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Mount Shuksan North Face Ski Descent

March 22nd, 2012

Less than a two-hour drive from Vancouver lies a mountain with plenty of epic steep ski lines. Towering over the ski runs on Mount Baker ski resort, Mount Shuksan is one of the most aesthetic faces anywhere.

As we were climbing the face I looked down and noticed a lone figure on his way up. I wondered if it was Dan, otherwise known as Dansanity. In the past few years Dan Helmstadter has pioneered some sick lines on the North Face of Shuksan, and most of the time solo, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when it turned out to indeed be him.

Dan caught up and led out to break trail and I followed suit. We quickly made ground to the traverse, where sure enough, there was ice. We started the traverse but the rest of the group trailed behind, so we ended up splitting up as some of the crew were not properly set up for the rest of the climb. We topped out on the route and discussed options… the NW couloir was variable with ice so we decided to climb the north shoulder of Shuksan instead. After all, the true essence of skiing a line is to ski from the summit or the true high point to get the full descent.

I was starting to get tired and the wind was howling when Dan mentioned the North Face. He set off to down-climb and check conditions. I rested and hoped it wasn’t a go. I looked up and Dan walked toward me with a smile on his face. I knew what that meant. Time to get scared.

We climbed the shoulder and skied from the high point. Dan dropped in and disappeared. I almost bagged it. There’s nothing like the anticipation of the first turn. I had some visions I don’t want to mention. I edged over and pulled out my ice axe. A couple checks and I actually yelled as I made the first turn. It was edgeable and firm styrofoam so I knew I was all good from there.

After our descent, I had to be ready for the skin out — 27 switch backs out of the creek waiting for us… almost as gnarly as the ski. Enjoy the photos from our trip!

Andy Traslin’s parents got on skis and into the mountains at a young age. As Andy progressed to ski racing and front country, he started finding powder stashes that kept him exploring further and further to see what was around the next corner. He lives in British Columbia and spends as much time as possible earning turns and finding singletrack.

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