Mount Shuksan – Fisher Chimneys

This trip report is primarily brought to you by my fantastic partner, Jake Moon, who not only is super fun to climb with but is also a very talented photographer. Alas, all I provide is a little narrative to connect the photos together. So thanks again Jake for a great trip.
There are a number of trip reports about all of these parts of Shuksan, but we didn’t find many later summer trip reports with pictures, so I wanted to include it for a conditions report.
Shuksan has been on my list for quite a few years now. Every year, I plan to get out and do it and every year we end up going somewhere else. Still ever since I attempted the North Face a number of years ago and was rebuffed by bad rockfall conditions, I’ve wanted to come back to this beautiful mountain.
Fortunately, my good friend and wife’s cousin, Jake Moon, was willing to make the trip from Utah to come climb it with me. Two other local friends wanted to come along as well and so we planned everything and set off early on Thursday, August 22. We wanted to see a lot of the mountain and so we planned to carry over from Fisher Chimneys and go down the Sulphide not realizing how long of a drive it is between trailheads. I definitely don’t recommend this unless you have way too much time on your hands. After dropping one car at the Shannon Ridge trailhead, we made our way towards Heather Meadows and the Lake Ann trailhead picking up a permit in the process.
We finally departed the trailhead at noon and began the descent into the valley below. After reaching the lake we took the northern trail that heads towards Fisher Chimneys. Some descriptions seem to indicate that it is a rough trail, but I found the entire approach trail to be in thoroughly enjoyable. What more, almost the entire way from the lake to the chimneys was surrounded by ripe huckleberries. We gorged ourselves while enjoying the views of the Upper and Lower Curtis glaciers.

In the valley on the way to Lake Ann

View of the Fisher Chimneys route

Huckleberries!

Looking back towards Lake Ann

The Lower Curtis Glacier’s snout
Unfortunately, just before we reached the chimneys, one of our party sprained his ankle on the trail. It wasn’t too bad of an injury, but bad enough that he didn’t feel comfortable completing the route. Another one of our party also wanted to go back and so after a discussion, we decided to part ways with the two friends heading back and Jake and I continued on. We were sad to see them go and we look forward to more adventures with them in the future.
Jake and I watched them go down a bit and once we were satisfied that they would make Lake Ann easy enough, we continued on our way. From here we did a bit of easy scrambling and then followed a fainter trail to the beginning of the chimneys. Neither of us saw a spray painted arrow, but the correct gully was easy enough to identify. It looks like 3rd class climbing and is pretty broad at its base. If you are climbing the chimneys and feel that you are climbing more than 3rd class then you are probably off route.

Lower in the Fisher Chimneys – easy 3rd class

Higher in the Fisher Chimneys – maybe 4th class but solid and easy
The chimneys were fun and didn’t take very long to complete. There was one short section which is probably 4th class that feels more like an actual chimney as opposed to a gully. Even though the climbing was a bit more exposed, there were plenty of stemming options and great holds making it very enjoyable. Also, we found it a lot easier to stay out of the middle of the gullies to avoid the looser rock and climbed on more solid rock just to the outside.
Before too long, we had arrived at Winnie’s slide. The snow was steep, but not very long. We roped up here and placed two pickets in the hard late summer snow on the way up. After topping out on the slope, it was just a short walk to a notch on the rock ridge that separates Winnie’s slide from the Upper Curtis glacier. There are great bivy spots here: at least three spots already cleared for tents with great views of the route and there is running water easily accessible coming from the Upper Curtis Glacier. Both of us thought that this is a much better bivy location than below Winnie’s slide.

Putting a picket in on Winnie’s slide

Approaching the rock divide between Winnie’s slide and the Upper Curtis Glacier — this is where we camped

Looking down at the camp area

Camp all set up as the sun gets lower
We quickly settled in, made dinner, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We are very fortunate to climb and enjoy such an area.

Dinner with a view

Sun setting over the Puget Sound

Sun setting over the North Cascades

Sun setting over Mount Baker
In the morning, we got up, got ready, and climbed a short section of rock to an area where you can walk onto the Upper Curtis glacier. From there, we meandered up through the crevasses to gain the top of the glacier. Most of the crevasses we could either end run or cross on solid snow bridges. There was one last crevasse which split the glacier seemingly from end to end which we climbed into and then climbed the snow/ice on the opposite side to exit. It was fun to get a few swings in on the way up.

Our route on the Upper Curtis Glacier

Climbing rock up towards an easy moat crossing

Stepping onto the glacier

Walking on the Upper Curtis glacier

Climbing out of a crevasse just before reaching easier terrain
It is an easy walk across the Upper Curtis glacier to Hell’s Highway. From below, Hell’s Highway had looked pretty broken up, but that view was deceiving. It was very easy to navigate. We climbed straight up the middle aiming for where the crest of the ridge flattened out. All of the open crevasses were either right of us at the top or left of us at the bottom. Just as we topped out, clouds rolled in and obscured our view. However, there was a pretty well defined boot pack on the Sulphide making it simple to navigate without instruments.

Crossing the glacier down towards Hell’s Highway

Hell’s Highway

Looking down as we climb Hell’s Highway

On the Sulphide in pea soup
Before too long, we were at the Summit pyramid dropping our packs in a convenient moat and racking up with a small set of nuts, hexes, and tricams to do the SE rib. We climbed the SE rib in one long simul climb in boots. The climbing was never too hard and I definitely recommend it over the loose gully. On the rib, you get great views of both sides of the mountain, a better feeling of exposure, and solid rock.

Changing gear(s)

Looking down the ridge

Simul climbing the SE rib on solid rock

A useful pocket for a pink tricam
On the summit, we had a little party and we both commented about how much we love the variety of the route. Shuksan is a beautiful and complex mountain that makes for a memorable climbing experience.

Summit glory
We simul rapped down the gully to avoid knocking rocks on each other and then quickly changed to crampons and headed down the Sulphide. Wow! The sulphide is a really long slog. Kudos to those who get it done on the way up. Since neither of us had any experience with the Sulphide glacier, we did a bit of wandering to find the exit trail. We found what I think is an upper camp complete with a composting toilet a little higher up on climber’s left. We found a lower camp over on the rocks on climber’s right of the route down towards the bottom. And finally, we found the trail out.

Moody clouds on the way down the Sulphide

Looking up the Sulphide towards the summit

My awesome climbing partner, Jake Moon

Yours truly

Huge seracs on an icefall on the Crystal Glacier

Found the potty!

Found the trail!
The sulphide’s approach trail is pretty steep towards the top, quite damaged in the middle by blow down (does anybody know what happened here?), but I can’t believe how jarring that last bit of old logging road is. By the end of the day, both of our feet were feeling it and we were relieved when we finally found the cars and changed into sandals.

Shannon Ridge

Flowers giving us solace on the last leg of the trail
We exited a day earlier than we originally anticipated (with our now smaller party) and so we made our way to Sedro-Woolley to eat at Coconut Kenny’s (We both loved the “small” salads and Mahalo sandwiches) before meeting up with my family who were camping near Granite Falls for more food and fun games.

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