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pinegar

[TR] Mt Baker summit from Ski Area - NE Ridge / Park Glacier up, Boulder/Park down 2/16/2008

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Trip: Mt Baker summit from Ski Area - NE Ridge / Park Glacier up, Boulder/Park down

 

Date: 2/16/2008

 

Trip Report:

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I left my car at 8:00 on Saturday. Visibility was not good which slowed my progress some, but I had advise from a split-boarder while skinning up to Table Mountain, and later two telemarkers who had camped near the saddle SW of the Table, which saved some map and compass work, but there was plenty of this fun to be had later in the day. The thing I like least about this sport is probably the physical exertion, but even that I love. The telemarkers took my picture for me,

 

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and then we skied apart:

 

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I climbed an extra 100 feet or so because in the white-out I missed the pass just W of Coleman Pinnacle and started up the hill on the other side. And later, I was seriously slowed down at the headwall of the Sholes Glacier, which had perfectly dry snow almost light enough to make upward progress impossible given the slope angle:

 

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I spent so much time there that a clear patch drifted through, but there still wasn't much to do but keep going up given my position. At the top, the mountain appeared briefly,

 

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and for a while I was above the clouds:

 

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I continued to the saddle at the top of the Rainbow Glacier, where I shoveled for a few minutes to reduce exposure to spindrift, and began to relax for the night. The next morning the weather was of course quite clear,

 

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And I skinned up the Park glacier, which was very efficient given the low slop angle, wind-hardened snow, and easily avoided broken-up areas.

 

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After lunch and some more skinning I was at about 9450ft, between the "halves" of the NE ridge. Here the steepness and still-fairly-hard snow caused me to put the skis and poles on my back and use crampons and ice-axe for the duration of the ascent. There was a small but open bergschrund at this point,

 

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and the route steepened a little and views of the N Ridge began:

 

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Just above a steeper step at 96000,

 

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the cockscomb showed itself,

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and I was glad I was not on the North Ridge because I probably would have wished I'd brought a second ice axe:

 

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Instead, I was creeping along steadily until I came to the prominent part of the Cockscomb, where I didn't want to go up because I would have been uncomfortable downclimbing it (in contrast to everything I had climbed so far). And I couldn't decide on going left or right:

 

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At this point I thought the 5% chance my cell phone would work was worth a shot, but as usual in such places, it could receive a signal but was not heard by the base stations. So I fidgeted for a minute, and concluded that the Park was not far below to my left, so I slowly downclimbed the snowy rock. There was just a little water ice around the rocks, and the snow was not as hard as it could have been, so mostly I was knocking it out of the way as I downclimbed. I was very slow and careful, and it was a good workout.

 

Once off the rock I was relieved to find deep powder that would have made it impossible to fall down the glacier,

 

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but it was far too steep/deep for skins, and I ended up trudging out a trench until I got back on the ridge above the cockscomb, a little over 100 feet above where I had left it below. The appearance of the cockscomb viewed from the south vindicated my decision to avoid trying to traverse its crown:

 

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At this point I got out my ski poles and walked up the extremely wind-hardened ramp to the summit. To ski down it would have been technically easy but not much fun because it was effectively only a few meters wide and pretty steep on either side. The transition into the Park, however, was uniform with a soft bed of steep powder below, so I would have been tempted to sideslip down the ramp and drop back into the powder if the Tour de Cratour had not been on my agenda. (Something I had been mumbling about to endless self-amusement for about the previous two days.)

 

As I walked towards the summit in increasing wind I heard a nice gasoline engine and soon saw a yellow low-wing airplane, which gave me an aileron-wave and circled around the mountain a few times until I reached the summit pyramid. The engine sounded a lot better to me than any car or motorcycle I've ever heard, and I was quite happy to have the company. I have no idea why someone would want a fancy car when you could instead have such an airplane.

 

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Of course I've seen a lot of awesome winter photographs, and the name John Scurlock did dance through my head as the plane circled, but I didn't know what kind of plane he has, and it wasn't until I saw Dave Coleman on Monday evening that I learned for sure that the sporty little airplane had been John's.

