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Climb: Shuksan-N. Face |
Date of Climb: 5/30/2006
So it seemed everyone else had rain over the memorial day weekend....luckily we decided that Mon/Tues would be better...sure enough!!
We headed out from Seattle at around 9am and started our leisure approach around 12. We arrived just below the North Face route at about 4pm. We followed the cat track below the Baker Ski slopes to its end and instead of heading straight down through the clear cut, we tried cutting across the slope higher up, trying to stay on snow. We ran into several stream crossings and increasing steepness, so we just headed down hill through the trees. Eventually we reached the valley bottom and started our slog. Pretty decent snow conditions with only small post holes and fairly easy going. Once we arrived at the 5400-5600 bench below the N Face, the snow was total slush and the visibility dropped to ZERO. Not a good sign we thought, 60+ degrees and super humid air. Hung out, melted water, climbed into our bivy bags, and off to sleep praying for a better day. (Thanks to the guys who dug out the large tent platform over the weekend).
CLEAR SKIES at 9pm when I stirred in my bivy bag and a temp of 32......looking good. 12am, star filled skies, bright moonlight and 30 degrees....even better.
We wake up at 4am to a totally different world. Clear skies, snow as hard as rock, and visibility for miles. Time to go.
Joe and I headed out around 6am after melting more water. We're on the N Face and headed up. Slow moving at first as our legs warm up. I lead us around some breaks and into the ice fall area, and Joe blazes a quick path through the danger area and into safety. We had a few nice moves over some cracks and moats. Just to the right side exit we hit a soft snow patch, little to no purchase with our feet or tools, we go through as quickly as possible. Uneventful, but beautifully exposed climbing to the shoulder. As soon as reaching the shoulder the winds picked up and cooled us off to a bitter cold. The traverse across the top of hanging glacier was easy and short, there was a boot track, but our snow seemed in better conditions than they got. We reached the summit pyramid at about 9:30am, 3.5hrs from camp, not too bad.
After a brief snack and the thoughts of everyone else being at work we headed up the summit pyramid. It was my second time on the summit so I gave the lead to Joe and we ascended the south gulley. Joe put in an ice screw in one steep, melting out spot and than a nut in a crack just before a short exposed step to the summit. Winds were a consistent 30+mph so we took the standard summit photo, congratulated ourselves and headed down. We simply down climbed, face first, following our tracks down. We met up with a European group of four on their decent from the ridge and they kindly let us pass. They did the Sulphide glacier route.
Neither of us were entirely sure about the decent route, so we were actaully glad we found the boot track from another group. There was a steep step into the hourglass that we downclimbed face first again. The traverse down was beautiful and uneventful. Once we reached the final decent slope, White Salmon, both our spirits were lifted and crushed at the same time. We still had SO long to go down. It took us forever to decent to the valley. plunge stepping sucked, glissading was out, and following the other boot track was worse (once again, their conditions looked worse). We finally settled on a combination of front pointing and heal kicking as muscle groups tired.
Once we reached the bottom we got to wittness a few truck size chunks cleave off the hanging glacier for an incredible break time show. The hike across the valley back to the woods was uneventful.
Then it turned into a minor hell. We decided to try and traverse the valley the clearcut and head up. It turned into a bushwack through stream crossings on alders and then straight up through the forest.
Finally reaching the car!!! 12hrs, camp to car
Snow/ice conditions were great on the entire route, with the exception of the short section on the N Face. We came across very few crevasses and passed through high risk areas early enough.
All in all a great climb. Thanks Joe for picking the mountain
Check out photos. Simply use the drop arrow under "slideshow" for larger versions.