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RMI's climb of the Mt. Shuksan's Sulphide Glacier is a classic alpine ascent. Climb highlights include:
- Venture from from the thick forests to the glaciers of the Northwest.
- Establish camp in the heart of the North Cascades on the edge of the Sulphide Glacier.
- Scale the rock and snow of Mt. Shuksan's prominent summit pyramid.
Mt. Shuksan (9,127 feet) has become an iconic mountain for climbers in the northwest with its rugged beauty, central location in the North Cascades, and rich mountaineering history. Our guides find it to be one of the most enjoyable ascents in Washington and are always eager to introduce climbers to Mt. Shuksan's charms. This climb has something to offer everyone: an approach through pristine forests, moderate glacier travel, an exhilarating and airy summit, and a view of the surrounding North Cascade peaks that can't be beat. The climbing is moderate in nature but you can count on feeling the wind beneath your feet as you ascend the final rock and snow pyramid to the summit.
We lead this route at a 3 to 1 climber to guide ratio ensuring that you receive a high degree of hands-on instruction prior to the climb and also have a small, efficient rope team during the summit ascent. Our cramponing, ice axe and rope travel skills training for this climb takes place right outside our tent door on the Sulphide Glacier.
This climb is well suited for the beginning climber who wants to learn basic climbing skills and experience a classic summit, or the more experienced mountaineer who has not yet ticked this northwest icon.
THE RMI DIFFERENCE
The Mountain Guides at RMI have a reputation as top guides in the United States. RMI Guides participated in some of America’s first ventures into the far reaches of the Himalaya. Years of expedition guiding and alpine climbing around the world have built a core of consummate professional guides.
Our guides are celebrated teachers and trainers, known for their leadership as well as their character. They possess the compassion, enthusiasm and ability to empower others and inspire them forward. Such qualities may only be found in people at the top of their profession. Despite their vast experience, RMI Guides still remember their own first steps into the mountains, and enjoy helping other climbers reach new heights.
Our exceptional focus to detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures make our programs truly memorable.
RMI strives to create the safest mountain experience possible. Our experienced team of guides focuses on leading fun and successful climbs without compromising safety. Each climb includes careful pre-trip planning, daily weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts, and diligent attention to detail. All RMI Guides are highly trained in remote medicine and rescue skills and carry comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio communication equipment throughout the program. Regardless of the objective or the destination, safety remains RMI’s top priority.
As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 1: Orientation and Hike to Base Camp
7:00 a.m Meet at Sedro Woolley Ranger Station.
The group meets at the Sedro Woolley Ranger Station in the North Cascades. Please see our Travel Details document for driving directions and carpool opportunities. Your RMI guides will meet you at the ranger station for introductions, registration for the climb, group gear distribution and personal gear check.
We then drive to the Mt. Shuksan Trailhead, approx. 2,500', to begin our hike to high camp. For most people this will be the most physically demanding day of the trip as we ascend slowly to an elevation of 6,000' with 45-50 lb packs.
As we move up towards camp we review the foundational skills that make us more efficient and capable climbers. After setting up a solid mountain camp, we are free to relax for the evening.
There are no opportunities to purchase or rent gear in Sedro Woolley. Participants should be confident with the fit and choice of their gear prior to arriving for the program. Please refer to the program Equipment List and then call the RMI office to speak with a guide about any gear questions you may have.
Approaching High Camp
Day 2: The Mountaineering Day School
After breakfast we head out onto the glacier to begin our training. Our Mountaineering Day School offers participants an overview of various techniques which meet the challenges set forth by Mt. Shuksan. We practice basic mountaineering skills including; efficient mountain travel (rest-stepping and pressure breathing), various safety practices including use of helmets, harnesses, and avalanche transceivers, cramponing, climbing in balance, proper use of our ice axe, self and team arrest, moderate cramponing, movement on rock, short roping and lowering techniques for rock.
Our first priority is the safety of all team members. During the School you will be asked to demonstrate that your fitness will allow you to climb safely, and that you are able to perform the new climbing skills proficiently. We will continue to assess each team member throughout the course of the training and the climb.
After the day of skills training we return to camp where we make our final summit preparations, enjoy dinner, and go to bed early for the next day's climb.
Training for the climb
Day 3: The Summit Climb
The summit ascent - Our day begins with a pre-dawn alpine start to give us ample time for this full day of climbing. The Sulphide Glacier is a fun, moderate climb on which we employ our cramponing, route finding and navigational skills, as we make our way around crevasses to the summit pyramid. On our ascent, we climb steadily for one to two hours at a stretch, and then break for 10 to 15 minutes.
