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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shuksan Fisher Chimneys

Sept 10-11, 2011

On the last sunny weekend of this past short summer, I resisted my urge to go rock climbing (mostly due to a lack of climbing partners) and instead joined Tim and Greg on a classic mountaineering trip across the border. The plan for the weekend was to climb the photogenic Mount Shuksan via the Fisher Chimneys. The route involves a scenic hike to the base of the west face, some pleasant scrambling, glacier travel and even some low 5th rock up high. 

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After faffing at the ranger station to buy our parking pass and to register for a backcountry permit, we were off hiking towards Lake Ann by mid-morning. It was a good thing that we didn't wake up any earlier, as they aren't open until 8am. It took us about 3-4 hours of hiking to reach the base of the Fisher Chimneys, most of it through gorgeous meadows along the immaculate trail. This was a welcomed treat after bushwacking through the Chehalis on the previous weekend.

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The trail approach as described in Alpine Select isn't completely clear. We botched the approach by following McLane's description to hike along the loose moraines left of the Lower Curtis Glacier. A much better approach takes a steeper trail off to the left before reaching the glacier that involves scrambling up a creek to access a higher and better trail that leads directly to the correct start of the Fisher Chimney. I probably should have checked the Beckey guide instead. I'm sure we weren't the first party to embark on the alternative starts.

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Tim scrambling near the top of the Fisher Chimneys. Despite climbing the wrong gully at the start, we ended up back on route with some pleasant scrambling on surprisingly good rock (mostly greenschist) where it's seen traffic. The name of the route is a bit of a misnomer, it's more of a gully, mostly 3rd class, with some 4th class. 

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This was a super casual trip with Tim. We had absolutely no urgency at all and we hung out in the shade on this rock for a while, just below Winnie's Slide, a moderately steep snow slope that's lucky enough to get a name.

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Snow slogging with a view. The Baker ski area can be seen on the right side. 

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Once we reached the Upper Curtis Glacier, we went north towards the col between the Upper Curtis Glacier and the Hanging Glacier to bivy. We enjoyed a great lazy afternoon and evening of napping in the sun. The summit is only another 400m above this spot, but we would take the long way around to climb it the easy way the next morning.

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Stunning evening light on the Hanging Glacier. From my bivy site, I could hear the seracs collapsing all night long.

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Evening light over Tim and Greg's bivy spot. 

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It was a really nice evening. 

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I didn't bring a tent, so I was glad to have found this awesome bivy spot on the col between the Upper Curtis Glacier and the Hanging Glacier. Talk about a room with a view!

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My bivy spot and Mount Baker. Day trips are great, but sometimes it's nice to just spend more time on the mountain.

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It was a perfect night to sleep under the magical stars, under the glow of the incredibly bright full moon.

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A glowing moon next to Mount Baker.

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Fully refreshed after sleeping for ten hours (in addition to our afternoon nap), we left our bivy spot at 7am to climb up to the Sulphide Glacier. 

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The Sulphide Glacier is the standard route on the Shuksan. Greg has been that way twice previously and was happy to try a different route this time. 

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Tim and Greg plodding up towards the summit pyramid. The easiest way goes up a 4th class gully in the middle of pyramid. We climbed the southeast ridge, which is the right skyline, which is something like 5.2. My friend Ran had climbed the ridge in his ski boots on the previous weekend, so I figured it must be pretty good!

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The Sulphide Glacier with Baker Lake off in the hazy distant.

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Greg and Tim climbing up the southeast ridge. Easy climbing, with fantastic views everywhere. A handful of nuts and tricams and slings are all that's needed for the occasional spot where protection was possible. This ridge is preferable to the gully, as we were less suspectible to rockfall from the busier gully.

Me and the North Cascades. Photo by Greg West.


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Tim and Greg on the summit of Mount Shuksan. We descended down the standard gully, making one rappel along the way to bypass some unpleasant downclimbing.
Greg's Photos

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The Sulphide Glacier and a very hazy view of the North Cascades. I keep meaning to explore more of this area, but my map wall doesn't cover these rugged peaks. 

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Wildflowers and the Curtis Glacier.

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Tim and Greg hanging out below Lake Ann, looking back at our route. It took another hour or two for us to hike out in the blazing heat. We finished the trip off with some burgers and tasty beers to cap off this fun and enjoyable excursion. What a great totally casual weekend in the mountains! Until next time, with skis!

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