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Mt. Shuksan, 2782 m, often refered to as the "most photographed mountain in America" is an awesome looking peak just East of Mt. Baker, the volcano visible from Vancouver. It can be climbed in a long day but is best enjoyed as an overnight trip. Camping high on one of the many glaciers that surround the peak pyramid provides one with memorable views of North Cascades, provided the weather cooperates.
10 intrepid ski mountaineers associated with the Alpine Club of Canada in one way or another, left Vancouver on Saturday morning and drove, with an unusually hassle-free border crossing, to the closed parking lot at the bottom of Mt. Baker ski area.
We skinned via Otto.bahn to the bottom of Chair 8 where we plunged into a short and brutal bushwhack to White Salmon Creek. Perhaps one day a proper trail will be build, until then be prepared! Skiing up the drainage to White Salmon Glacier proper we observed the mountain's "spring cleaning" in full force. Avalanches came down, mostly from Shuksan Arm, the day before and there was possibility for more later in the day. We did hurry to a safer spot, an indistinct spine on the W side of the glacier. After long, uneventful slog up to Winnie's Slide, a short steep pitch on top of the glacier we broke camp, cooked dinner and looked toward greyish Mt. Baker hoping for more dramatic light. The dramatic sunset did not happen.
At 5:30 we were cruising up Winnie slide ready to cross over to Upper Curtis Glacier, a wide flat field that connects with Sulphide Glacier via Hell's Highway, a wind scoured monster half pipe. Weak sun came up, along with a hint of approaching, and also forecasted, cold front off the Pacific ocean. We motored up Sulphide Glacier to the summit pyramid, left our skis at the bottom and climbed the frozen snow of the central couloir to the summit. (The couloir is about 45°, 200m and is skied when conditions allow; in fact we saw tracks from a day before when the top layer softened and allowed what looked like an enjoyable, if scary, run off the summit.)
Summit views were quite enjoyable but the wind made sure we did not hog the summit for too long.
The ski down back to the camp was fun: fast cruising on the Sulphide, few kick turns on Hell’s Highway and Winnie Slide. Packed up and skied heavy spring snow, isothermal skiing at its best. All the way down we were hoping the bushwhack does not need to be reversed, alas it did. One day a proper trail will be build, until then be prepared!
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