Five hours after our descent of Mount Rainier, we were on the road again. By the wee hours of the morning we were sleeping in the Subaru near the base of Mount Baker. At this point we were too late for a single push on the peak, so we took our time and leisurely skinned up to camp at 6,000′.
The approach to camp revealed the magic of this place. Rolling ridges, features and steep gullies abound. It is a true backcountry skier’s playground. Even if you don’t get near the peak, the terrain is vast and begs exploration.
But we were on a mission, so we got down to brass tacks and planned out our next day. The Northwest Avalanche Center had just issued a special avalanche bulletin and it was all gloom and doom due to record high heat in the North Cascades. We figured we should get an early start.
We started moving just before dawn and were soon greeted by a beautiful alpenglow.
The easy way up the Coleman-Deming route was appealing for a few reasons. First, with ski crampons we could ascend the entire route: a welcomed vacation from boot packing! Second, this route would get us to the top quickly before the heat of the day really beat down on us.
We soon realized that the temps were cooler than forecast. Instead of rushing to ski down before the snow turned to slop we would be waiting for the snow to soften. We slacked off our pace and enjoyed the mellow skin up to the top of Baker.
Once on top, we reveled in the amazing weather we were getting. There was a hint of a breeze, but nothing that could keep us from taking an hour long nap on the summit. After about three hours on top, we figured we might as well get to skiing.
We had met an intrepid skier named Todd on our way to our camp who had skied the Coleman Headwall with a friend that day. We decided against it, but were able to admire the rugged beauty and exposure of the line. Todd said he measured the upper section of the main Headwall at 55 degrees.
Our ski was significantly less gnarly, but fit the laid-back pace of our Baker Mission. Who can complain about great powder turns in mid-May?
And to finish off the day, perfect corn back to the car.
Next on the list: Mount Shuksan. It’s not a volcano, but hell it’s in the Cascades and it’s amazing!