65 & Slushy — Baker TR from Louie and Jason

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After a brutal finals week spent stuck inside, I was eager to get out skiing. Especially since the forecast for Mt. Baker called for sunny skies, something that I have a feeling I am not going to be seeing often over the next few months. When we woke to a foggy day I wondered about the accuracy of the weather reporting. Perhaps “sunny” has a different definition up here in the wet and scrappy PNW?

Backcountry Skiing

Yours truly getting a few PNW style turns in. Nice photo Jason, Gunder look out?

The weather still looked iffy as we drove up the Mt. Baker Highway. We kept faith alive and drove on. As we got up higher and farther inland, the fog started thinning. Then, while we drove up the final switchbacks, we broke through the clouds and were treated to an amazing bluebird sky.

Mount Baker backcountry skiing

Brunton ADC Pro tells the tale of scorching heat. Jason Caudill photo.

We decided on hiking up to Ptarmigan Ridge below Table Mountain and skiing some laps there. Hiking up to Ptarmigan Ridge from the parking lot, we were a little disappointed at the snow conditions. What had been powder a few days ago had turned into nasty breakable crust that we were barely punching through.

However, as we moved farther up the ridge and into the sunshine, the air started warming up, giving us hope that it would melt the crust a little.

Mount Baker backcountry skiing

Mount Shuksan and Shuksan Arm -- we'll be spending some time up there over the months to come.

We began the traverse, but as the day got warmer we began seeing signs of wet snow avalanches. It definitely wasn’t crusty anymore — it had gone too far the other direction. To avoid any chance of being ‘lanched by a sloppy,’ we decided to take a run towards some lower elevation trees and hike back through them. Things definitely didn’t feel like December as we skied down in t-shirts though heavy wet stuff.

Mount Baker backcountry skiing

Heading towards Mount Baker before we turned around because of the rapidly warming snowpack. Skyler Mavor photo.

Once we got to the bottom, we did one more lap in the trees and then headed back. On the other side of the ridge the snow was still almost rock hard, as the low sun hadn’t hit it all day, and the air felt about 10 degrees cooler. We got back to the car about three, and arrived home in time to catch something bland to eat at the dining hall.

Good to get out no matter what, and in the bluebird no less!

Comments

7 Responses to “65 & Slushy — Baker TR from Louie and Jason”

  1. randy floren December 13th, 2008 2:12 pm

    Louie, welcome to the Pacific Northwest! I live in California now but grew up skiing the Cascades and my parents now live in Mount Vernon-they can see Mt. Baker from their front door. The Baker area is amazing -it’s a different type of skiing than you’re used to, no Colorado champaign powder, but it has its own joys. Wait till Spring and the corn snow!

    Nice to see the photos of my old stomping ground.

  2. Johnny V December 13th, 2008 5:55 pm

    Is it snowing yet Louie? LOL just kidding… Im to the South just a little and we have picked up about 30″ in the last 24… I hope you picked up a snorkle on the way out!!!

  3. Bryce December 14th, 2008 10:06 am

    Looks like some fun spring er… December skiing. I too am a big fan of Washington, where you can ski any day of the year if you want. I traveled from my Utah home to Mount Rainier for a couple of summers to boot pack to the moon-craters near Camp Muir. But now I’m back to the dry stuff, this time in Northern NM. Thanks for the report.

  4. Mark Worley December 14th, 2008 6:17 pm

    Just remember this: Though it rains fall to spring in town, it snows just as much up high.

  5. brian December 14th, 2008 9:31 pm

    Lots for the boy to do up in those parts. Lived in Wenatchee myself for a couple of years. Big, awesome mountains!

    Lou, gotta tech question for you. I am on my 4th season on a pair of Mega Rides. Bought new liners for them this season so they should be good for this year, at least. However, I believe the lack of Vibram under the toe is making it bloody hard to step into my Dynafit toe piece. It’s a total fiddle and leaves me looking like a green horn trying to get into my bindings (even had some girls on the skin track laugh at me yesterday, telling me I would get the hang of it eventually!).

    What is the best way to remedy this? I’ve thought about a resole but that would probably be pricey. Anyway to simply build up the end?

    Thanks,
    Brian

  6. Robie December 14th, 2008 10:41 pm

    Louie , I hope your enjoying it .Lets see Dec 12th= 65 degrees
    Dec 14th =12degrees ,That ‘s at Baker down here at Crystal Mountain BC we had 3 degrees and wind chill of -20.
    robie

  7. Carver December 15th, 2008 3:58 pm

    I didn’t think Louie could ski without a helmet! ;-)

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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