Climbing Mount Shuksan: The Icon of North Cascades
Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan stands as the iconic face of the rugged North Cascades in Washington, boasting its picturesque north face, a sight often featured on calendars and souvenirs. It holds a unique place among the non-volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range, offering a reminder that the northern reaches of this range host more than just massive snowy domes like nearby Mount Baker.

While Washington boasts nine or ten non-volcanic peaks soaring over 9,000 feet (depending on how you count), Mount Shuksan holds a middle position in terms of both elevation and climbing challenge. Many of these peaks remain unfamiliar to the general public, concealed in a labyrinth of high, rugged peaks far from roads. In contrast, Mount Shuksan reigns majestically over the Mount Baker ski area and the terminus of the Mount Baker Highway. It stands as a commanding presence near one of the most popular high-country trailheads and recreational areas in the Cascades. Of the 9,000-footers in the region, only Mount Stuart near I-90 comes close to the visibility and fame of Mount Shuksan.

This mountain is a massive expanse of ridges, pinnacles, and glaciers, forming what seems like its own sub-range. While the rugged north side of the peak has earned its fame, the easiest route to the summit follows the vast Sulphide Glacier from the south. However, this journey commences a considerable distance from the Mount Baker Highway. The Sulphide Glacier reaches right up to the 700-foot-high jagged summit pyramid, which is an easy scramble over steep, loose rock. In early season, the Sulphide Glacier offers a fantastic skiing experience.

The most popular northern route is the Fisher Chimneys route, a winding path that weaves through the north and west slopes of the peak. This route can be a challenge to navigate but primarily involves Class 3 climbing or easier. Other routes can be significantly more demanding, including serious ice climbing along the spectacular hanging glaciers that grace the peak’s frontage leading to the deep cirque of the Nooksack River.

Climbing Mount Shuksan involves a 7-mile forest approach, followed by a gentle glacier ascent in the North Cascades, culminating in a 500-foot snow (early season) or rock scramble up the summit pyramid. This adventure rewards climbers with awe-inspiring views of Mount Baker and the North Cascade peaks. However, caution is advised, especially if the summit rock is icy.

Because of its rugged beauty, strategic location within the North Cascades, and long history of mountaineering, Mt. Shuksan (9,131′) has come to symbolize climbing in the Northwest. We think it’s one of the most fun climbs in Washington, and our guides are always excited to show climbers the beauty of Mt. Shuksan.

There is something for everyone on the Sulphide Glacier route: an approach via immaculate woods, moderate glacier travel, an exciting and airy summit, and an unbeatable panorama of the surrounding North Cascade peaks.

Although the ascent is mild, you can expect to feel the wind under your feet when you reach the peak by ascending the last rock and snow pyramid.

We lead this route with a 2 to 1 climber to guide ratio, so before the climb, you will receive a lot of practical teaching, and during the summit ascent, you will have a small, effective rope team. We train in cramponing, ice axe use, and rope travel abilities just outside our tent door on the Sulphide Glacier for this climb.

This is an excellent climb for the novice who wants to experience a classic summit and master the fundamentals of climbing, or for the more seasoned mountaineer who hasn’t yet checked off this northwest icon.Because of its rugged beauty, strategic location within the North Cascades, and long history of mountaineering, Mt. Shuksan (9,131′) has come to symbolize climbing in the Northwest.

We think it’s one of the most fun climbs in Washington, and our guides are always excited to show climbers the beauty of Mt. Shuksan.

There is something for everyone on the Sulphide Glacier route: an approach via immaculate woods, moderate glacier travel, an exciting and airy summit, and an unbeatable panorama of the surrounding North Cascade peaks.

Although the ascent is mild, you can expect to feel the wind under your feet when you reach the peak by ascending the last rock and snow pyramid. We lead this route with a 2:1 climber to guide ratio, so before the climb, you will receive a lot of practical teaching, and during the climb, you will have a small, effective rope team.

Getting There:

To reach Mount Shuksan via the Sulphide Glacier route, drive on SR-20 to Baker Lake Road, and continue for approximately 23 miles along the west and north side of Baker Lake to Shannon Creek Campground. Turn left onto Forest Road 1152, continue just beyond the 4-mile marker, and take a sharp right onto Forest Road 1152-014 spur to reach the trailhead.


