The offer was put on the table, but it really didn't sink in for a couple days. Did I seriously just say yes to climbing Mt. Shuksan? Like... THE Mt. Shuksan? The mountain I have stared at in awe, and long set a goal of climbing. Well it was true. The offer was there, and I didn't even flinch at accepting.
This trip was a whole lot of new experiences for me for many different reasons. First was that Justin wasn't going to be there. He injured his hand pretty badly a couple weeks back, and is out for at least a couple more months. I was going to be climbing with a friend that I volunteer with at the rock wall at the YMCA, Clint, and a buddy of his named Dave. The route was Sulphide Glacier then with an added twist we opted to climb the SE rib of the summit pyramid to add a little spice to the climb. I already had all my gear. I knew I had plenty of training for a glacier climb. This really was easily in my skillset. I just had to do it.
We set out from the car around 4pm on the Sunday before Labor Day. It took us 4hrs to go up the constantly ascending Shannon Ridge trail until we reached our camping spot at 6,500ft. Route finding was easy, and despite the 6mi hike and 4,000ft of elevation gain I felt pretty darn good when we got there.
We found an absolutely fairytale bivy spot in the dirt between a couple rocks right on the edge overlooking the valley. I mean this is the sort of bivy spot you see in magazines. We got to see the sun set behind Mt. Baker while sitting at 6,500ft in 60* weather. Seriously?! Yep, life was perfect.
Alarm went off at 3am, and by the time we got some food in us and roped up we were on the trail around 4:30am. The climb across the Sulphide Glacier went amazingly fast. I'm not sure if it's because most of it was in the dark, but it just felt like I snapped my fingers and was all the sudden staring at the summit pyramid. My god this thing is beautiful!
Rewind a bit to the day before and when we first got onto the glacier you could see smoke rising up from behind The Pickets in the east. At first we just thought it was really cool clouds, but as the day progressed we could see it was smoke. Well, fast forward back to reaching the summit pyramid and now the entire Cascades has a beautiful low smoke haze all over them. Just the peaks were sticking through. Now I've seen some beautiful landscapes, but this was unlike anything I've seen. At that moment it really sunk in just how much many landscapes of nature I have missed simply by never giving myself the opportunity to experience them. Never again I say!
Anyway, we hit the pyramid around 7am and it was climbing time! We simul-climbed up until we popped up on the rib, then opted to just go ahead and pitch it out. In hind-site I think we could have easily climbed the rib in simul fashion and only used pro at the single class 5 pitch towards the top, but honestly I'm glad we didn't. It gave us all a great opportunity to work on our belay transfer, and Dave did a fantastic job of setting pro. I got some great experience cleaning the route so I'm really glad we did it this way.
Summit time was around 10:30am. Holy shit! There I was... sitting on the peak of Mt. Shuksan! I'm just so humbled and blessed to be able to progress so quickly and have the confidence and skills to achieve a goal like this in such a short amount of time. To have Justin as an incredible teacher, the rock wall at the Y to work my rock skills, and such a supporting family is a blessing beyond words. We laughed and joked at the summit for a bit then it was time to head down. Now some people opt to down-climb the gully and some opt to rappel. Either is equally feasible, but we chose to rappel. Why? Because it's funner than shit! I admit. I love rappelling! Five raps latter and we were doing the final down-climb to the base of the pyramid, and back at our gear.
Descending was a double edged sword. On the plus side we had just summited Mt. Shuksan so spirits were in high gear. On the down side it was ridiculously hot, and we were sweating beyond belief. We did make killer time though, and thanks to a quick lesson from Dave on boot skiing and us just hauling ass in general we made it back to camp in record time.
We packed up, refilled our water, then headed back down the ridge towards the car. What was a "good" trail on the way up was a tad less than fun on the way down. Descending 4,000ft in mountaineering boots on rocks and roots is a little less than what I would consider fun. The last mile to the car was far less than fun and I needed desperately to get off my feet. At precisely 6pm we were at the trailhead for a beyond successful trip!
What did things did I learn? Every goal you set is achievable if you set your mind to it. "Chuck-a-dook" is a very real thing, and if someone above you yells "Roooock!" there's always a chance it's not JUST a rock. Clint will be creating a very unique online channel soon. Hahaha! (inside joke on that one). Never ever ever take a hiking/backpacking/climbing trip without my Sony RX100IV again. The iPhone 7 takes some pretty decent pictures, but some of these could have been printable with a better camera. I didn't think it was possible to take 30min to shit with no actual toilet to sit on, but Dave proved that to be completely viable.
Mt. Shuksan is officially checked off the bucket list!