After a July of somewhat frustrating and moody weather in the Pacific Northwest, I got really excited about an upcoming sunny weekend forecast. Mount Baker was looking like the prefect place to visit and reconnect with our wonderful high alpine.
Jenny and myself left Seattle after work on a summer Friday and set out for Park Butte Trailhead, about 2.5 hours away. Friday night traffic was horrible, as expected, which extended our drive to be a bit longer then desired. That wasn’t going to kill the stoke though — we were looking forward to a sunny day on a volcano. Once we got to our destination, we quickly got our packs ready and headed to bed. As we hid away in our sleeping bags, our friends Chris and Lee also pulled into the parking lot. Gotta love the PNW skiing community.
The 3 am alpine start felt incredibly hard, as I’ve been spoiled by being able to sleep in on my Saturdays the past few weeks. Slowly making our way out into the night, we were greeted by thick fog. I wouldn’t say it was quite raining, but it sure felt wet. With hope of the fog clearing up later in the day, we headed out.
Our hike to the Easton Glacier from Park Butte trailhead followed what’s called the Railroad Grade trail. The route heads up along the ridge, beginning at the terminus of a glacier moraine. It is crazy to think that the glacier itself ran that far back less then a 100 years ago. Talk about global warming… Our entire hike to the snow was inside a misty cloud, although still a beautiful environment, morale was low due to broken expectations of a perfectly sunny day. All I could think was “Brrrrr.”
Once we reached the snow, the cloud was thinning and blue sky was visible in a few spots. A sunny Baker summit, could it yet be? We put skins on, roped up and continued uphill. It’s full-on summer so quite a few cracks were opening up on the route, but all the snow bridges were still solid, with only one small open hole that was easily crossable on foot and even easier on skis. Roped up of course.
Hooray! At about 7500 feet we were finally out of the clouds. I was so thrilled I did a “happy dance”. Twice. Once we reached the edge of the Summit Crater, we took a nice long break before heading up the Roman Wall.
The summit weather was quite nice, a bit of wind but nothing crazy, with wonderful views of Olympics, Glacier Peak and Rainier peaking through the clouds. We got there at about 12pm and headed down after a quick snack. The Roman Wall skied beautifully with smooth, perfect spring-like corn. This is really the only steep pitch on the whole route, the rest is a very mellow grade. Down lower, the expected mushy sun cups emerged — but it was soft and fun skiing all the way back to where we put skins on. The walk back sadly happened mostly in a cloud, but the stoke levels were high after the superb sunny ski down. It felt excellent to finally get out for some mountain time and check out a new route up one of my favorite PNW volcanoes.