The approach starts with a 2-mile hike along the Shannon Ridge Trail, which is an old road. Proceed through open brush, switchback up to a forested north-south ridge, and hike north along the ridge for about 0.75 miles to timberline. Continue for 2 miles along a flat crest, crossing broken timber and meadows, until you intersect a major north-south ridge at a pass, where the flat crest yields to a sloping mountainside at around 5,400 feet.

Camp at this location or 1,000 feet higher, but be prepared for camping on snow and melting snow for water. Do not camp on heather benches unless prepared campsites are available. When camping on the ridge at around 6,400 feet or on the rock island at approximately 6,100 feet near the glacier water melt, blue bags or the use of solar toilets are required.

Ascent Route:

Cross the ridge and traverse 900-1,200 feet northeast to reach the south snout of the Sulphide Glacier on the east side of the North Ridge. If visibility is good, follow a long, right-hand curved route up and across Sulphide Glacier to the left side (north) of the summit rock pyramid. Continue northeast along this route to reach the summit pyramid. Ascend a Class 3 rock gully (snow in early season) to the summit, which stands at 9,127 feet.

Descent Route: Descend using the same climbing route.

Trip Profile:

  • Trailhead to Camp: 5-6 hours, 3,800 feet elevation gain
  • Camp to Summit: 5-6 hours, 2,600 feet elevation gain
  • Summit to Camp: 2-3 hours
  • Camp to Trailhead: 3 hours

Mount Shuksan Trekking Itinerary

Creating an itinerary for a Mount Shuksan climb involves careful planning to ensure safety and success. Below is a sample itinerary for ascending Mount Shuksan via the Sulphide Glacier Route, a popular choice for climbers. This itinerary spans over three days, but it’s important to adapt it based on your group’s experience, weather conditions, and other factors.

Day 1: Preparation and Approach to Camp


  • Gather at the trailhead for Mount Shuksan. Ensure all team members have their permits, gear, and supplies.
  • Conduct a gear check to make sure everyone has the necessary equipment.
  • Start the approach hike, moving steadily to reach the high camp.
  • Ascend along the trail (an old road) and make your way through the forested north-south ridge.


  • Continue hiking on the ridge until you reach timberline, which is at about 4,600 feet.
  • Proceed approximately 2 miles along a flat crest through broken timber and meadows to intersect a major north-south ridge at a pass around 5,400 feet.
  • Make camp either at the ridge or 1,000 feet higher, depending on your team’s energy and acclimatization.


  • Set up camp on the chosen spot, ensuring it’s safe and secure.
  • Melt snow for water, as there may not be a readily available water source.
  • Enjoy dinner and rest up for the next day’s climb.

Day 2: Summit Ascent


  • Wake up early to have a hearty breakfast and prepare for the day’s climb.
  • Rope up, and make sure everyone is properly equipped with crampons, ice axes, helmets, and harnesses.
  • Start the ascent, crossing the ridge and traversing to intersect the south snout of the Sulphide Glacier on the east side of the North Ridge.


  • Continue your climb along the glacier, following a safe route to the left side (north) of the summit rock pyramid.
  • Depending on weather and snow conditions, climb a Class 3 rock gully, or snow gully if in early season, leading to the summit at 9,127 feet.


  • Take in the spectacular views from the summit and enjoy a well-deserved break.
  • Be cautious when exploring the summit pyramid, especially if it’s icy. Safety should be a top priority.
  • Begin your descent before the day grows late.

Day 3: Descent and Return


  • Begin your descent by retracing your steps down the glacier and the ridge.
  • Ensure all safety protocols are followed, such as roping up when necessary.
  • As you head down, enjoy the panoramic vistas of the North Cascades.


  • Complete your descent to the base of Mount Shuksan.


  • Return to your vehicles at the trailhead.
  • Perform a gear check and ensure no equipment is left behind.
  • Reflect on your successful climb and say your goodbyes to the mountain.

Please note that this itinerary is a guideline and can be adjusted to suit your team’s pace, acclimatization, and the conditions encountered during the climb. Safety should always be the top priority, and it’s crucial to remain flexible in case of adverse weather or other unexpected situations. Consulting with experienced climbers, guides, or local authorities can provide valuable insights and updates regarding conditions on Mount Shuksan.


