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[TR] Park Glacier Headwall - Mt Baker - 2/20/05

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Last weekend a friend of mine and I celebrated the birthdays of presidents Washington and Lincoln by climbing the Park Glacier Headwall route on Mt. Baker. Our route on the upper Park:


Up in red, down in green (where different), with ski/crampon transitions marked with 'x's.


On Saturday, we skied in the 10 or so miles along Ptarmigan Ridge to our camp at Glacier Saddle. Snow conditions were amazing- especially considering it had been a week since the last storm. Many people were out taking advantage of the light, stable powder on the northern aspects. We just shuffled along the crest under our 35-40 lb packs.






Sunday we woke with the sun and skied up the glacier, easily avoiding the gaping crevasses that punctuated sections of our route. Again, snow was predominantly 3-6 inches of powder above firm neve (with patches of slippery wind scour and pockets of deeper pow).


Our route took us first south before turning west up a broad open boulevard of unbroken glacier. 1,000' from the top, we switched to crampons and moved over to a steep snow ridge dividing the Park and Boulder glaciers. Cramponing up to 45 degrees brought us to a short bench before we embarked on the headwall proper. We were able to climb up between the rocks and the schrund up more solid neve to 50 degrees.


After several hundred feet, the top-out was fantastic. You just stick your head back up into the afternoon sunlight, swing your axe out into the windswept ice and rime and climb up onto the summit plateau. the_finger.gif


We walked back down off the summit via the cockscomb, then dropped through 100' of steepish powder back down to the Park. We stashed our crampons away and clicked back into our skis for the evening descent. The sun set as we were changing modes and the ski down in the flat twi-light was a little unnerving. At one point I skied across a several foot wide bridged crevasse. Only noticed it when my pole plant punched right through the shallow crust. When I turned around, I noticed the snow had fallen easily away from my ski tracks. Whew!


As it got later, the brilliant moon became a tremendous help and we skied the remaining 3,000 mellow feet down the glacier by moonlight- wonderfully without incident. We arrived back at camp around 7, about an hour and a half after leaving the summit. There we found that we'd already burned through all of the 11 oz of white gas I had brought with us (I terribly underestimated the needs of melting snow). So after a bagel, several fist-fulls of gorp and a couple slices of frozen HCL.gif we retired to the tent and the warmth of our bags.


In the morning, we packed up and skied back to civilization. Our exhaustion, dehydration and heavy packs kept us from enjoying our turns quite as much as we would have liked, but the skis still made the trip back much more pleasant than it could have been. Dinner at Milanos was heavenly. On the drive back, we had our one and only equipment failure (excepting not bringing enough fuel) when the exhaust system of my buddy's isuzu pickup fell off just north of Mt Vernon. If anyone sees it, could you grab it a send me a PM? it should be in the left-most lane.


This was a fantastic trip and a great intro to ski mountaineering. I had never skied with an overnight pack before and it was my partner's first ever tour, so the skiing element really made the trip a lot more exciting than the slog it could have been. It was a great, full use of the long weekend and left us totally spent at the end of each day.


Edited by Timcb

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Great pictures Tim. thumbs_up.gif Sounds exciting with the crevasse! yellaf.gif

This is amazing weather we have been having. Hopefully it will extend through this weekend!

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Did Chris do any Monty Python skits on route?


why? I don't think so, though monty python might have come up at some point..


ice on the headwall? not much. The snow had a little ice on the crust, but mostly it was good, compact, step kicking neve. If you go, make sure your edges are Really sharp. we had trouble keeping a purchase on other similar slopes

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