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[TR] Mount Baker - Coleman Headwall 5/19/2011

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Trip: Mount Baker - Coleman Headwall


Date: 5/19/2011


Trip Report:

When I first started climbing, ascending the Coleman Headwall was on my tick list. Unfortunately the headwall was usually covered in snow during the early summer. By the time descent alpine ice climbing condition appeared I would usually be on a climbing trip in the Canadian Rockies, so I never climbed it. The headwall ended up gathering dust on my to do list.


Eventually I started to see skiing pictures taken on the headwall. I looked in the basement and found my old climbing tick list and there was the Coleman Headwall looking neglected. It was happy when I invited it to join the ski descent list. Given the current mountain snowpack and some descent weather forecasting I decided to pull the trigger.


Jeff H and I left Seattle after rush hour on Wednesday the 18th and drove as far up the Heliotrope ridge road as we could. With about 2-miles left we found parked cars and a big patch of snow blocking the road. We decided to park and walk from there. The snowpatch ended in a short distance, but 4-wheel driving didn't seem worth the bother. Eventually we hit solid snow and started skiing.


Since we didn't know the winter route we followed the standard trail to Kulshan Cabin. We skied up to the 6000 foot level shelf below the glacier and set up camp.





Close up shot of the Coleman Headwall



Alpenglow on Baker






At about 6AM we started climbing and ran into a few other climbers and skiers. Everybody was psyched to see nice calm weather.



Ascending the Roman Wall



Summit Party



Most people we ran into were skiing back down the Roman Wall, but a couple folks were doing a loop trip down the Park Glacier and ending at Mount Baker Ski Area. We left the main summit and headed over to the Grant peak summit, then started looking for the right entrance to the headwall.


The top of Baker is flat but then starts gradually rolling over. Neither of us new the right entrance, so we spent a bit of time traversing and looking at the topo map. The snow consistency varied from corn to ice to granular ice pellets then back to corn. Eventually we found a line of corn snow following the Roman nose for a bit till we could see the wall. From there we descended skiers right onto the center of the Coleman headwall.


View Down



Looking back up we realized we could have cut in sooner. Our line was nice, but maybe next time



From there we followed the center of the headwall. We found ice chunks, ice plates, and nice old powder. The headwall is an exciting combination of skiing and route finding.




View from the base of the wall.



Another shot



Here is a rough sketch of the line we took on the headwall



From the base of the wall we traversed back to the Coleman-Deming Route on Baker and to our tent.


A few folks we met while ascending gave us a rough outline for skiing out the winter route. We decided to go for it, but we were below most of the tracks headed that way. In the end we found a route through steep slopes and trees that brought us back to the standard ski route. From there more sliding and slogging delivered us back to the vehicle.


All and all a good time, and I'm pretty psyched to finally spend some time on the Coleman Headwall. I'll have to go back and ski some different variations to the descent line.


Approach Notes:

Snow drifts stop most vehicles at 6-miles right now

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NICE! We climbed the North Ridge the same day, and we were highly debating skiing the headwall...but in the end we just cruised down the CD. I wish we would have pulled the trigger and gone for it after seeing this report! Next time...hopefully it doesn't end up in my climbing tick list basement as well!

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Yep, I remember seeing you guys. Climbing the N-ridge with skis was a good move given the conditions.

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Nice work. I've skied a few variations down that face and this year, it is so good. Perfect for skiing. Way to get it done on such a nice day. I was out on Glacier Peak and it was amazing weather.

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