Essential equipment includes standard glacier gear and a helmet. Additional equipment may be necessary depending on the season and conditions. Safety is of utmost importance, and climbers should be well-prepared.

Please keep in mind that Mount Shuksan is located within North Cascades National Park, and backcountry permits are required for overnight stays. You can find current permit information on the land manager’s website.

For up-to-date information on this climb, including weather conditions and current route details, consult the relevant authorities and websites provided in the description. Safety and preparedness are crucial for a successful ascent of Mount Shuksan.

The equipment needed for climbing Mount Shuksan, especially on the standard routes, includes a variety of gear to ensure safety and success. Here’s a list of essential equipment for a Mount Shuksan climb:

Mandatory Gear:

  1. Ice Axe: An ice axe is essential for self-arrest and balance on the snow and glaciers.
  2. Crampons: Crampons provide traction on icy or steep terrain.
  3. Helmet: A climbing helmet protects your head from falling rock and ice.
  4. Rope: A climbing rope is crucial for safety and rappelling.
  5. Glacier Rescue Gear: This includes prusik cords, carabiners, webbing, and other equipment necessary for crevasse rescue and glacier travel.
  6. Snow Pickets: For standard glacier travel, you’ll need at least two snow pickets for anchoring.

Clothing: 7. Shell Jacket: A waterproof and windproof shell jacket to protect against the elements.

  1. Nylon Shell Pants: Waterproof pants for protection from snow and rain.
  2. Sunscreen: Protect your skin from sunburn at higher altitudes.
  3. Glacier Glasses/Goggles: Eye protection from snow glare and UV rays.
  4. Long and Short Sleeve Shirt: Dress in moisture-wicking, breathable layers.
  5. Full Scale Mountaineering Boots: Sturdy, insulated boots designed for climbing.
  6. Gloves and Mittens: Warm, waterproof gloves and mittens for cold conditions.
  7. Warm Hat: A hat to keep your head warm in colder weather.

Backpacking and Camping Equipment (if staying overnight):

15. Tent or Bivy: Shelter for overnight stays.

  1. Sleeping Bag: To stay warm during the night.
  2. Ground Pad: For insulation and comfort while sleeping.
  3. Water Filter/Tablets: Equipment for obtaining safe drinking water.
  4. Stove, Fuel, Pot, and Utensils: For cooking and preparing meals.
  5. Toiletries: Including toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, and blue bags.
  6. Backpack: Suitable for carrying your gear and supplies.
  7. Map and Compass: For navigation and route-finding.
  8. Trekking Poles: For stability and balance while hiking.

Optional Gear: 24. Camera: Capture the breathtaking views and memorable moments.

  1. GPS Device: For precise navigation.

It’s important to assess the specific conditions, the chosen route, and the time of year when packing your equipment. Mount Shuksan’s environment can be challenging, so being well-prepared with the right gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable climb. Additionally, the choice of gear may vary for more technical routes on the mountain, so ensure you have the necessary skills and equipment for your specific climb.

General Climbing Tips:

  • Check the Weather: Pay close attention to weather forecasts and be prepared to postpone or cancel your climb in case of bad weather.
  • Climbing Skills: Make sure you’re well-trained in crevasse rescue, glacier travel, and alpine climbing techniques.
  • Teamwork: Climbing Mount Shuksan is often done with a team. Teamwork, communication, and support are essential for safety.
  • Physical Conditioning: Adequate physical fitness and acclimatization to high altitudes are crucial for a successful climb.
  • Navigation: Learn how to use a map, compass, and GPS device effectively. Familiarize yourself with the route.
  • Permit and Regulations: Be aware of any permits or regulations required for your climb. Check with local authorities.

Safety and Precautions:

  • Always prioritize safety. Ensure that you and your team members are familiar with mountaineering safety practices.
  • Mount Shuksan, like many alpine environments, can be unpredictable and dangerous. Check with local authorities for current conditions and advisories before your trip.
  • Stay up-to-date with mountain rescue information, in case you or someone in your group requires assistance.
  • It’s important to have a plan for what to do in case of an emergency, including communication devices and knowledge of how to use them.

Leave No Trace:

Respect the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles. Take all your waste and litter with you. Preserve the pristine beauty of the mountain and its surroundings for future generations of climbers.

