Mt Shuksan, North Face

July skiing at its best

July 5, 2004

Cyril relaxes at our high point next to the Hanging Glacier.

skiing above Price Lake
Cyril turns near the top of the North Face, with Price Lake prominently visible over 4,000 vertical feet below him.

ski photo
Cyril carves with Ruth Mountain in the background.

Cyril Benda's late-season enthusiasm was as good as anyone's. I made plans with Cyril and the Hummels to ski Mt Baker's Park Glacier Headwall one day, then the North Face of Mt Shuksan the next day. My dog was unfortunately injured the evening before Mt Baker, so I stayed home with him while the others went to ski Baker. Cyril and the Hummels didn't make it to the Boulder-Park Cleaver, but were able to climb Sherman Peak and find some excitement there. The Hummels weren't too sure about another full day. They left Cyril at a hotel in Burlington, where I met him early in the morning.

The bushwhack to the North Face can be non-trivial. Nevertheless, even in July I found it worthwhile for the spectacular scenery and excellent descent to which it leads. Cyril enjoyed the views. From the northern end of the ridge separating White Salmon Creek and Price Lake, the exposure of the North Face and the dramatic relief from the Hanging Glacier down to White Salmon Creek are simply breathtaking. We made great time to the base of the North Face.

The snow was great for both climbing and skiing. There was no snow-balling on the crampons; the snow was also soft enough for smooth turns, but it didn't sluff. We stopped at the top of the North Face. There was a great place for a break on some rocks next to the upper Hanging Glacier. We had plenty of time for the summit but we were both happy to just relax in the sun before skiing.

I started skiing before Cyril; I wanted to find the best photo opportunity. Skiing over the edge from the relatively flat upper section of the Hanging Glacier, to the 45-50 degree slope at the top of the North Face, I felt weightless. Looking down more than four-thousand vertical feet to Price Lake's silt-stained waters, while making turns, is as close as I have felt to flying. It's like being loaned a pair of angel's wings.

Cyril and I were both giddy at the bottom of the face. Perfect, steep corn on the 5th of July. The epiphany was alive and well. The bushwhack back to my car didn't even feel like a concern; who could forget about that face?

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