Tag: Mount Baker
Reaching the summit of Mount Baker was one of my first conquests in the Pacific Northwest. I came to Seattle in 2006 as an intern, and climbed to the top of Grants Peak that summer. For the last several years I’ve had Mount Baker on my hit list again, although this time with a slightly different mission in mind. I want to ski from the top.
You know you have cool friends when one of them asks if you are interested in photographing his wedding on a glacier. I never for a minute thought he was joking—it made perfect sense to me. Russ and I were backcountry skiing last November when he first mentioned his and Kala’s plans to get married in the wilderness. Both Kala and Russ have bagged dozens of peaks, routes, climbs, scrambles, skis, ridges, saddles and anything else on a mountain in the Pacific Northwest. I did not doubt Russ and Kala’s resolve to have a wedding perched on the side of a mountain; but once I ventured onto the Sulphide glacier with them and two dozen guests and the weather turned, I began to wonder if it would really happen.
One of my favorite lines from last season was descending The Shuksan Arm just outside of the Mount Baker ski area. Ryan and I rode chair 8 up, and after getting grilled by a ski patroller, were allowed to leave the resort and skin along the ridge. It was late March and the snow was nearly perfect. Baker had been getting hammered all week, and this Sunday was the first time in days that the avalanche conditions were moderate enough to make a safe journey out onto the arm. After spending a little more than hour traversing the ridge, we ripped skins and charged down to the valley. The snow was light and crisp; turning was effortless.
With memories of this day in mind, Ryan and I returned to Shuksan Arm 8 months later, this time bringing along Keith, Beau, Gus, Megan and Austin. An early season storm had just cycled through the Mount Baker zone, and conditions looked ripe for a late November pow day. As always, I toted my Olympus Pen E-P3 camera for still photographs. This time out I brought along a new toy: a GoPro HD Hero2 video camera. Once we reached the top of the Arm, I strapped the camera to my dome and hit “REC.” I let it run the entire time we descended, about 25 minutes. The edit above compresses our descent to about 5 minutes, and uses still photographs I took on the skin up. The skiing at the top is steep, fun and deep. The skiing near the bottom is also steep, but our pace slows considerably as we try to maneuver treacherous cliffs, trees and rocks. The video is not intended to be a highlight reel; it’s a visual narrative of our approach, ascent and descent.
Only two weeks after our icy adventure up Mount Baker’s Coleman Glacier, we returned to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead for round II. Even on the drive in it was evident that we would be dealing with drastically different conditions. The snowline is now well below the parking lot (3,650′), making the last mile or so treacherous. I was happy to let Gus maneuver his Subaru along the winding road; had we been in my Volkswagen I would have chained up. Stepping out of the car at the trailhead the first thing that struck me was how cold it was. Keith, Gus and I quickly geared up and started hiking the Hogsback. The mud and rocks of October were now covered with snow and ice. We gladly endured knowing that less than a couple hours up the trail would be our first taste of powder for the season.
Sunday’s ski down the Coleman Glacier on the northwest slopes of Mount Baker was literally a bloody mess. Inspired by a trip report published on TurnsAllYear.com; Gus, Tristan, Megan and I designated October 23 as the day we would Occupy Baker. While we didn’t find boot deep pow; we did encounter a liberal amount of rocks, ice and treacherous terrain.
This winter I was lucky enough to ski about 40 days. The season began on Thanksgiving Day at Crystal Mountain in Washington, charged through an Easter spent at Whistler and ended, well… it’s not actually over. This film covers ski outings through the end of April at Table Mountain in the Mount Baker backcountry, but rest assured, there’s still snow in the Cascades as I write this in late May. (continue reading…)
Cabin fever is serious. As we shiver through the early days of March, please be careful to diagnose and treat any symptoms related to this ailment. Since the Andy Aupperlee “explosion” (that’s what we’re calling my S&F), this blog has gotten uber serious about medical issues. The best form of treatment is prevention, and that’s why I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to this subject. Also, all ad revenues from this post will be donated to the Society for the Advancement of Cabin Fever Knowledge (SACK).
The following is a case study of a group of 20 somethings from Seattle, Washington as they battle cabin fever near Mount Baker. (continue reading…)