Shuksan: Anatomy of a Bail 2/2/11

By:  Allen
February 3, 2011


I had the chance to engage in my first true Bail in a long time on tuesday. I left the Baker parking lot at 7 am with the goal of skiing the North Face of Mt. Shuksan. I was going solo, I was happy with the stability and really wanted to take advantage of a good weather window.

The Recon Shot, the north face works through the rocks down the ridge on the left side:

Sun is in short supply when skiing the North side of Shuksan:

I pushed hard and topped out on the white salmon at 10:30. I think I pushed a little too hard up the white salmon because it took me until 12 to cross the upper curtis to the flats above the north face. I ate some lunch and examined my recon photos from the parking lot. I dropped in right on the line and was excited by the firm wind-buff that covered the start of the line.

The ghost of skin-tracks past on the upper Curtis:

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Read about the author:   Allen
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19 Comments

  1. Porter Haney
    wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 6:03 pm  
    1

    Glad you came home safe, Allen. Always good to enjoy yourself in the mountains by yourself.

  2. sukiakiumo
    wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 6:42 pm  
    2

    Saw you way up there as we were the party of 3 following you. Somehow we didn’t see you leave the parking lot! We had similar goals as you but turned back b/c weather. Glad you made it over before the clouds engulfed the Hanging Glacier. Hear you on the skin-tracks… whoever put them up must not have had good skins or just really liked switch backs! Next time the snow and weather will be better! Lets hope…

  3. Garrett Grove
    wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 6:56 pm  
    3

    Allen great work on the NW Couloir glad the conditions in there were better for you, both are big lines to commit to skiing solo. I was part of the group of four that skied the North Face after you that day and can’t blame you for turning around. It was definitely heads up, we took it very slow through the icy section with our whippets engaged into the slope to moderate speed and control.

  4. Anonymous
    wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 8:50 pm  
    4

    remember the adage: “climb what you ski!” Though I have dropped in blind too an a committing line, but it turned out much better.

    • JHL
      wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 11:08 am  
      5

      The adage “climb what you ski” is only relatve to East coast skiing. Does not apply anywhere else.

  5. Anonymous
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 12:27 pm  
    6

    Climbing the slope you are going to ski, prior to committing to it is best practice for the ski alpinist concerned with his/her own safety and longevity. Of course, it doesn’t matter if you stick to mellow slopes with little to no consequences. Your “east coast” comment makes no sense.

  6. Allen
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 12:28 pm  
    7

    I don’t really subscribe to climb what you ski. If I had climbed the N. Face I would have subjected myself to several hours of exposed climbing. Instead I climbed up a relatively safe route and minimized my risk. Using the pre established skin-track also allowed me to conserve energy which is important for dealing with possible problems later on.

  7. Anonymous
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 1:01 pm  
    8

    There’s definitely something to be said about conserving energy. And as a fellow ski alpinist, I’m glad you were able to get yourself out of that situation. But, personally, transitioning from ski to pons on a 50 degree, icy slope isn’t fun, especially if you could have made the call to bail as you were front pointing up frozen snow/ice to begin with. With all due respect, brother, ascending the flats to ski the steeps is foolish.

  8. Jplotz
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 1:06 pm  
    9

    There’s definitely something to be said about conserving energy. And as a fellow ski alpinist, I’m glad you were able to get yourself out of that situation. But, personally, transitioning from ski to pons on a 50 degree, icy slope isn’t fun, especially if you could have made the call to bail as you were front pointing up frozen snow/ice to begin with. With all due respect, brother, ascending the flats to ski the steeps is foolish.

  9. Anonymous
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 2:40 pm  
    10

    You do make it sound like the party that skied the n face made the wrong call…I’d say they made a better call then you. And have bigger balls for stickin with it. Making a transition on a steep slope is way sketchier than sticking with the descent and skiin it in a controlled manner…but not climbing the route was both of your guys biggest mistake. And then to say the white salmon was safer after someone fell through a cravass on the skin track! Yikes! The n face is a super mellow climb with almost no objective dangers. Climbing what you ski is the best way to stay alive in this game. I know you can’t always do that but in this case it definatley would have been the way to go.

  10. Sam at work
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 3:00 pm  
    11

    everyone likes to Monday morning quarterback this stuff….. I’ve gotta side with Allen on this, it would have made no sense to me to front point up an icy slope for several thousand feet over exposed terrain.

  11. Jplotz
    wrote on February 4th, 2011 at 5:51 pm  
    12

    Hey. No second guessing Allen at all. Love his site and the great photos. Keep it up, man!

  12. Forrest
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:27 pm  
    13

    I put that skin track in, looking back the switchbacks are pretty excessive (and yes I do like them). Thanks for the comments.

  13. Allen
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 7:08 pm  
    14

    My problem is that skiing BC everyday has turned me into a skin-track curmudgeon. That fellow almost falling in was a good reminder for me not to take the White Salmon for granted.

  14. dan
    wrote on February 13th, 2011 at 12:42 pm  
    15

    Nice job Allen! I saw your tracks in there, they were very purtty. New England represent!

    I agree with you about not buying into the mantra. Dropping in blind does increase the likelyhood of running into crappy ski conditions that you didn’t expect, but there is something to be said about developing an ability to forsee such conditions both with very attentive senses as well as taking extra caution on windward slopes, thorugh constrictions etc… usually there is some visual or gradual feelable indication of a change in surface conditions(which is why it’s a great idea to ski slow when dropping in blind) There are certainly routes where climbing it first would be prudent, such as a steep glaciated slop where underlying glacial ice may be likely. Slopes with known water ice steps, slopes that get windhammared, steep slopes where hidden rime ice is likely, all these and many more are great reasons to climb first. Dropping in blind does have some safety advantages — you greattly reduce your time in the fireing zone of rock/corince/ice – which depending on location can pose a significant hazard. Secondly, I can think of more that one occasion when I built an anchor at the top then ropped up to stomp a suspected slab out on the convexity, in other words, certain routes are acceptable for me to drop in blind, and others are not. In my opinion, there is no right answer about this, ski mountaineering is dangerous . staying safe is about reading the particualr terrain, snowpack etc.. and doing what you can to reduce the dangers.

    stay safe and keep up the good work!

    Dan

  15. dan
    wrote on February 13th, 2011 at 10:07 pm  
    16

    No disrespect meant to Mr. Plotz, he is a wise man.

  16. Anonymous
    wrote on March 15th, 2011 at 3:23 pm  
    17

    >>>The adage “climb what you ski” is only relatve to East coast skiing. Does not apply anywhere else.

    No, posting pics of yourself skiing dangerous lines on the internet and then not saying where they are to screw people is East Coast style.

    • Sam
      wrote on March 15th, 2011 at 5:22 pm  
      18

      how exactly did he not say where they are? How would keeping it a secret screw anyone?

      If you’re going to flame, do it under a real name or we might start removing your comments.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 15th, 2011 at 7:19 pm  
      19

      HA. awesome comment anonymous. way to discredit yourself quickly… surely you know you’re making a ridiculous point, that’s why you remain anonymous. wouldnt want to risk your actual reputation by using a real name. far easier to take a cop out. nice!

      too funny.

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