Climb Mt. Shuksan via The Fisher Chimneys

Rate this Adventure Washington Austin Pass Trailhead

Added by Jacob Moon

  • Summit one of Washington's most beautifully rugged peaks
  • One of the finest mountaineering objective in the Cascades
  • Glacier travel, excellent climbing, stunning camp site

Out of all of the ruggedly beautiful, non-volcanic mountains in the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Shuksan is the center piece. Rising to a height of 9,131 feet, Mt. Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world with its jagged ridges, hanging glaciers, steep rocky faces and ease of access.

The most popular route to reach the summit of Mt. Shuksan is by taking the Sulfide Glacier Route. This route is very long and mild in nature and is a good option for those who are looking to be introduced to the skills of mountaineering. But, for those who are a little more experienced, the Fisher Chimneys is the way to go

The Fisher Chimney Route is the second most popular route on the mountain and easily the most diverse and exciting with a good mixture of 4 class climbing and several glacial crossings. Did I mention that it also boasts one of the best camping spots in all of the Northern Cascades?

Approach:

Head south on the Lake Ann Trail. The first 2 miles of the trail descends nearly 1,000 vertical feet through a beautiful forest and meadow to a stream crossing. From here, the trail begins to climb, gaining back the 1,000 vertical feet that was lost to make it to the ridge just above Lake Ann. Follow the trail down toward the lake for only a few hundred feet until finding the climbers trail, which veers to the left and south toward the Lower Curtis Glacier on Mt Shuksan.

Route Description:

Minutes after taking the climbers trail, you will find yourself walking through lust ferns with the blue ice of the lower Curtis Glaciers starring back and the Upper Curtis Glacier hanging on high above. From time to time, you will most likely see huge chucks of ice crashing down from Upper Curtis. In less than half a mile after leaving Lake Anne, the first of many switchbacks will be encountered. Though switchbacks are steep and exhausting, in late season, the hillside is covered in BLUE BERRIES, making the hard work well worth it. Once you've had your fill of berries, continue along the trail and cross two gullies before the First "Chimney" comes into view.

The trail is well-traveled and easy to follow through the "Chimneys". I say "Chimneys" because they felt more like gullies, but with relatively solid rock. The Chimneys rate 3rd - 4th class and are overall very secure, but with a heavy pack on, they can be rather challenging. Some parties opt to rope up for the short and 4th class sections to stay safe. It is important to know your level of comfort with these types of situations and to plan accordingly.

The Chimney section of the route climbs through 3rd and 4th class terrain for nearly 1,000 feet until reaching the top of the ridge. The ridge reaches out over the Lower Curtis Glacier. At the top of the ridge, it's reported that there are some good camping sites. If it's late in the day and time won't allow you to continue, this would be a great place to set up base camp but if will allow I strongly recommend continuing on to my favorite camping spot.

From the top of the ridge, cross over and up until reaching the very steep snow slope known as the Winnie Slide. This slope is framed between the mountain ridges and reaches an angel of nearly 60 degrees. If you haven't done so yet I would recommend roping up for this section and protecting it with either ice screws or snow pickets. All though this slope is very steep it is only about 150 feet tall so one rope length should reach most of the way up. Once surmounting this short but steep obstacle, camp is within sight. Cross the snow back to the ridge the separates you from the Upper Curtis Glacier and set up camp on one of 3 large tent platforms that offer breathtaking views of the Curtis Glaciers, Mt. Baker, The boarding Canadian/American peaks and the ocean. on a clear day. Set up base camp and relax.

Summit Day:

From camp climb the rock up until it is possible to step onto the Upper Curtis Glacier then ascend the glacier working up and left. Once it becomes possible turn south and descend down and to the next steep glacial section known as Hell's Highway. I recommend using ice screw and/or Snow pickets to ascend this section safely. Climb Hell's Highway up and left until it levels off and then turn left (due south) up and onto the Sulphide Glacier and connect with the popular Sulphide Glacier Route.

Once reaching the Sulphide Glacier the summit pyramid will be in full view (if it is a clear day). Head north and up the glacier while navigating crevasses to reach the summit pyramid itself.

From this point several options do exist:

1) The most popular route is the "Gullies". This route follow a series of steep gullies up through 3rd and 4th class terrain to the summit. Although this route is the least technical and most popular, it does contain a lot of loose rock and should only be climbed with extreme caution, not only for yourself but for those above you. Depending on time of year, this option may also contain snow.

2) The Southeast Rib. This route climbs the ridge just to the right of the gullies. It offers excellent views and 5.4 climbing on solid rock. Since most parties will already have a rope with them for glacial travel, the only extra equipment needed for this route is a hand-full of slings, a set of nuts, and some rock shoes. This route is an excellent alternative.

Once reaching the summit, soak in the views, take some mandatory summit selfies, and descend down the gullies route via rappelling and/or down climbing back down to the Glacier. Reverse the route back down the Fisher Chimneys or bring a second car and park it at the trailhead for the Sulphide Glacier route and descend.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Cookware, stove and fuel
  • Food
  • Water
  • Headlamp
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Ice Tool
  • 2-3 snow pickets
  • 4 Ice Screws
  • Rope
  • Helmet
  • Mountaineering Boots
  • Crevasse rescue kit
  • Sunglasses
  • Map & Compasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Layers, Layers, Layers
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Photography, Rock Climbing

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Features:

Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic

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Added by Jacob Moon

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