Mount Shuksan has become the iconic face of the rugged North Cascades of Washingon, with its picturesque north face a ubiquitous presence on calendars and souveniers. It is probably the most well-known of the non-volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range, a vivid reminder that the northern reaches of the range harbor more than giant snowy domes like nearby Mount Baker.
There are nine or ten non-volcanic peaks over 9,000 feet high in Washington (depending on how you count), and Shuksan lies about halfway down this list in both elevation and climbing challenge. Most of these peaks are not well-known to the general public because they lie far from roads, hidden in a giant thicket of high and craggy peaks. Shuksan, however, towers over the Mount Baker ski area and the end of the Mount Baker Highway , a commanding presence at one of the most popular high-country trailheads and recreation areas in the Cascades. Of the 9000ers, only Mount Stuart near I-90 approaches the visibility and fame of Mount Shuksan.
The mountain is a huge, sprawling mass of ridges, pinnacles, and glaciers, almost its own sub-range. Although the rugged northern side of the peak gives it its fame, the easiest route to the summit climbs the vast Sulphide Glacier from the south, starting a long, long way from the Mount Baker Highway. The Sulphide Glacier rolls right up to the 700-foot high jagged summit pyramid, an easy scramble on steep, loose rock. In early season, the Sulphide is a great ski run.
The easiest and most popular northern route is the Fisher Chimneys route, a devious path winding its way up the north and west slopes of the peak that can be a routefinding challenge but is mostly class 3 climbing or easier. Other routes can be very difficult, including serious ice climbing on the spectacular hanging glaciers that line the peaks frontage to the deep cirque of the Nooksack River.