Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mt. Baker - Coleman-Deming May 2013

Mt. Baker, Washington
Coleman-Deming Route -glacier travel
May 9-10, 2013

We left Seattle Thursday morning to climb and ski Mt. Baker via the Coleman-Deming route on the northwest side of the mountain.  This side of the mountain stays cooler during the day, leaving the crevasse snow bridges very stable.  It also keeps the snow firm in the morning, but softens up in the afternoon - perfect for skiing.

Getting as close as we can!
We plowed our way through snow on the road as far as we could and starting skinning up the Heliotrope Ridge road at 3:30 pm at about 3,000 ft. elevation.  It was about 2 miles from the true trailhead.  When we reached the true trailhead covered in snow and we took the winter route up the Grouse Creek drainage.  This route gets out of the trees sooner than the traditional trail and allows for more skiing on the way back down, but it wasn't easy.  We have to navigate very steep slopes in the late afternoon on our skis.  The climb up to the ridge was brutal.

Sunset at basecamp (5,800 ft.)
We eventually gained the ridge at 7:30 pm and camped with a nice view of Mt. Baker above the treeline at 5,800 ft. elevation.  We were in no hurry.  We wanted to be on the summit around noon so we could ski down on soft corn snow.

We left in the morning at 6:45 am.  The sun was up, there wasn't a cloud in the ski, and there wasn't another person visible anywhere.  We skinned and traversed along the western edge of the Coleman glacier unroped.  There was not a sign of crevasses or any instability until we got much higher up; so we cruised up towards the Black Buttes.  The snow was hard and icy...we hoped it would soften up!

The entire route: Traverse below the Black Buttes to the saddle and
head left up the last 1,500 ft to the summit
Part of the ice fall area
Summit on the left, Black Buttes on the right
Checking out one of the few crevasses
 We passed a couple of crevasses near the Black Buttes below the ice fall area.  We were not concerned at all.  We soloed up to the saddle between the Black Buttes and the summit wall of Mt. Baker.  At this point, we took our skis off and slung them on our packs and began boot packing up Pumice Ridge and the Roman Wall.  This was a steep hike but very straight forward.  At 11:30 am on the Roman Wall, the snow was still pretty hard.  We reached the true summit around 12:15 pm.  We snacked, drank some water, and prepared to ski down.  We started skiing down at 1 pm.

Boot packing up the Roman Wall
Skiing off the Roman Wall was steep but very enjoyable despite the firm snow.  We knew the snow below would be soft and awesome.....and it was! Perfect corn snow all the way down!  We skied back to base camp, packed up, and skied to the car in 2 hours.  Total time skiing...1 hour 15 minutes.

SEE VIDEO..................PART 1        PART 2 (skiing down)

Skiing Mt. Baker was one of the highlights of my mountain climbing career.  I am sticking with ski mountaineering.