The 600 feet of climbing on the summit pyramid constitutes the crux of the climb. Kicking steps and using ice axes for balance, we move up steep snow and make some belayed moves on the 4th and 5th class rock. From the top, we can look north into Canada and south towards Mt. Rainier.
After spending some time on top to enjoy the views and take photos, we begin our descent. We descend the South Face via rappels and belayed down-climbing, then descend the Sulphide Glacier back to camp. Our descent takes about half the time of the ascent, and also requires significant effort.
Summit DayClimbing the Summit Pyramid
Day 4: Descent to Trailhead
On our last morning we rise early for breakfast, break camp and take three to four hours for the hike back down to the trailhead. The trip concludes with a celebratory lunch in Sedro Woolley. Those with a plane to catch should plan for an arrival in Seattle around mid-afternoon.
Mt. Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier Equipment List
The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.
Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering. This offer excludes sale items. For internet orders, please use the discount code RMI 2013.
Pack & Bag Guides' Pick
BACKPACK: A 50+ liter pack is the recommended size for this climb. A separate summit pack is not needed.
SLEEPING BAG: A bag rated 0° to 20° F will keep you warm. Use the colder bag in May, June and September; and the warmer bag in July and August. You may use either goose down or synthetic.
SLEEPING PAD: Full length inflatable or closed cell pad.
Technical Gear Guides' Pick
ICE AXE: The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following formula for this climb: up to 5'8", use a 55-60 cm. axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 60-65 cm. axe; and taller, use a 65-70 cm. axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should be a few inches below your knee.
CLIMBING HARNESS: We recommend a climbing harness with removable leg loops.
2 TRIPLE-ACTION LOCKING CARABINER(S): Used for clipping into the climbing rope.
HELMET: A UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) or CE (European Committee for Standardization) certified climbing helmet. Bicycle or ski helmets are designed for a different type of impact and will not substitute as a climbing helmet.
CRAMPONS: The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. Rigid frame crampons designed for technical ice climbing are not recommended.
AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER: A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.
TREKKING POLES: Lightweight and collapsible poles are recommended. Larger baskets work well with deep snow. Ski poles will also work.
120 cm sewn nylon sling ("double-length runner").
Head Guides' Pick
WARM HAT: Wool or synthetic. It should provide warmth but also be thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet.
BUFF / NECK GAITER / BALACLAVA: One item for face protection is required. Our primary recommendation is the Buff. A neck gaiter or balaclava is also acceptable.
GLACIER GLASSES: A pair of dark-lensed sunglasses with side shields or full wrap-type sunglasses. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and Infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the Visible Light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.
GOGGLES: Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. Additionally, contact lens wearers may find a clear-lensed goggle very useful on windy nights.
Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.
LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVE: One pair of fleece, soft-shell or wind-stopper gloves.
MEDIUM WEIGHT GLOVE: Wind/water resistant, insulated mountain gloves.
We recommend a minimum of 5 upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, 1 light and 1 medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Long-sleeve wool or synthetic top. Quarter zip styles will allow for better temperature regulation. We recommend light colors, which best reflect the intense sun on hot days.
RAIN JACKET (HARD SHELL): A jacket made of rain-proof material with an attached hood. We recommend a thinner lightweight jacket rather than a heavier insulated jacket.
DOWN OR SYNTHETIC INSULATED JACKET: A hooded down or synthetic jacket.
We recommend a system of 4 layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.
UNDERWEAR: Non-cotton briefs or boxers.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Synthetic or wool.
CLIMBING PANT: Soft-shell climbing pants offer a wide range of versatility. You can wear them in combination with the base layer on colder days, or alone on warmer days.
RAIN PANT (HARD SHELL): A waterproof pant with 3/4 side zippers (sometimes called 7/8 or full side zips) are required for facilitating quick clothing adjustments over boots and crampons.
LIGHT WEIGHT TREKKING PANT OR SHORTS (OPTIONAL): A lightweight, synthetic pair of pants is a good option for the approach trek when hiking at lower altitudes and in warm conditions. These pants have no insulation, are typically made of thin nylon, and commonly feature zippers to convert between pants and shorts.
Feet Guides' Pick
MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: Mountaineering specific leather boots are the preferred choices for ascents in the North Cascades. They must provide good insulation as well as a rigid sole for kicking steps and holding crampons. Lightweight hiking boots are not acceptable as they don't work well with crampons, or in very cold or wet weather.
- La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX
- La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX
- La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX
- La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX
GAITERS: We recommend a knee-length pair of gaiters, large enough to fit over your mountaineering boots. This will protect you from catching your crampon spikes on loose clothing.
