Mount Shuksan, North Face, WA. (9,131′)
“This is a serious snow-and-ice route of moderate steepness on one of the most beautiful mountains in the Cascades. No route on Mt. Shuksan is more dramatic than the seldom done North Face, which ascends the snow and glacier clad shoulder dividing the White Salmon Cirque from the Price Glacier Cirque.” (Nelson & Potterfield, Select Climbs of the Cascades)
A most magnificent climb!!!
Bivouacs in surreal environments, under hanging glaciers and beside cirques of ice. Sounds of ice and rock fall throughout the night, maybe that of a calving glacier’s, reminds us that we’re at most miniature creatures. Risk is around us, we feel alive, if risk is reward, we’ve the prize. Mitigation starts early in the morning, up through the Shrunds we go, eyes toward the sky. Pulse beats strong, stronger than ever, through both ears, and into the eyes, we’re climbing. Higher and higher, axes and crampons biting into snow, every point and all axe throws are felt in perfect North Face conditions. The agreement was bilateral, she invited us, then permitted us climb her, Shuksan that is. Haste, we were upon the summit pyramid, climbers all around having climbed up from Sulphide and Fishers on the first perfect weekend in a most dismal summer. We frothed in delight, after climbing 30 feet of ice and placing a screw or two to capture the summit! It was blue to the East, West, North and.. even the South. No words suffice. He who captures the summit, captures the experience. The wind was light, more, our eyes bright. Some candies, (hot lips and cherry coke if I may) and mandatory camera poses and we were off to begin our pilgrimage to lower ground. Fisher’s chimneys was elusive, and dare I say snowy and dangerous, and precipitated the need for down climbing with pickets and rapping off snow bollards…! This slowed our rate of descent, and landed us square in our bivies for night number two at the base of the forbidden chimneys. For food that night, I had a remaining… AHHH NOT ANOTHER FREAKING CLIFF BAR!!!!. Next morning, hydrated & hiked out. The carry-over was more exhausting than I had planned for; the mountain’s savageness much more accurate in my mind now. I admit, I am no one’s hero but my own, having been an original rockstar turned snowstar. We painfully trundled down the road on route for our car, looking up towards the temporarily tamed Massif, and in unison and ‘yipeeing’ in response to our souls’ solace via the summit of Shuksan.