Mount Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier
November 22-23, 2008

Photos by Jason, Story by Christy Kinney


Hummel Bootcamp Season 3

"The Mount Shuksan tour has, for some skiers, an aspect of pilgrimage... Once on its icy flank, you’ll wonder how you ever got there, and how you'll ever get back."
-Rainier Burgdorfer, 100 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes in Washington

This was the perfect weekend to undertake another Hummel adventure challenge. I had talked about Shuksan for months, and was excited to get out there and get it done (and so you did, Christy!).

The promise of powder was too tempting to resist!

The plan was to leave Friday night, camp at the trailhead, and get an early start on Saturday. Not surprisingly, what really happened was this: burgers, fries and a rental movie (Tropic Thunder is highly recommended!). Plans were altered to accommodate our need for a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day stress. At least, that was our convincing argument as we settled into another piece of pumpkin pie.

Before I go on, I have to say: There was a bit of blood and carnage on this Hummel Boot Camp adventure, but we'll get to that later.

Saturday morning greets us with the screech of my alarm clock. I really need to get one of those alarm clocks that jumps off the night stand, runs around the room, finds a place to hide and literally forces me to get up to squash its shrieking. That, or a rooster that tries to peck my eyes out as it greets the morning. Needless to say, the rest of the household was wide awake, dressed, fed, and ready to go as I sauntered down the stairs lugging my pack behind me. To my credit, however, I have the packing down to a science. I can repeat the order of my packing in my sleep. Sleeping bag? Check. Stove and fuel? Check. Super comfy down booties? Check.

Moving right along. We reach the trailhead and begin our journey around 11am. I was pleasantly surprised to find an actual trail here. I have been systematically conditioned to expect all manner of flora and fauna, in varying degrees of density, on our adventures. Nevertheless, I pulled out the GPS and marked waypoints as we made our way up the trail. (Lesson number one: Never follow a Hummel)

It didn't take long to reach soft, light fluffiness. We slapped on our skins and continued onward. We eventually reached camp at about 5500'; a tree sheltered ridge nestled between piercing rock ridges and snow covered peaks. We offloaded our heavy packs and pulled out our warm clothing. The chill was sudden and startling. To his absolute devastation, Josh realized that his Camel Bak had exploded in his pack and had saturated most of everything. He pulled out his down puffy; a sad, limp, utterly useless heap of down mush. He then pulled out his sleeping bag. Hmmm…not much better.

We built camp just before sunset. It was 5:30pm.  In an attempt to dry out his clothing, Josh lit a small lantern and attempted to hang it from a contraption of slings and webbing from the ceiling of our tent. This proved to be a rathre bad idea, as the lantern hung so low it was nearly impossible to get around it. I singed the hood on my puffy coat while getting out of the tent and Josh burned the back of his thermal while maneuvering around the tent. (Lesson number two: The smell of burnt feathers and synthetic fiber is quite potent.) 

After a dinner of freeze-dried vegetarian lasagna, Dove dark chocolate, and SpongeBob Squarepants fruit snacks, we nestled into a long, restless nap. I awoke around midnight to the sound of heavily falling snow. My face was pressed against an ice covered tent wall and most of everything inside our tent was frozen stiff.

The next morning found us cold and hungry. Jason was busy taking photos of the sunrise and of Mt Baker in the distance. I sat, staring at my ski boots and dreading the inevitable. I forced my toes into that ice box and stomped around camp to try and warm them up.

We loaded our packs, donned our skis and headed up toward the Sulphide Glacier. I must pause here and mention the absolutely astonishing views. I was surrounded by breathless scenary, and at times, felt transplanted onto another planet.

We followed a small, yellow plane as it meandered across the sky. "That's John Scurlock!," Jason exclaimed. The plane made a sweeping circle, and flew back the other direction. [Just for the record: Jason was correct. It was indeed John Scurlock flying over the North Cascades that day]

Not long after, Jason began swearing at his skins. I was swearing at my toes which had still not thawed out. Josh was swearing at his tele-boots, which were brutally rubbing off the hair on his shins.