2 PAIR OF SOCKS: Either wool or synthetic. Whatever sock combination you are accustomed to wearing during your training or previous adventures (whether single medium weight socks, a medium weight with a liner sock, two medium weight socks together, etc), should work just fine for this climb.
Miscellaneous Items Guides' Pick
SUNSCREEN: We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy aceess and to prevent freezing.
MEALS: See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.
2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES: Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required.
AQUAMIRA: Chlorine Dioxide water purification drops.
2 GARBAGE BAGS (LARGE): We recommend lining your backpack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry.
ZIP-LOCK BAG (1 GALLON): Please use the Zip-Lock as your personal trash bag.
Utensils Guides' Pick
Purchase travel insurance.
Return the Registration Packet to the RMI Office.
Purchase airplane tickets.
Arrange transportation and lodging.
Reserve rental equipment.
Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!
RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, stoves, group cooking equipment, fuel, climbing ropes and anchors, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).
Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a cell phone for emergency contact.
On the Four Day Mt. Shuksan Climb you will need three trail lunches, three dinners and three breakfasts.
To plan your meals, check out the following examples and suggestions of the types of food that work well.
Single-serving instant oatmeal or Cream-of-Wheat makes a good main course fare. A variety of granola bars, pastries, fruit and a hot drink mix of coffee, tea, cocoa or cider are suggested.
Your "lunches" are taken in the field throughout the day during short 10 to 15 minute breaks. We suggest crackers, pizza, candy bars, jerky, chips, cookies, trail mix, fruits, Gu, energy bars, and hard candies. Drink mixes such as Gatorade and Kool-Aid help flavor your water. Add peanut butter, cream cheese, hard cheese, or pepperoni for additional calories and taste. If you enjoy bread items, bagels work well. Include some salty snacks to replenish lost salts.
Freeze-dried entrees are very convenient; it is best to be familiar with their taste (and the effects they may have on your stomach) in advance of your program. Instant soups and Cup-o'-Noodles are popular supplements to your main course. As an alternative, you might consider bringing a cold main dish such as chicken, pizza, sandwiches, pasta salads or stir-fry. In addition, bring coffee, tea, cocoa or cider to warm you up before bedtime.
Don't worry too much about the nutritional aspect of meals; concern yourself more with a high calorie intake. Most importantly, choose a variety of foods that you like to eat. One of the normal, albeit disconcerting, adjustments to altitude is a slight loss of appetite.
Once we are at camp, ample cold water is available for drinking and replenishing water bottles. Hot water will also be provided for your meals (freeze-dried dinners, instant soups, instant oatmeal, etc) and hot drinks. When planning your menu, don't bring any items that require extensive preparation, cooking or simmering. We are able to provide you with boiling water, but do not have the ability to actually cook food items.
This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition. There are no technical climbing prerequisites to join this program.
Physical Fitness Training
Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.
- Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
- Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
- Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.
For this Shuksan - Sulphide Glacier Climb, you are preparing for:
- Steep hiking, climbing and glacier travel with a 45-50 lb load
- A 12+ hour summit day
- Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility
Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!
Total Hiking Time
Elevation Gain / Loss
|DAY 1 - Hike to Shuksan High Camp|
4 - 5 Hours
Gain = 3,500'
45 - 50 lbs
|DAY 2 - Climbing School|
|DAY 3 - Summit Climb|
8 - 10 Hours
Gain = 3,125'
Loss = 3,125'
20 - 25 lbs
|DAY 4 - Descend to Trailhead|
2 - 3 Hours
Loss = 3,500'
45 - 50 lbs
Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.
No acclimatization is necessary for this program.
Most climbers will fly into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport the evening before the program and rent a car for the 1 3/4 hour drive. The town of Mt. Vernon is approximately 76 miles and an hour and twenty minutes from SeaTac depending on traffic congestion. You will find a few more hotel and breakfast options here than in Sedro Woolley. The small town of Sedro Woolley, "The Gateway to the North Cascades", is approximately an hour and forty minutes from SeaTac. Our meeting place is the Sedro Woolley Ranger Station, 810 SR 20 (corner of Highway 9 north and State Route 20) in Sedro Woolley. We meet at 7:00a.m. Click here for driving directions.
Ride Share: If you are participating in a climb and are interested in sharing a ride, please post your information in the "Ride Share" forum of your North Cascades Discussion Board by logging into your RMI Account.
