Shuksan - May 2003
James snaps a photo of Baker. Someone get this man a towel.
Mount Shuksan, located just east of Mount Baker, provides excellent day-trip ski and climbing objectives (more skiing than climbing in our case). On May 11, 2003, Matt Brown, James Floyer and I chose the gentle Sulphide Glacier ski approach. At 2782m, Shuksan provides 2000m in vertical gain, most of which is gained by ski save the final 250m up the south face which is a short snow climb (or rock scramble later in the season). See Matt's photos which are much better than mine!
Matt and James follow the eastern edge of the Sulphide glacier to the south face of the summit pyramid.
4:10am alarm goes off. 4:30am James greets me in the lobby of the apartment. We get Matt from the college and the three of us are off to the Peace Arch border crossing. You guessed it: no wait at the border. Two union jacks and one maple leaf drive south for this cross-border day trip. We reach the Shannon Creek parking (760m) before 6:30am. Skis are strapped to packs and we're hiking at 7:00am. After the first three kms along the trail, we hit steady snow before the clearcut (975m). We ski our way up the ridge (1400m) and onto the Sulphide glacier (1725m) to grab lunch in the sun. The glacier alternates between steeper and mellow uphill inclines. James and Matt ski ahead of me; I slow them down as they kindly stop and wait for me under pleasant clear skies. The summit pyramid looks steep. We reach its base at 2500m. Here and at various points throughout the day, avalanche researcher James shares with us his extensive understanding on the properties of snow and their effects on avalanche conditions. This proves quite interesting and informative. For the final climb, Matt and I drop the skis while James packs his to the top. Just shy of the summit, a dark thundercloud envelops us, hiding the anticipated view north of Slesse and the Border peaks. James' skis rattle with static electricity and he immediately removes them from his pack. After a few minutes on the summit (3:30pm, 2782m) we descend: James cuts impressive turns down the narrow 55° chute while Matt and I enjoy a mellow plunge-step descent. On the ski down the glacier, I notice my ice axe buzzing on my back. James and Matt confirm their axes are doing the same. Shortly thereafter, a flash of lightning to the south sends us hurrying down the glacier to get back under the trees. Perhaps carrying a metal rod on your back on a flat open glacier isn't the safest idea in a thunderstorm. Sharp hail rains down as we complete our ski descent. Again, my lack of downhill ability is made evident; nice turns James and Matt! We're at the car at 6:00pm. Skagit burgers follow at a nearby diner and we're back on the road for a 10:30pm arrival in Vancouver.
James packs his skis to the top for a real manly-man ski descent. He is actually standing straight here as the slope nears 55° just below the summit.

Selected Climbs in the Cascades. Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield. Mountaineers Books, 1993.

Green Trails Maps, No. 14 Mt Shuksan 1:69,500.

Mt. Shuksan Climbing Notes, US Forest Service.

Steph: "Hey James, is your ice axe making a loud buzzing noise behind your head?"
James: "Yeah! I thought it was just me! Yours too?"
Matt: "Hey guys, there's this odd hissing sound coming from my pack..."
CRACK! ... BABOOM! (lightning strikes to the south)
map of Sulphide glacier
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