Keep in mind that Mount Shuksan is a challenging climb, and the specific gear and equipment you need can vary depending on the season and your chosen route. It’s a good idea to consult with experienced climbers, guide services, or local climbing organizations for the most up-to-date information on conditions and recommended gear for your planned ascent. Staying informed, prepared, and well-equipped is key to a successful and safe climb on Mount Shuksan.

Mount Shuksan vs Kilimanjaro

Mount Shuksan and Mount Kilimanjaro are two distinct and iconic mountains, each offering unique challenges and experiences. Here’s a comparison of the two:

Mount Shuksan:

  1. Location:
    • Mount Shuksan is located in the North Cascades of Washington State, USA.
    • It is part of the Pacific Northwest region and is known for its rugged alpine terrain.
  2. Elevation:
    • Mount Shuksan stands at 9,127 feet (2,782 meters) above sea level.
    • While it is a significant peak in the North Cascades, it is not as high as many other mountains worldwide.
  3. Technical Difficulty:
    • Shuksan offers a range of climbing routes with varying levels of technical difficulty.
    • The standard Sulphide Glacier Route is a popular choice and involves glacier travel and some exposed scrambles. It’s rated around class 3-4.
  4. Climbing Season:
    • The ideal climbing season for Mount Shuksan is from late July through October.
    • Climbing in early season may involve snow-covered terrain, while late season conditions can be icier.
  5. Duration:
    • Climbing Mount Shuksan typically takes a few days.
    • A common itinerary includes a day for approach and acclimatization, a summit day, and a descent day.
  6. Equipment:
    • Climbers on Mount Shuksan need standard glacier gear, including ice axes, crampons, helmets, ropes, and other safety equipment.
  7. Accessibility:
    • Shuksan is accessible by car, and the trailhead is relatively easy to reach.
    • It’s a popular destination for climbers in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Kilimanjaro:

  1. Location:
    • Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in East Africa and is the highest mountain on the African continent.
    • It is located in Tanzania and is part of Kilimanjaro National Park.
  2. Elevation:
    • Kilimanjaro’s highest peak, Uhuru Peak, reaches 19,341 feet (5,895 meters) above sea level.
    • It is one of the “Seven Summits,” making it a renowned destination for mountaineers.
  3. Technical Difficulty:
    • Kilimanjaro is primarily a trekking mountain, and climbers do not need technical mountaineering skills.
    • The routes to the summit involve hiking and scree walking, but no technical climbing.
  4. Climbing Season:
    • Kilimanjaro can be climbed year-round, but the best times are during the dry seasons: January-March and June-October.
    • The mountain’s location near the equator means that temperatures remain moderate.
  5. Duration:
    • Climbing Kilimanjaro usually takes about 5 to 7 days.
    • The longer duration allows for proper acclimatization to the high altitude.
  6. Equipment:
    • While no technical climbing gear is required, climbers on Kilimanjaro need appropriate clothing, trekking poles, and a good backpack.
  7. Accessibility:
    • Kilimanjaro is accessible via international flights to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
    • The trek typically starts from well-established trailheads, and various routes cater to different preferences.

The choice between Mount Shuksan and Mount Kilimanjaro depends on your climbing experience, altitude preferences, technical skills, and the kind of adventure you’re seeking. Mount Shuksan offers a mountaineering experience in a stunning alpine environment, while Kilimanjaro provides a challenging trek to the roof of Africa with no technical climbing involved. Both mountains have their unique attractions and challenges.

How much does it cost to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in  $ American Dollars (USD)?

Sure! Here is the cost breakdown for climbing Kilimanjaro in ($) USD:

  1. Marangu route– 6 days from USD 1,695:
  2. Machame route – 7 days from USD 1,985:
  3. Crater Camp route– 9 days from USD 2,895: 
  4. Rongai route – 7 days from USD 1,885:
  5. Lemosho route– 8 days from USD 2,350:
  6. Northern Circuit route – 9 days from USD 2,545:

Please note that the prices mentioned are approximate and can vary based on various factors like the number of climbers, specific tour operators, inclusions, and seasonal variations. It’s essential to choose a reputable tour operator that provides experienced guides, proper equipment, and a safe climbing experience. Read more on how much it costs to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.


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