We took a quick break, ate some lunch and continued on. The summit loomed ahead like some unbelievable pyramid that had mysteriously been erected out of thin air. We reached the base of the pyramid at around 12:15pm. Josh and Jason exchanged a highly scientific dialogue on the conditions that lay ahead of us; using terms such as 'wind slab', 'avy danger', and 'sudden death'.

We decided to skip the dicey summit climb and enjoy the untouched creamy goodness before the day escaped us. Jason had been battling the lens on his camera all day; condensation having created a circle of moisture inside the lens housing. Jason's brilliant idea of speeding up the natural evaporation process backfired drastically. He lit the stove and held it underneath his camera. Surely, he reasoned, the heat of a Pocket Rocket will move this natural process right along! In the end, the condition worsened and he had melted part of the lens housing. (Lesson number three: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.)

We ripped off our skins (or in Jason's case, he just merely lifted his ski as the skin fell off). I was stoked for this ski, as the untouched slopes below us promised face shots and powder turns.

Jason was relieved to find his camera's condition had improved on its own as we prepared to ski down. Jason's artistic eye captured our experience more accurately than my words ever could.

Hummel Caption technology was alive and well during our ski down; with both brothers bickering with each other over the location of the better shot, which cornice to jump, which shadow to chase… You know, the usual Hummel antics.



Back at camp, we quickly packed it up as the sun was beginning to set. Damn these short winter days!! Tree skiing with a heavy pack completely challenged my balance (which, for those that know me, is severely challenged on its own). I took an impressive header, which I tried to camouflage as an intentional somersault. The tree skiing became even more challenging for me, and I eventually decided to boot it down.

But the trail proved too tempting! It seemed relatively flat and the snow looked delicious. A snowboarder had laid down a track previously and I was determined to follow it, even though the sun had set and it was dark. I stepped into my skis, flicked on my head lamp and took off like a bat out of Hell down the trail. I was surprised to find that the trail was not so flat, after all. I had reached a speed that I felt bordered on out-of-control. I remember thinking to myself "This is suicide!" If the trail took a sudden turn, I was toast. And, to my horror, the trail suddenly twisted to the left. I reacted instantly and plowed into the trees just off trail. Jason was just behind me and I could hear the surprise in his gasp as he reached the turn. I had picked myself up at this point, and surveyed the damage. Nothing permanent. I was in one piece. Jason negotiated the turn perfectly and we both waited for Josh to turn the corner. We could both hear Josh blazing down the trail and called out to him to slow down. He took the turn fast; his skis on rock kicking up impressive spark in their wake.

Josh and I determined that skiing by brail on rock was stupid and we took our skis off. Jason continued on. Eventually, we broke into a clearing and the trail flattened out with no rocks in site. I couldn't resist. One more switchback! One more stretch of smooth trial skiing! We put our skis back on. Determined to control my speed, I pushed my edges downward and pulled off an impressive 'pizza wedge' until my legs felt like Jell-O. I stopped to rest my legs and then took off one more time, a bit more relaxed and skiing a bit faster. I turned a corner and couldn't believe what lay in front of me. The snow abruptly ended and I was speeding toward an island of rock and scree. I hit the bare patch and went sprawling toward the trees that lined the trail. I hit my head hard and landed on an upturned whippet. The whippet left me with a gash above my right ear. I lay there for a moment, trying to gather myself when Josh came hurtling toward me. He picked me up and helped gather the equipment that exploded when I collided with the trail. We quickly determined that I had no critical missing body parts. (Lesson number four: Helmet's are a good invention. I should use one more often.)

We made it back to the car and unloaded our gear. I took this opportunity to inspect the damage. I indeed had a bloody gash above my ear. A shot of whiskey (or two) helped dull the pain. We peeled off our sweaty, mud-streaked clothes and looked forward to a tasty Mexican dinner at Lorenzo's.

As I lay in my cozy bed later that night, staring at the ceiling (covered with glow-in-the-dark stars) and holding a cool pack to my head, I found myself anxiously looking forward to the next adventure. Drifting off to sleep, I suddenly realize that I am inflicted with what Sky calls, the 'sickness'. Indeed, as Rainier Burgdorfer stated, I have no idea how I got here, and I have no idea how I'll ever get back (Lesson number five: what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger ... or something like that)

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