Mt Baker Ski Attempt
Eric and Greg
April 16, 2016
It’s the right time of year for big ski descents with snow all the way from summits to trailheads, long days, and generally low avy danger. Greg and I hoped to get a 7,500ft+ ski descent from the summit of Mt Baker down the Easton Glacier.
We drove up the toward the Easton Glacier trailhead friday night and got to within 1.5 miles of the trailhead before being stopped by deep snow in the road. The subaru outback tried valiantly to push through, but ended up getting stuck. Luckily I’d brought a shovel and a half hour later the car was free and we camped right there for the night at 11:30pm.
We were up at 3:30am and hiking soon after. This trailhead is extremely popular with snowmobilers, probably because it is actually legal for people to snowmobile almost the entire way to the summit of Mt Baker from here. Luckily we beat the snowmobile crowds at this hour and had the trail all to ourselves. We followed old snowmobile tracks on the trail leading north from the trailhead, emerging above treeline by sunrise and following a ridge up to a small local maximum called Crag View.
Here we stopped for a brief break, and I made the unfortunate choice of sitting on my pack. This was unfortunate because I had cheap used resort skis that I couldn’t hike in and had instead strapped onto my pack with the boots clipped in. But, as I later learned, the boots weren’t clipped in that ridgedly and were prone to fall out.
We scrambled over the narrow ridge at the crest of Crag View and then descended onto the Squak Glacier. My pack seemed a little lighter for some reason I couldn’t pinpoint. We soon roped up and continued up the glacier for a few more hours. By now noisy snowmobilers were racing up the glacier as well, towards the summit.
Around noon we took a break at 9,000ft and I noticed a ski boot was missing from one of my skis! The whole purpose of the trip was to ski from the summit (we’d both already hiked up and down previously), and I
really wanted to make this work. I suspected the boot was at the last place we’d rested, just a few hundred feet lower, so we agreed Greg would hike up slowly and I’d run down and retrieve the boot and catch up later.
Well, I kept going and didn’t see the boot. About 1,000ft lower I met a solo skier who said he saw it all the way down at Crag View, at an elevation 6,500ft! In my haste I figured I could retrieve it and make good time back to Greg, given I had no pack on and was moving fast. By 12:30pm I found the boot, and quickly started back up. It was tough going, but I think I was in good shape from my hilly daily bike commuting and climbed the 2,500ft in an hour.
Greg had descended back to the place I left my pack, though, saying the clouds had rolled in up higher and the visibility dropped. A lenticular cloud had built on the summit and it was starting to get windy. We decided to call this good for the day and enjoy the 6,000ft of skiing back to the car. It would still be a personal best of
some sort for each of us. My previous greatest continuous ski descent had actually been just over 4,000ft in New Hampshire from the summit of Mt Adams to Appalachia, and this descent would be much more.
We skied down through the softening snow, following our ascent route and making little dollar signs weaving around our upward tracks. We soon met up with the trees, and had some tricky turning before hitting the road again. By this time the snowmobilers were starting to leave as well, and we had plenty of company skiing back down the road to the car.