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Graphic header with image of Shuksan


I let a bunch of Army guys go ahead of me so I wouldn't hold them up....
That was the last I saw of them all day... did they get lost in the chimneys? There was no sign of their tents when I got back down just before dark.

Route on Mt Shuksan

The Fisher Chimney Route on Mt Shuksan

Don on summit of Mt Shuksan

Don's self portrait on summit of Mt Shuksan

Mt Baker in background

In the fall of 1985 my daughter, Linda, had accompanied me on a trip to reconnoiter the Fisher Chimneys. We pitched our tent at Lake Ann and while Linda occuppied herself by hiking around Lake Ann I took off to check out the Fisher Chimneys. The route up through the chimneys has a reputation of being hard to follow. I knew it would take every bit of daylight to get up Shuksan and back down so I didn't want to waste any time trying to dope out the route up through the chimneys. The 'trail' was more like a very faint game trail and I could see why people got confused because this meager track seemed to split every so often.

Ever since I was a kid running around on the sagebrush hills of Idaho I have always had a knack for 'seeing' the trail followed by animals or persons. This ability helped me choose the correct route when the trail split numerous times and switched to different gullies before topping out on the ridge. In every case my choice of which fork to take was based on one track appearing to be slightly more heavily traveled than the other although it was a difficult call a couple of places. With this knowledge I felt confident that the Fisher Chimneys would not present a serious problem when I got ready to climb Mt Shuksan.

Now, a year later, the weather in the first week of October is good and looks like it will hold for a few more days so I decide it is time to try climbing Mt Shuksan. I pitch my tent about midway between Lake Ann and the chimneys. A group of what appear to be soldiers from Fort Lewis is camped just below me and I decide to let them go ahead of me in the morning thinking they will likely be in bettter shape than me.

In the morning the soldiers get an early start and I follow at a discreet distance. By the time I get through the brush patch and onto the snowfield, actually the edge of the Lower Curtis Glacier, below the chimneys they are nowhere in sight. "Wow, those guys must really be moving", I think to myself as I approach the bottom of the chimneys and recognize the starting point.

Again by carefully deciding which fork is more heavily traveled I make good time and soon am on top the ridge.

The snow is quite hard so I put on my crampons and climb 'Winnie's Slide' and then carefully choose my route to get above the crevasses of the Upper Curtis Glacier. I look back often to fix the route in my mind for the trip down. Don't was to mess up here. At mid morning I reach the snowfields below 'The Hour Glass' and move south below the huge walls on my left until I reach the so called 'Hells HIghway'. Here the route swings left and the snow climbs steeply up onto the Sulphide Glacier, then curls left toward the summit pyramid.

There is a large group ahead of me - but clearly not the 4 soldiers that had camped below me. This group must have come up the Sulphide Glacier route. It seems to take forever to finally reach the summit pyramid as the large party is nearing the top of the loose, scree and rock filled gully that provides easy access to the summit. They are dislodging some rocks so I turn to the rocky cliffs to the left of the gully and decide that, if I climb very carefully, making sure each hand and foot hold is secure that I can get to the summit withut having to wait for the large party to descend first. Turns out it is a group of about a dozen students from Western Washington University.

I only miss my goal of summiting at noon by a half hour and that mainly by not being able to use the easier gully to get on top. After taking shots in all directions I set up my small Pentax for a self portrait using the 10-second shutter delay. Time to head down.

I hadn't taken hardly any pictures on the way up but now I take the time to snap a lot of pictures. When I get down to Winnie's Slide the snow has softened enough to warrant saving a little time by glissading this section of steep snow. There is still good light for getting down the Fisher Chimneys and back to camp. I havn't seen the Fort Lewis soldiers all day long and now their tents and gear are gone.

"Hmmm, maybe they weren't so fast after all. Maybe they just got lost in the Fisher Chimneys", I chuckle to myself.

But they wouldn't have been the first to have problems with those infernal chimneys.

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