Crazy_Jeff Posted February 10, 2010 Share Posted February 10, 2010 Trip: Mt. Baker - Boulder-Park Cleaver Date: 2/8/2010 Trip Report: It seems like the forecast all winter long has been “chance of rain.” I’ve been waiting for a promising dry day with an avalanche forecast I feel comfortable soloing in for weeks now. Well, finally a good one came around yesterday. I’ve been exploring the Olympics semi-thoroughly over the past couple years since I moved down to the Olympia area, but it seemed time to revisit Baker. I miss the North Cascades. I was emboldened by a TR on turns-all-year that said that you could drive to the trailhead on Glacier Creek Road. Obviously, Baker was in a fine mood to give up some goods. If I only knew what I was in for… Sunday was dominated by packing, replacing gear and repairing gear. 5pm saw my departure. After stopping in Mount Vernon for supplies, I found my way to Boulder Ridge. This is impressive as I didn’t bother bringing directions and hadn’t been there for maybe 6 years? The road was passable all the way to the last switchback. I car camped and redefined carb loading by scarfing down a pizza and several granola bars. That was sitting on top of several dozen cookies from earlier in the day. The fuel tanks were full... Probably too full. I think I was feeling cocky when I set the alarm for 4:15. I slept better than I normally do in a car and had a lazy start to the day where I double checked every last piece of equipment. A few minutes to five, I started the march. I had chosen tennis shoes, but should have gone straight for the randonee boots. I thought it would be patchier in the trees, but there was as much snow as bare trail for the first mile. We’re all legends in our own mind. My personal claim to fame is my ability to get lost under the most pedestrian of circumstances. Astonishingly, I managed to keep the trail for over an hour, even with all the snow trying to disguise the way. After that point, it was simply a matter of plodding uphill on continuous snow. I donned skis at the 3500’ saddle on the ridge. I’ve done this approach three times and don’t think I’ve ever followed the proper trail up to timberline, so I did what I always do and followed the ridge over a number of ups and downs. Life was simple above the trees. Just keep skinning uphill, no obstructions. I kept a nice steady 1200 ft/hr pace up the ridge. Most of the snow was somewhat loose, varying thickness on top of a harder base. When it was only a few inches thick, things tended to slide out from under me a little. Around 7500’ I gave up, since there’s a steep pitch there. I put the skis on my back and booted uphill. I lunched at the top of the cleaver just after noon. The snow up higher was similar conditions, so I figured I’d try to find a route with a thinner top layer so I could just keep walking. In retrospect, there was no easy answer. The next couple thousand feet were delectable torture. The mountain really didn’t want to give up the summit without a fight. The snow I climbed through was deep and steep, so when it eased up near the top of the boulder headwall, I tried skins again. That was the wrong answer. I hardly took a step without having the sluffy snow give way. Back to boots, which were still sinking in nice and deep. At one point on the headwall, I heard a rumble. Thinking it was a plane, I looked around and saw a small avalanche about a hundred feet behind me. I must have loosened something up when I was walking over it. It wasn’t a huge avalanche, but I was a little surprised. I didn’t hit the summit till a little after 3pm, which was not ideal. The last few thousand feet had half the rate of ascent of things down lower. I guess winter is winter, even if it’s been a relatively lame one. It took me a while to thaw out my fingers, a by now familiar exercise. I didn’t waste time trying to get the hell down and off that mountain. Skiing up high wasn’t superb, but it wasn’t bad, except on the more wind swept aspects. Down below about 5000, it was crap. Turning was hard, and I had to snowplow in sections. I tried to take an interpretive way out to avoid the ups and downs of the ridge, but I think I just cost myself time by trying to get clever. I even found my way into a nice big hidden hole near a big rock feature. The trek out was tedious and full of suffering, but we’ve all experienced that kind of pain before. The bright side was that it was quicker due to the lack of route finding. Just follow the bootpack! I got back to the car a little after 8pm. If I’d known it was going to take over 15 hours, I probably would have gotten up earlier. I barely made it back home without falling asleep at the wheel. Gear Notes: Crampons might have been a good idea, but I'm living proof they weren't necessary. Approach Notes: None. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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