Brief Description of Mount Shuksan
Situated just south of the Canadian border, in the uppermost reaches of Washington state’s North Cascade National Park, Mount Shuksan is one of the top mountaineering destinations in the United States.
At 2,783 metres (9,131 feet) in elevation, it is the tallest non-volcanic peak in the Cascade Range. Composed of four distinct faces and five different ridgelines, the jagged peak boasts a variety of terrain. This makes it the perfect destination for climbers of all different skill and ability levels.
On top of the actual climbing that the mountain possesses, it is also widely considered to be one of the most scenic in the world and, as a result, is one of the most photographed.
Quick Facts about Mount Shuksan
- Mount Shuksan is listed as one of North America’s 50 Classic Climbs and was also identified as one of the top 35 mountains in North America on Fred Beckey’s ‘Great Peaks of the Continent’.
- The southeastern flank of Mount Shuksan is home to Sulphide Creek Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America. The waterfall is fed from the various glaciers and snowfields on the mountain.
- Rising to 2,783 meters (9,131 feet) in elevation, Mount Shuksan is the ninth highest and more prominent peak in Washington state.
History of Mount Shuksan
Mount Shuksan has long held spiritual importance to the native people of the Pacific Northwest. In the Lummi language, Shuksan means ‘high peak’. In the Nooksack language, it means ‘golden eagle’.
The first confirmed ascent of Mount Shuksan took place on September 7, 1906 when American photographer Asahel Curtis climbed to the top of the peak W. Montelius Price.
However, there are unconfirmed reports that Joseph Morowits reached the summit of Mount Shuksan in 1897. Reference to this ascent was made by prominent mountaineer Claude Ewing Rusk in a letter to the editor of an Oregonian mountaineering club journal, Mazamas.
Experience Required for Climbing Mount Shuksan
Since there are a variety of different routes that lead up to the summit of Mount Shuksan, there are varying levels of difficulty. However, the easiest route is only rated as grade I and requires some simple rock and snow climbing.
A variety of other routes that lead to the summit are more challenging, and range in difficulty from grade II to grade V+, depending on time of year and conditions.
Regardless of the route that is chosen to climb, a good level of physical fitness is required for all of the routes, which are quite steep and require long hours of climbing on summit day to reach the top.
Main Routes up Mount Shuksan
There are 14 routes that lead up to the summit of Mount Shuksan, each of which has numerous variations.
However, the easiest and most commonly climbed route is the Sulphide Route (grade I). This route involves a scenic approach to the foot of the Sulphide Glacier. The following day, climbers will ascend up the glacier and on to the summit pyramid. From here, climbers will scramble up to the top.
The second most popular route is Fischer Chimneys. In terms of distance, it is one of the shortest routes, but requires a combination of scrambling over rock and climbing over snow, though there is less time spent crossing glaciers on this route.
Other popular routes include Price Glacier (grade IV), the Northwest Arete (grade III) and the North Face, which is by far the most difficult and involves a long and steep ascent over snow, ice and glacier. The North Face is best left for advanced climbers.