RMI has partnered with Erin Rountree to provide our clients with comprehensive travel support. As an independent agent of the Travel Society, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe. We have been working with Erin for the last 8 years, and she is very knowledgeable about the travel needs of our programs. Please call (208) 788-2870 or email at email@example.com.
We strongly encourage everyone to purchase travel insurance which covers trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation and repatriation. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection if you have a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or when traveling. Check with the insurance provider for specific coverage details including adventure/sports coverage. Additional cancellation coverage may be available if purchased within 14 days of making your trip deposit. However, trip insurance can be purchased at any time prior to the start of your program.
For more information please visit one of the websites below, or contact your local travel agent.
|Travel Guard||Erin Rountree|
Spend the night in either Sedro Woolley or the nearby town of Mt. Vernon.
For updated North Cascades weather forecasts, click here.
Our guides work hard to ensure your well being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment. Tips for excellent service normally average 10 – 15% of the cost of the program.
North Cascades National Park has over 300 glaciers, more than any other park in the lower 48 states. More than half the glaciers in the 48 states are concentrated in this mountainous wilderness region called the North Cascades.
General Information on North Cascades National Park.
North Cascades National Park map.
Communities & Activities outside North Cascades National Park, click here.
A deposit of $300 per person secures your reservation. Deposit payments may be made via MasterCard, Visa, or check. Final payment is due 90 days prior to the start of your program, and we will send you a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment is due. Balance payments may be made via check or wire transfer only. If your final payment is not received within 90 days of the program your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. Trips departing within 90 days from the reservation date must be paid in full at the time of reservation.
Once we receive written notification (mail, e-mail, or fax) that you are canceling an individual participant or your entire reservation the following fees will apply. A fee of $300 per person will be charged for cancellations made more than 60 days before departure. There will be no refunds for cancellations made less than 60 days before your program. Unfortunately, due to the time-sensitive nature of our business, and the difficulty in re-booking a trip close to departure, we cannot make exceptions to this policy.
Cancellation Insurance: We strongly suggest that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.
We also reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions. In such a case, a full refund is given; however, RMI is not responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).
Change of Date:
Date changes are subject to availability and apply only to the current climbing season. Date changes may be requested at anytime up to 30 days prior to your departure date. A $100 fee will be charged per person for all date changes made more than 30 days prior to the program.
Safety is RMI's number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering such as avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, inclement weather, and high winds, but they cannot eliminate them. RMI guides draw from their wealth of experience and training to make sound decisions that improve your chance of reaching the summit without compromising the necessary margin of safety.
Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently a hazardous sport. You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risk and hazards of mountaineering, and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity.
Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Some of the responsibility for the team is carried by the individual climbers. For this reason, we ask that each participant:
- is physically and mentally fit, properly attired and equipped, and continues to self assess throughout the program to ensure as safe a climb as possible. If a climber's own physical fitness limits his or her ability to safely continue upward, that can have a negative impact on the summit experience or opportunity of other climb participants.
- honestly and accurately describe themselves, in terms of fitness, health and skills, and their equipment to their guides, and that they adhere to the advice of their professional mountain guide.
Age-Appropriate Guidelines & Restrictions:
In the interest of the safety and well-being of all participants, RMI adheres to the following age-appropriate guidelines and restrictions on all climbing programs, domestic and international.
- Ages 15 & under: No participants age 15 & under
- Ages 16 & 17: Accompanied by parent or legal guardian
- Ages 18 & above: No restrictions
An individual’s birthday must precede the departure date of the program. For example: a 15 year old who turns 16 on July 1 may participate on a program beginning July 2.
Accompaniment by parent or legal guardian is required for the program or climb.
Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.
RMI's program plans and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, terrain, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including discretion to change program schedule or itinerary, and change guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program.
We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions. In such a case, a full refund is given; however, RMI cannot be responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).
RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person's own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.'s responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.
If the Participant decides to leave a trip at any time after the start of the trip and prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be entitled to a refund.
RMI reserves the right to dismiss the Participant from a trip or to send the Participant to a lower altitude at any time if RMI determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for or capable of participating in the program.
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit of Mt. Shuksan. Weather, route conditions, or your own abilities may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party will have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person's own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.'s responsibility and will not result in a refund or reschedule.
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. is permitted to operate within North Cascades National Park. Occasionally our teams encounter other climbers, whether guided or non-guided, who need assistance in the form of rescue or evacuation. We are morally obligated to assist these climbers when practical and safe to do so. This rendering of assistance may compromise your program and the possibility exists that your climb may be aborted. While rescues and evacuations occur very infrequently, such situations are beyond our control, and a refund will not be offered.