 

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The sun set for Shuksan:

 

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I took the skins off and made a couple of turns down to the little saddle between Grant Peak and Sherman Crater. I left my pack there and looked E over at the Boulder Glacier which was pretty dark and windy, and I decided to dig a shelter back on the western side of the saddle where there was more shelter from the wind. This picture was taken as I walked back there to my pack:

 

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It took 30 minutes to dig a shelter into the rather compacted snow. There was a covered area for my stove and upper body, and the view out my bedroom window was pretty nice Sunday evening,

 

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and also the next morning:

 

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Looking at the map I decided that skiing into the crater would create extra effort for getting back to the ski area, but since the crater floor was just a few hundred feet below me I decide to walk down and back without any of my gear. A little exercise after breakfast. It's been a while since I've been to Yellowstone, and I've always wanted to see it in winter. A morning stroll. Maybe this was not such a good move.

 

With all of the fresh snow there was no yellow ice visible, and the locations of most of the warm patches and vents were clear because exposed brownish mud or black rock appeared in the white carpet. And of course steam.

 

I had only plunged about 15 meters down the slope when I noticed a very long and uniform band of newer snow about two feet wide, which was either where someone had skied before, or.... There were huge forces in my footsteps, and one boot punched through an eggshell-like layer two or three inches thick. One leg was swallowed.

 

A bright greenish tentacle whipped out of the chasm, then another, and they flailed violently around my head before wrapping themselves around my neck and shoulders. As I fought to free myself, stinging welts formed on my hands and throat where purple knobs on the rubbery appendages bit into my flesh.

 

When I regained consciousness, I found myself in a palatial underground cavern, sitting in a sandy pool of warm effervescent water. Greenish-yellow tongues of flame played from gas jets set within lamps made of human skulls, which adorned sulphur-colored pillars. The light glimmered in the multiple eyes of my now docile radially-symmetric host. After a soothing massage and comfortable soak in the pool, I was re-dressed in my warm, dry clothing, and elevated to the surface through a network of tubes within crystalline water ice. The now-pinkish tentacles brushed droplets of water from the (mysteriously renewed) DWR finish of my jacket and pants, before the water could freeze in the clear morning air. I thanked my new friend and returned to my pack and skis.

 

The ski descent across the upper Boulder Glacier and onto the Park was uneventful. A few huge openings and ice-blocks on the Park glacier were easily avoided, and it was usually possible to make comfortable turns and maintain good speed on paths of wind-hardened snow within the three-to-six-inch sastrugi. On Ptarmigan ridge I saw my old tracks and eventually those of a few weekend skiers. I ate lunch before skinning up the corn-glazed ramp at the SW corner of Table mountain, and met some snowshoers on the Table's eastern end before skiing down to my car in the parking lot, which I reached at 2pm on Monday.

 

My camera batteries had been giving out since the morning, so I only took a few pictures during the sunny return trip.

 

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I think my track around the cockscomb is even faintly visible:

 

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Awesomeness all around!! Great photos, great report. Has really inspired me to get out and do an overnighter here this next month. Loved the picks of the hoar and rime with the plane in the sky.

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Nice Job Dave. Beautiful pics. How nice to have the upper mountain all to yourself eh?

 

I climbed the Coleman Demming route in '06 and really enjoyed it. That was a summer climb tho. Lot's o people up there that weekend...

 

I winter solo'd Hood one time some years back and had it all to myself then. Of course the evening I was headed up to the mountain I stopped off at my dad's tavern in gresham to have a (free) beer or two, and as we watched the local news they showed a chopper hauling a body off of the North face... As we watched, and the news guys talked about the icy conditions etc, the old man said "You're not still going up there are ya?" I told him I was just doin the S Side route and the conditions would be different probably, but he wasn't buying it...

 

I spent the night in the silcox hut, back then you could just walk in, nothing but mice residing there, summitted at day break on a day much like you had... Sure was quiet up there. Except for the fucking wind.

 

I made sure to to call the old man when I got back.

 

d

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Hey I had that same experience of falling into Baker's underground spa and message parlor too!!

 

Great trip report man. I'm inspired!

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Very nice! More great North Cascades scenery and looks like a great adventure. What great timing with John flying over. :)

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I don't read TR's all that often, except for the skiing ones. This one stood out as one of my favorites back when it was originally posted.

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