took the entire impact! Thank God he was wearing a helmet! Gerard and I couldn’t stop laughing for about 5 minutes! Ahhh, great stuff...

It took us about 10 minutes to cross the washout. We formed an assembly line across it to ferry our bikes over. Shit! I was out of breath on the other side! Alright, hopefully no more obstacles. Bikes, a heavy pack, crossing streams and downed trees. Just give me a snowslope or trail or something that doesn’t involve all this craziness!

We took a left onto Shannon Creek Road. Only 4.5 miles left to the trail head. BOOM! A HUGE DOWNED TREE about 50 feet ahead. Got off the bike, picked up the bike, trudged over (or under at times), brushed the brush off my pack, body and bike, got on the bike, nearly fell as I tried to get back on the bike... Repeat... and repeat... and repeat... and repeat... for THREE FUCKING HOURS!!! We weren’t even at the trail head yet. Snow started to occupy most of the road, so we locked up the bikes and started walking more ROAD to the trail head. We see the two skiers trotting down the road now with bikes in hand. Their beta was basically, the slopes leading to the Sulphide have been wind loaded and is prone to avalanches. Besides that, they give us a good luck omen for our 8000'+ ascent.

Five minutes later the snow started dominating the road. Step, posthole, step, posthole... Repeat. We stopped and donned our snowshoes. All of us but Cody, that is. Us snowshoers end up breaking trail, but it ends up that Cody still punches through. Oh man, that SUCKS for him! The fearless non-snowshoer has to break his own trail the ENTIRE time now! He tries to find any sliver of flat dirt/trail that he can tromp on. He's on the left edge of the road then runs over to the patch of dirt on the right edge of the road, going over and under branches just to avoid the dreaded posthole. It looks quite comical. Can’t help but laugh... Poor guy!

The Climb and Out...

We get to the trail head and decide to head on up. It’s already 1:30 in the afternoon and the hike is JUST beginning. The going is messy. Crossing streams and many downed trees on the trail, but luckily we didn’t have our bikes now so we could make better time. I start getting a bit tired. That ride up did a number on me. Our pace slows down a bit and Pete starts to get some cramps. You OK? We take our lunch break and start off again. Turbo (aka Gerard) leads out and soon enough we gain a thousand feet in no time and him and I are by ourselves. We wait up. Cody is doing well. He found a technique in which if you step slowly onto the snowshoed broken trail and slowly disperse your weight on it, you won’t punch in. Very intricate Cody! Its almost an art form! Pete's cramps have gone now too! The sun breaks through and the sky is blue! FUCKKK YAAA!!!

Turbo leads out again and were stomping through some steep, heavy, deep snow. The going slows down. We alternate leads and go for about an hour. We gain the ridge and take another break in the sunshine. I look at my altimeter and what the fuck, were only at 4000'! Shit! We have been going for nearly 6 hours now! Our camp is about 2-3 miles away and 2300' up. Sure, one can say that 2300' is about as much as a Tiger Mtn hike, so it should only take about 40 minutes, but it aint the same!!! Heavy packs, route finding, deep snow and dead legs from the bike make it worth second guessing... Maybe 2, 3 even 4 hours? We are almost at the Plateau. 30 minutes later, at 4600' we gained the plateau and the blue sky! Baker shined up to the west, Bacon Peak and the North Central Cascades were popping up! Shit ya! This is why I climb! We could see the edge of the Sulphide at this point and our route to gain the notch, just before it... Avalanches left and right. We saw roughly 5 different avalanche slides. Our route went right up through them. We talked and talked about it and decided that we would thread through the avy terrain and if at any time anyone felt sketched out, we would turn around.

We took our time through the plateau taking lots of pics. Gerard led out through the avy debris. He stopped and mentioned that he was starting to get tired. WHAT?! Turbo getting tired? I tried kick stepping and plunging through the snow. Man, was it work. We got up to the top of this slope and saw the terminus of the Sulphide Glacier which was in the shadow. My heart dropped once I saw this. HUGE MONSTER cornices loomed overhead and the chances of an avalanche were teetering on the edge of a knife. Well, we saw the very tip of Shuksan for the very first time, and that was the closest we would get. FUCK!!! Well, I’m glad I’m out here anyway...

We turned back and trotted back over to the plateau to camp. The trot back over to camp seemed to take way longer than expected. Probably because the clouds were rolling in and spirits were a bit low. All of us were out of water, so once we got back to camp, Cody and I got on water duty while Gerard and Pete set up camp... Just a regular night, full of bullshitting, bad food and being uncomfortable... Ahh, the mountains... Around midnight, it started to rain and IT DID NOT STOP TILL WE REACHED THE CARS... Packed up camp around 9AM and arrived at bikes in 2 hours!!! Plunge stepping down all that shit was really fast! Got to the bikes, donned the helmets, per. Mr. Litwin's incidence, and headed on down. This time, we were going to count how many downed trees there were.

1,2,3,4... Off the bike (OTB)... 6, OTB, 7,8,9, OTB. Cody crashed on a log. 45, 46, 47, OTB, 48, OTB. I crashed as my runner got caught on the bike. 95, OTB, 120, 121, 122, Gerard crashes as he tried to jump one too many logs. His bike is on top of him. This is awesome! 135, 136, 137, 138, OTB... ONE HUNDERED AND SIXTY EIGHT! Then we reach the sinkhole, by the cars. We negotiate the sinkhole as I hear Cody yell, 'SPARTAAAA' trying to get out of the creek bed. 'GRAB MY HAND!!!' And he helps pull me out of the creek bed and voila! Were at the cars! We take one miserable picture using Pete's 2 ounce tri-pod that he carried all the way up the mountain... He's hardcore! All two ounces and he never used it once until now! Fuckin daredevil he is…

Against my will, we went to Dairy Queen (the pattern aint looking good!) for a post-climb meal. Ya, I had a fish sandwich, large onion rings and a medium blizzard... Fuck, it tasted good. Pete took a shit, Cody caught it on camera and that was the trip...

A massive sinkhole and 168 downed trees. Looks like the approach to Shuksan will either be from the west side or only available to those people who like to add that much more misery to their trip... Well, at least no more bottlenecks at the summit pyramid!


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gimpilator - Apr 16, 2007 9:28 pm - Voted 10/10

Shuksan Attempt

Don't feel bad about turning around. This is starting to look like a year of failed attempts due to crappy conditions. I had to turn around just below the summit of Baker yesterday because of wind loading in the snow.

mauri pelto

mauri pelto - Apr 22, 2007 8:12 am - Voted 10/10

A record?

Has anyone taken bikes over that many trees before? I cannot believe you persisted with the bikes. I felt my desire to head for the Sulphide this summer, quickly dissipate, thanks for making it fun to read about.

Viewing: 1-2 of 2