Hi everyone! Back to share adventures that hopefully could inspire or give you some ideas for your own ones!! I will update my last adventures starting with this summer missions and back till up to date.. first one just happened this weekend!
September 2nd 2017 is the day I am turning 32th years old, and what a better way to celebrate it than closing the 2016-17 season with 12 months of skiing in a row for the first time in my life! We are attempting a ski mountainnering trip to Mt Baker!!
For this mission we where a group of 3, Mike, Zavier and myself, and the plan was to head up to Mt Baker from the north face accesing by the Heliotrop Trail. Weather was meant to be really warm and clear skies, summer doesnt seem to be ready to leave us jet.
We arrived to the town of Glacier by 9am after leaving from Vancouver at 7am, went to the Baker US Forest Service office to get a parking permit, a proper waterproof detailed map, and sign the expedition, you will fill a document with the info of you party, route planned, and day you are supposed to be back, so in case something goes wrong rescue can do something about it, once you are back all you need to do is to sign that you are safely back to the valley, the sheet will be outside for you to sign anytime.
After that there is a short drive up to the Heliotrope trailhead that any car can slowly make its way up (wont need 4WD if its snow free) and after some packing the hike started at 1pm from 1100m elevation.
The trail is pretty mealow on the trees for the first hour, only a couple of river crossings that wont take much from you, always better to deal with them ealier in the day before the water levels raise, if you are heading to the Glacier View Point (shorter and not on our way) then you really want to do this hike in the morning unless you want to get pretty wet.
At the intersection after 2.1 miles, turn right if you want to go towards the submit, slowly you will find yourself out of the trees around 1600m, after that gets steeper and slippery through the ridge but the epic views really help to get through it, one more push and we made it to the Highsback Camp at 1800m , total of 2.5h and 5k hike to our basecamp for the night.
We met a nice couple of guys at the parking lot that seemed pretty familiar with the area (always helps when you are new in a mountain) and we found them again at the base camp, where we threw our tents, had some food and rest a bit on the sun as we discussed about what was coming the day after.
Before we could get some siesta time we decided to do some crevasse rescue practice, I had experience and education in glacier travel and crevasse rescue on my CSGA guide course but this is my first proper glacier travel mission. Is always good to do a refresher and test your gear before the big day, so we got familiar with the crampons and axe we rented for the mission, we practiced some anchor building, nuts, scenarios, axe self arrest.. but the sun was going down and I was getting nervous, today is my bday!! Lets get some turns done!
Mike, Zavier and I grabbed our skis and ran to the next and biggest snow patch, around 100m long and steepp enough to be consider a ski run ;), got to the top, pole fives for the boys and show time!!
After the first run we switched boots and let our new friends enjoy one run, more than fair after their knowledge sharing!
Now time to get back to the tents, get some extra clothing, sunset was incredible and the star show did not disappoint either, the Milky Way was on point today.
Early into the tents, tomorrow we had a big day of exploring on the glaciers.
Up at 6am, breakfast and get the last details of the packs ready, sun still wasnt out on our short approach to the glacier by 8am, time to gear up and get roped in!
First section is called the Hogsback Headwall, so crampons on and hike through the first small crevasses at 1850m, some blue ice but easy with axe and crampons, this wall is going to be a fun ski out section 😉
One in top of the wall by 2050m the route mellows so time to transition to ski touring, which makes the pack lighter, but will see how we manage the crevasses on them..
The views were insane and the crevasses started getting bigger, after a low angle section it got steeper and open crevasses began to show up, we were told at the US Forest Service and by many hikers we met that the route was safe and over 20 people started the hike before us this morning, and skin up would made even safer since your weight distributes your weight in a bigger area (skis over feet) lowing the chances of a snow bridge to break under you, but always stayed roped to each other and picking the safest and not the shortest route, safety first.
The size and number of open crevasses is the highest at this time of the year, but on the good side chances to get surprises is lower since they are mostly all open already.
At 2pm we took a short break to recharge and just feel small with this show around us, from here the terrain got gnarly around us, with sounds of rock falls and ice blocks on the distance, we should have started earlier, temps were high and feeling out of our confort zone, but still safe and confident to get to the Coleman Saddle at 2750m (9000ft), submit was on the back of our minds, but if the call was to turn around we already had what we came for.
The normal Coleman-Deming Route goes straight lookers right of this photo, but at this time of the year we had to do a considerable turn around the crevasse and go left and pass through some debris that bridged the massive crevasse.
And here we are, this 2 photos can give you an idea of the magnitude of the crevasses at the saddle at 2750m before the last push to the submit , temps were high, there was a narrow bridge to cross in front of us, it was 3.30pm and 1 to 2h left to the top..
It did not take long till we called it for the day, 500m left to the submit, which will have to wait for next time, like they always say, the mountain will be here tomorrow, is not going anywhere 😉
We enjoyed some time on our submit, photos, recharge and now it was ski time! almost 1000m vertical ahead of us, not bad for September eh?
The first 50m vertical of the descent I decided to keep the rope on us, we were traversing flat around the crevasses and the debris, and we were not really missing any fun skiing.
Finally confortable with the terrain ahead of us, ropes out, and ski time!!
We still had a couple of slow crevasse crossings, easier downhill than uphill but no being roped in changes the game, so playing extra safe.
Dont remember skiing with an ocean view and a background like this ever in my life, on this shot you can tell the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver and Seattle on the centre with Vancouver Island behind it, and the Coast Mountains rising on the right hand side.
With 30-35 degrees the adrenaline was pumping at the bottom!! Mission completed! Now time to get everything together and eat some lunch, we still have another 700m and 2h hike down to the car.
The hike out can get tricky and sketchy since there are many trails between the camp sites and small creeks crossings, so you really want to use the proper trail to be safe down to the ridge (same heading up), we missed it and took some time to get back up and find the right path, as long as you make it to the trees before dark you are good, to get to the car from here is just 1.5hours of headlamp through easy marked trails.
Hope you guys enjoyed this little route book, there are loads of glacier travel courses out there, I dont recommend getting into this terrain without the proper knowledge of glacier travel and crevasse rescue, hopefully this entry gets you excited to get into it!!
Two days and one night is all you need for this mission, and best of the year for Mt Baker is the Spring, May-June, but from our experience July-September is totally fine, although in order to submit I would probably try earlier in the Summer in order to spend less time making your way around the crevasses, also an earlier start at dark or camp for the night higher up are other options.
Thanks for reading, feel free to ask any questions you could have and special thanks to Mike and Zavier for joining this epic journey!
Be safe out there and enjoy!!