If you’re affected by the spring with an unquenchable thirst for adventure, the Outdoor Center is a trusty place to turn to. On Saturday, June 3, you have the opportunity to climb Mount Shuksan. If you’ve ever skied at Mount Baker, it is the stunningly beautiful mountain that towers right next to you. This trip is open to people of any skill level, and is a great opportunity to pay only $100 to bag a summit. You need to hurry, however, to snag a spot: the required pre-trip meeting is on Wednesday, May 31.
In order to find out more about the difficulty level of the climb, I interviewed experienced mountaineer and trip leader, B.J. Cassell, for the inside scoop.
Emily Miller: I’m assuming you’ve summited Mt. Shuksan before…what was the experience like for you? Did you feel accomplished?
B.J. Cassell: Considering all the variables the Cascades can throw at you- especially route conditions, weather, and route finding- summiting anything in the Cascades always feels like a good accomplishment.
EM: What other mountains have you summited?
BJC: I’ve been up quite a few peaks in the North Cascades, and I’ve played around in the South Cascades and the Rockies a little bit.
EM: Tell me about the day when you’ll be doing the summit trip…what time will you be waking up? How long will the actual ascent and descent take?
BJC: We’ll wake up nice and early. The actual time depends on a few factors, but a good ‘alpine start’ would put us well up the glacier before sunrise. The ascent and descent times really vary with such a large group and ranges of everybody’s physical condition. Without having met everyone yet, it’s really hard to say.
EM: What is the view like from the top?
BJC: Like other Cascadian peaks, the view from the top (on a clear day at least) it something that must be experienced to understand. Aside from just being beautiful in a purely aesthetic way, being able to see so far in all directions at so many other huge mountains really gives one a feeling of the scope of his environment. In a way, it really puts you into a larger perspective than you’re used to.
EM: Has anything gone wrong on an OC summit trip?
BJC: [laughs]… Oh the stories that could be told that are probably better left untold…. In my experiences and the experiences that I’ve heard about since I’ve been at Western, no instances have made it to the book “Great Accidents in North American Mountaineering” at least.
EM: How difficult or technical is the ascent?
BJC: Aside from crevasse potential (which could get technical should something ‘go wrong on an OC summit trip’), the only section of the climb that’s technically technical is what’s called the “Summit Pyramid,” which is typically negotiable with the help of some trusty guides.
EM: Will there be an opportunity for inexperienced people to learn about basic mountaineering techniques as either part of the trip or beforehand?
BJC: Yes, the guides will definitely go over some things at the pre-trip, and we’ll also do as much hands-on technique as we can during the trip given the time allowed.
EM: How physically fit do participants need to be?
BJC: It’s difficult to quantify how physically fit someone needs to be, but the more physically fit the participant is, the better... obviously, right?
EM: Who is advised to not make the ascent?
BJC: As of yet, everyone on the trip is advised to make the ascent. If situations or conditions may arise to comprise the safety of either an individual or group of people, then such matters will be dealt with accordingly.
EM: What equipment is provided by the Outdoor Center?
BJC: There’s an extensive list at the OC that covers the essential gear, but I can’t remember everything that’s on it.
EM: What “luxury items” should participants bring?
BJC: Keeping in mind that some people consider toilet paper a luxury item, people should bring as little as possible when they’ll be packing everything on their back. There’s definitely a longer list of things that people shouldn’t bring. You wouldn’t believe the things that people want to take up that a guide will find in the initial “pack check.” That being said, I don’t care how light/fast/far my goals are, say what you will, but I bring a small pillow. Whatever, at least I sleep well, and with as little sleep as climbers get anyway, quality is important.
EM: Why do you think people should take advantage of this particular opportunity?
BJC: There’s so many reasons to take advantage of an Outdoor Center guiding trip, mainly because they’re a lot of fun, people have great experiences, and for any of the particular types of activities or locations, it would literally be impossible to find a professional guiding service even close to a comparable price.
EM: How are you and the rest of the Outdoor Center coping with Marissa’s death?
BJC: To answer this question honestly has taken some deep confiding in of a roommate and quite a bit of soul searching (and by soul searching I mean google searching). I can’t speak for everyone (I’ll estimate that at least half of us at the Outdoor Center don’t have television… not because we’re hippies and not because we think we’re too cool for TV either), but wow… it’s just like… there’s so many elements, you know? She was so young, there’s the whole teen drunk driving issue, but I think what’s really sad is that everybody seems to be completely overlooking such a more important loss- [sigh]… I mean that Land Cruiser was brand new! …Sorry, I… I just can’t… no more questions please.