Washington Climbing Vacation
(Mt. Shuksan, Eldorado Peak & Mt. St. Helens)

7-15 Jul 2004 - by T Colorado

We (me, my husband Michael and our friend Ron) began this Washington adventure by leaving Colorado after work on Tuesday and arriving in Sedro Woolley on Wednesday evening. Our first objective was Mt. Shuksan. Michael and I had done Shuksan about 8 years ago (along with Glacier Peak and a few others) and decided to include it in this trip. Ron had never been to Washington before (big trees, brilliant green moss, ton-o-water, good beer, cool slugs) and donated the use of his truck for this trip (thank you, Ron). When we initially planned this trip, we wanted to do Shuksan, Eldorado and Sahale. Unfortunately, we came to find that the road to Cascade Pass was closed at MM20 and we had to can Sahale as it would have gone from a long day hike/climb to a multiple day climb.

We registered at the Sedro Woolley ranger station on the morning of July 8th and drove to the trailhead. We were the only vehicle at this small parking lot. The weather was overcast with some showers and drippy, wet underbrush. The trail was easy to follow to Shannon Ridge and soon we were strapping on the crampons on our way to a high camp below Shuksan. The views of peaks were getting better (even had a few chances to gaze lovingly at Mt. Baker ... been there ... done that), and we made it to camp in 7 hours ladened down with heavy heavy packs (ropes, pickets, hardware, food for five days in case of bad weather). We were camped above the highest toilet (which was melted out) and no one else shared the Sulphide Glacier basin with us for two days. We began the task of melting snow and setting up camp. After a couple of snorts of tequila and a yummy dinner, we were off to sleep.

The next morning was foggy and overcast again and we began our ascent. The route was easy to find as we knew to hang to the left of all "danger". At the junction with Hell's Highway, we met two guys who had come up Fisher's Chimneys. One was from Texas and the other from Oklahoma. We all stopped to rest below the bergschrund (not very large at this time) and scoped out the route. An ascending traverse on snow brought you to the bottom of the summit pyramid gully comprised of mainly 3rd class rock work (with some minor 4th class mixed in ... especially if you're only 5' tall ... hehe). There was still quite a bit of fresh snow covering hard ice. We hit the summit 5 hours after leaving camp and the climber from Texas joined us (the Oklahoman had elected to forego the gully). None of us stayed on top very long and with conveniently located rappel stations, three 80' rappels (hey, wait a minute ... didn't we downclimb this last time?!?!?!?) brought us to the bottom of the gully. Back to camp ... some celebration snorts, dinner and a restful sleep.

We packed out on Saturday, the 10th (passing several groups of people backpacking in) and drove to Sedro Woolley to do some STINKY laundry and get a wonderful meal (and good beer). On Sunday, we rose early and drove to the ranger station at Marblemount to register for Eldorado Peak (via Eldorado Creek). The description had used the term "brutal" to describe the backpack in to camp for this peak. I must admit that the trail seems much steeper going up to camp than descending down from camp. And, the log crossing of Cascade River is a YAWNER! We made it in to camp in 7 hours utilizing every possible rest area available on the way up (hehehe ... our calves were screaming ... though our packs were heavy, at least we weren't packing a bunch of wet gear). We elected to camp in the Basin as the weather had cleared when we crossed the waterfall and the views of Johannesburg, the Triplets, Pelton, Sahale, Boston, and Forbidden were absolutely stupendous!

On Monday, we arose to a clear, yet hazy sky (there were fires in the region), hiked to the ridge, descended the gully and were on Eldorado Glacier. We were all alone again (what a treat) all day long (and on the hike out the next day). We explored the higher campsite options and were glad, since we had camped on glacier for Shuksan, that we chose the basin for this trip ... the best of both worlds. The ascent of Eldorado was quick and uneventful. The arete was in fine form, solid snow, and it followed the very top of the ridgecrest (airy buttocks). Without hesitation, we went to the top one at a time with no rope. I don't know why we didn't use the rope ... probably because the snow conditions were ideal (though the steps were not deep at all), the wind was not too terribly gusty, and it would have been such a hassle to pull the darned thing out. Thus, the summit video and pictures are EXCELLENT! If I do say so myself, Michael's video of both Shuksan and Eldorado are truly gems. We descended back down the glacier and stripped down to shorts and t-shirts as it was very very warm on the hike back to camp.

On Tuesday, the 13th, we descended back down to the car (some of it in rain) and headed to Monroe to spend the night, get a room, take a shower, eat some steak, and have a beer (or two or three).

Wednesday morning saw us driving down to Mt. St. Helens to register for a climb on Thursday, the 15th. We had decided on Mt. St. Helens as Ron had to be back to work on Sunday, the 18th and we figured it would take around 23 hours driving to get us back in time so a day hike was the only option. Unfortunately, on the way out of Eldorado (practically at the river crossing), Ron had slipped on a slipperly log whilst trying to take a photograph of a slug (go figure) and had caused a large contusion on his calf/ankle that had swollen to twice the size and was getting very colorful. He opted out of the hike up Mt. St. Helens.

This was our second time and the summit rim was free of all snow (was icy last time) and the dome is growing. The top of Rainier (been there ... done that) was not visible, but Adams (been there ... done that) was beautiful as was Hood (been there ... done that). After coming down from St. Helens (saw many many guided groups of kids ... yeah!), we drove to the employee-owned Full Sail Brewery in Hood River, drank good beer, ate yummy grilled salmon chipotle sandwiches and watched the kite boarders and wind surfers dance on the water. What a wonderful and successful vacation! Next up ... Coxcomb peak in Colorado (yahoo!). Happy trails!

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