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jefetronic

[TR] Mount Baker - Park Glacier 05/30/2021

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Trip: Mount Baker - Park Glacier

Trip Date: 05/30/2021

Trip Report:

TR and GPS track here: https://www.jeffreyjhebert.com/adventures/park-glacier-on-mount-baker

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With a decent forecast over the long Memorial Day Weekend, Colin and I decided to put the work in to access the remote Northeast side of Mount Baker.  It turned out we timed our trip quite well, being able to skin straight from the Heather Meadows parking lot at the Mount Baker Ski Area and encountering some tricky, but doable crevasse crossings near the top of the route.

Expecting about 4-5 hours of approach, we left Seattle in the late morning, departing from the car at 1:30pm.  It was hot in the bright sun as we climbed up to Artist Point and even hotter climbing up to the shoulder of Table Mountain without much of a breeze.  We made it here in about 1h 20m from the car—not bad for schlepping overnight gear!  

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The short descent toward Ptarmigan Ridge wasn’t worth transitioning for, so we awkwardly skied down the sticky warm snow and across to a point where we could start climbing again.  We decided to stay relatively high and climber’s left along Ptarmigan Ridge.  While this likely included a bit of extra up and down, we were able to stay with skins on all the way to the saddle next to Coleman Pinnacle, arriving in about 3 hours from the car.

We did a curling traverse down and skier’s right from the saddle, keeping skins on again.  This got us to what’s marked as Camp Kiser on some maps, which has a fabulous view of Shuksan.  We decided to press on to The Portals, with one more awkward skins-on descent and one more climb before reaching our destination for the day after 4 hours on the dot (5:30pm).  We dug out a campsite, set up shop, and enjoyed a lovely evening watching the mountain pink up.

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Knowing the upper Northeast-facing cirque would bake as soon as the sun rose, we got going decently early, skiing away from camp at 5am.  There is a cliff band at roughly 6,150 feet which is tough to scope well from above.  We eventually found an exit we could ski at the far skier’s right edge of our traverse from camp, then skied down onto the Rainbow Glacier.  The snow was quite firm but the angle looked reasonable to skin all the way up, so we put ski crampons on.

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Our ascent of the glacier went smoothly, weaving around crevasses as we encountered them and using some photos we’d taken of the route from camp the evening prior.  A big sulfur vent near 8,000 feet really completed the volcanic ambiance.  At about 9,000 feet, we skinned up between two gaping crevasses running vertically down the mountain.  At about 9,500 feet, we had to end run a big crevasse toward the North before swinging back left across the face.  It was clear from here that the “moat” described in the ski tour guidebook as being “easy or difficult depending on conditions” was fully out and would easily fit a school bus.  We’d expected to come back across the face to find a ramp across a high crevasse and this worked out well.  

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The snow bridge crossing this final crevasse was a good 8 feet wide, spanning a narrow point about 10 feet across.  The rest of the crevasse was much more open and it was a big one.  I gingerly skinned across with Colin below me and the rope tight, thinking light thoughts until I was safely on the other side.  I dug in and body belayed him across.  From there, our final challenge was to make a traversing ascent of the headwall above this gaping crevasse.  Thankfully, the snow was perfect for kicking in good steps and we just took our time.  At 10,180 feet, I busted through a small cornice and onto the ridge above the Cockscomb.  It was relatively easy going from there across ice and wind-affected snow.  We reached the top at 10:15am, so just over 5 hours from camp despite that painstaking rising traverse.

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We celebrated briefly, explained where we were coming from to some folks coming from the Coleman-Deming, and then scooted back from whence we came to get back across that face and the snow bridge before things warmed much further.  Thankfully both went well and we were able to enjoy a stress-free 4,000-foot ski back down the Park and Rainbow Glaciers.  The snow was heaviest up high and improved the lower we went, with really fun corn on the bottom third.

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We skinned back up towards camp, booting the short cliff band and then side-hilling through south-facing slop.  We arrived at 1pm and had a nice, leisurely lunch with some tea.  Fresh socks were downright luxurious.  The rest of our descent went smoothly, mostly retracing our approach line except for taking a lower route North of Coleman Pinnacle to avoid gaining unnecessary elevation.  At 5:30pm, we arrived at the Heather Meadows parking lot and retrieved our stashed beers from a snowbank.  Over 22 miles with a lot of traversing made for some pretty beat-up feet and we were very excited to exit our boots.  Obligatory Aslan Brewery waffle fries and burgers capped off an excellent 2-day adventure.

Gear Notes:
Skis, crampons, axe, glacier kit

Approach Notes:
Buckle up for a long up and down traverse from the Mount Baker ski area
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Nice work.  That crevasse crossing definitely had some pucker factor.

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