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July 18, 2018

IMG_8402By David Kendall

Mt. Shuksan is one of the most beautiful and most photographed peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is an iconic peak within the North Cascades, overshadowed by its giant, and more visible, neighbor to the north – Mt. Baker. Climbing it is even more spectacular with its varied terrain, scenery, and a stunning traverse up onto the mighty Sulphide Glacier.

Mt Shuksan was recently added to our list of peaks. It has quickly established itself as a favorite peak. Many of our climbers have come back again and again to experience this hidden gem. While only 9,131 feet, it provides both an accessible high mountaineering experience as well as a rock scramble up a pyramid face to the summit.

Our team this year consisted of four climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International. All our climbers had climbed together before which made this climb even more enjoyable. Jeff Hazeltine (AKA White Cheddah) was our veteran Shuksan climber coming back for his third ascent among many other summits over the years. Chris Roberts (AKA Icy Intellect) caught the climb bug last year with his first ascent of Mt. Baker on a Climb to Fight Cancer team. The challenge and view of Mt. Shuksan convinced him to come back again this year. David Kendall (AKA The Mangler), a veteran climber since 2005 with over 20 climbs, was on his first try at Mt. Shuksan. Andrea Towlerton (AKA #Hashtag) had so much fun with Jeff, Chris, and David on Mt. Baker last year that she jumped in at the last-minute for more mountain madness.

As many of you know, the guides make these mountaineering adventures even more enjoyable with their deep knowledge and passion for the outdoors. Our senior guide was Craig Van Hoy. He is a veteran guide with an incredible climbing resume including over four hundred ascents of Mt. Rainier by nineteen different routes. He holds several records and first ascents on that mountain. He’s also climbed the Seven Summits (including Mount Everest) as well as numerous other significant peaks throughout the world. His favorite mountain of all is the one in his own backyard – Mt. Shuksan!

Our second guide, Patrick Chu, is equally impressive. Patrick left the warm sandy beaches and ocean air of California for the mountains. He’s climbed rock, snow, and ice throughout the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, Patagonia, Alaska, and British Columbia. He’s also is a certified EMT.55267274909__CE167430-93E4-4B8A-9400-BB3652F1FEEC

The weather on Friday for the hike into high camp was perfect. We had a cool, slight breeze, and the somewhat overcast skies made for a relaxing hike. We left the trailhead (2,500 ft.) late morning and hiked up the valley to Shannon Ridge at 4,500 ft. From there we looked across the valley to the immense south flank of Mt. Baker. We then made our way up through a narrow gap traversing over onto the Sulphide Glacier and high camp (6,400 ft). We quickly set up our tents in an amazing high mountain amphitheater before the punishing wind and rain hit us. The weather transition was fast.

A very noisy night of high winds and pouring rain spilled over into an entire day of more of the same. Some of us appreciated packing ear plugs for the night. All of us regretted not packing a book, cards, or iPod to relieve our boredom as we remained trapped in our tents. We did catch up on our sleep while safely snuggled in all warm and cozy in our sleeping bags while the storm raged on around us.

Finally, during the evening on day two the clouds broke and we enjoyed dinner while looking out over to the massive peaks of the Picket Mountain Range.IMG_3965

Summit day began with a 1:30 am wake up on day three. We quickly got organized, ate breakfast and headed out around 3:00 am under a cloudless, starry night with a slight glowing sunrise.

One of my favorite parts of the climb is moving out with our headlamps on and slowly making our way up the mountain. We crossed the Sulphide Glacier to the base of the 700 ft. rock summit pyramid.

This is where we needed to turn around. The summit was going to have to wait for another time. We were supporting one another as a team, one with a larger goal than a summit. It’s always disappointing to turn back, but mountaineering is like health. It can be an unpredictable journey.


I participate annually in the Climb to Fight Cancer for the important cause, the commandery of the other climbers, and the unique experience of the high mountains. The summit is one point of the journey, but it is not the goal. The goal is to find a cure for cancer and to experience life to its fullest. We come together to raise life-saving dollars for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, it is what makes our teams so special and creates the bonds of friendship we carry with us off the mountain.

I hope to see you on the mountains in 2019. I’ll be back on Mt. Shuksan.

~David Kendall, Climb to Fight Cancer volunteer and Committee member

All photos courtesy of Jeff Hazeltine, David Kendall, Andrea Towlerton & Chris Roberts


One Comment leave one →
  1. Marcia zeimes permalink
    August 8, 2018 10:19 pm

    Glad to hear of your climb. It looks beautiful. We hope you can reach the tip next time. MUCH LOVE FROM BOB and MARCIA

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