Mt Baker Boulder Glacier — Park Headwall Ski


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 11, 2019      

Steeps on Mt. Baker’s Boulder Glacier.

On June 1st, with spring weather in the PNW finally cooperating, Louie and I set out to ski the less popular side of Mt. Baker, the Boulder Glacier. It was pleasant to pull into an empty parking lot on Friday night — a different sight compared to the crowded Easton/Squak trailhead. We enjoyed a full six hours of sleep, waking at 3:45 am.

We were hiking by 4 am, getting our first view of Mt Baker about an hour in. The Boulder Creek trail is not regularly maintained. There are lots of trees blocking the path, creating contortionist opportunities while carrying skis on your back. After that, a swamp, so bring extra socks! Louie and I joked that this may be an excellent trail for Xtratufs.

In the past, Louie has been able to skin straight up the valley and avoid the short climb over volcanic rock. This year the valley was way more melted out than we expected, and also was full of avalanche debris from a massive glacial avalanche that fell all the way from the summit crater. We located the rock climb bypass and decided it would be the better option. There is a secured, moderately new rope to assist the journey up, with a brief bushwack to the snow once at the top. We were stoked to have the place to ourselves.

Baker coming into view on the way up from Boulder Creek Trailhead

From there we skinned all the way to the top. I’d say the Boulder Glacier route is very similar to the Squak, with a slightly steeper angle to it. Crevasse navigation above 8500ft was a bit involved. There were a few hidden cracks we inspected and had to find a way around. We stayed roped up for the whole upper section. This made the last 2,000 feet of the ascent slower than we wanted. The air felt warm and we were eager to get to the top.

Soaking in the magical views on our way up.

Once at 9500ft, navigation got much easier but I was beat. This trailhead starts lower and covers more distance, bringing our total vert for that day to 8500 feet. When we finally topped out on the summit plateau, I was psyched! A group of our friends, Krystin, Peter, Wyatt and Hedivg, were climbing the Squak Glacier that same day. We magically met them exactly as they were walking to the summit — now that’s a great meeting spot.

Julia, Hedvig and Krystin on the summit!

Louie and I were hoping to ski the Park Headwall. I won’t lie, I was really nervous. I was almost hoping the weather would be too cold or too warm and we just wouldn’t have to ski it.

The Park Headwall is easily visible on the horizon during the entire ascent. I tried not to think about the descent and focus on the ascent, which helped me keep my nerves in check.

Once on the summit, Louie checked conditions on the entrance to the route. “It’s perfect!”

“Darn it,” I thought as I sat and watched. “I might have to actually ski this.”

My reservations were mainly regarding the large open crevasse at the bottom of the run. No mistakes allowed. I followed Louie to peer down the face. It’s definitely a mental game with yourself, being calm and trusting your abilities. When I finally peaked at the line, I was surprised: the angle of the slope didn’t look as steep as I’d pictured and the snow seemed really good. I quickly clipped into my skis and down we went from the tippy top of Mt. Baker.

Fun turns right off the top of Baker.

The turns down the headwall were magical, steep, on snow that was nicely softened by the sun. My adrenaline was pumping. I could see our sluff sliding down onto the slope and disappearing into the bergschrund. I felt the exposure, but I felt calm. Perfect conditions make the difference on a steep line. We traversed skier’s right at the bottom, above the shrund to exit onto the Boulder Glacier, meeting back with our skin track.

Louie traversing looker’s left to navigate around the big crevasses to safely exit to Boulder Glacier.

Psych was high as we skied to our shoe stash and hiked out. As expected, the hiking trail back seemed twice as long. Instead of driving home, we camped by Baker Lake with the friends we’d met at the summit. I’d say Louie got a pretty epic birthday, minus the fact that I forgot dinner, which forced his birthday dinner to be Ramen and beer. We were both thankful for friends who shared their delicious food with us!

Mt Baker from Baker Lake with views of Boulder and Squak glaciers.



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Comments

7 Responses to “Mt Baker Boulder Glacier — Park Headwall Ski”

  1. Christoff July 11th, 2019 9:44 am

    Nice job guys! Can’t beat Mt Baker!

  2. Lukas July 11th, 2019 2:40 pm

    Nice story! Nice route! Perfect skiing on an interesting mountain 🙂

  3. Lisa Dawson July 12th, 2019 5:11 pm

    Julia, you gave Louie the best birthday present he could ever ask for: a beautiful day of skiing with dear friends. Missing you two and those magnificent mountains. xoxo

  4. Spudd July 13th, 2019 11:17 am

    I wouldve liked to read more on the descent. Seems like navigating that big crevasse field while descending woulda been good times. You guys rope up for that portion?

  5. Sky July 13th, 2019 2:06 pm

    That’s one of my favorites.

  6. Julia July 15th, 2019 11:31 am

    Spudd,

    We did not rope up on the descent. We were not worried about skiing over the cracks we saw on the way up, as they were small (some barely visible) and as long as we skied over them perpendicularly without stopping near them. In our opinion they did not create as much hazard as long as we weren’t moving slowly over them. We also avoided a good portion of the crevasses by skiing the Park Headwall, meeting up with our uptrack halfway through the tricky section.

    The one photo you see where Louie is traversing to exit the Park Headwall had a very wide bridge/snow slope that is out of view of the photo that was crevasse free. The park headwall itself doesn’t have any cracks, besides the big one at the bottom.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 July 15th, 2019 1:45 pm

    These guys are well aware of crevasse safety, but as is done worldwide, they seek to balance the ability to ski safely and smoothly with the detriments of roping up. Sometimes it’s obvious you can ski without the cord, as Julia alludes to here, but it’s not always an easy decision and people do pay the price quite regularly, especially in Europe where downhill skiing glaciers without being roped is pretty much the norm. It’s a super interesting issue in mountain safety, and worth plenty of thought! Glad you brought it up Spudd!

    Lou





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