Mount Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys, June 2002
Ben was visiting the Northwest from San Diego again. As before, I arranged for us to climb something together. The visit being somewhat of an annual/bi-annual event for Ben, I was sure he'd appreciate climbing a relatively "classic" route up an undeniably spectacular peak. As such, Mount Shuksan via the Fisher Chimneys fit the bill quite nicely. The weather outlook looked favorable for the weekend and together with Tom we headed over to the Mt. Baker ski area for the short slog over to Lake Ann.
We parked at the upper Mt. Baker ski area parking lot and hiked up the still completely snow covered ski runs to the ridge below Artist's Point (later in the season it is possible to drive to Artist's Point). Looking back, one could see Tomyhoi (left and partially out of view) and the American/Canadian Border Peaks. Mount Baker rose majestically from the other side of the ridge to reveal the rarely seen (by me) Park/Boulder Glaciers.
After a bit of a detour to the highest point on the ridge above Artist's Point, we again figured our bearings and descended down into the Swift Creek headwaters and into the valley below us. We hiked along the valley, generally maintaining a low traverse to the left of the creek until we reached the basin on the opposite side. We angled up and right until we reached the low point on the saddle/cirque above Lake Ann which came into view once on top of the ridge. We were joined by Chris and his dog Max soon after camp was set up. Chris, having climbed the Fisher Chimneys last September, shared some very valuable route information with us. One thing was for sure...there is still a TON of snow up there right now and nobody appears to have ventured beyond Lake Ann yet this season.
We awoke that next morning to complete white-out conditions. Hopeful that the clouds would soon dissipate, Tom, Ben and myself started towards what we thought were the Fisher Chimneys. We carefully climbed up unprotectable 50+ degree slush slopes finished by a stupid dirt/shrub gully until we reached an impasse. To the left: 70+ degree snow slopes that appeared to fall away below our feet and disappear into nothingness. To the left: a steep and uncharted bushwhack through rock bands, short trees and leads who knows where. Directly in front of us: A small rock band topped with a small cornice. We agreed not to proceed any further until the visibility improved. After about a half hour, the visibility only became worse. We called it off and descended the way we came up combining about 3 or 4 tree raps to get down the steep slush safely.
We had clearly gone off route. We basically didn't traverse the slope far enough and missed the entrance to the Fischer Chimneys entirely. The left-most arrow indicates the route I believe we took. The remaining arrows indicate the correct entrance and exit to the Fischer Chimneys. Next attempt - the North Face.
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