Backcountry Skiing Shuksan and Baker in a Weekend

Post by blogger | April 2, 2010      

Two weekends ago, Kirk turner and I decided to try for the old (and new to us as in never having done it) one-two punch, Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. With bluebird skies and (mostly) safe conditions, it was great fun to give it a shot.

our route down the NW coulior on shuksan

Our route down the NW couloir on Shuksan. Click image for a nice enlargement.

Friday we headed up to ski the North Face of Shuksan. I’ve been shut down by weather or avy conditions every time I’ve tried Shuksan, and have never attempted anything on the North Side that stares at you whenever you drive up to the Mount Baker ski area. We enjoyed some early morning bushwacking below Chair 8, which actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting given our low snow this year. After the “wack” we skinned up the White Salmon valley. It took quite a while to navigate all the wet slide debris in the valley bottom, but eventually we made it to the base of the NW Couloir.

We cramponed up easy steep snow, spiced by about 100 feet of steep white ice, and made it to the bottom of the BYS Coulior. The couloir was wind loaded, so we decided to traverse over to the NW, and ski that instead. We continued booting up the NW Couloir until we encountered a windslab that went from 1 inch to 3 inches as we got farther up, so we decided to turn around a short distance below the top of the chute (I’ve gotten pretty wary of windslab in steep couloirs). The snow was fun, if a little variable from all the slide debris. We even got a bit of backcountry skiing powder.

booting up[/caption

Kirk enjoying some steep pow in the NW Couloir of Shuksan

Kirk enjoying some steep pow in the NW coulior of shuksan

Booting up the NW Couloir of Shuksan.

We caught a few rays of sunshine on the apron below the North face

We caught a few rays of sunshine on the apron below the North face

After skiing back through the avy debris at the base of the valley, there still remained the 1,000 vert of cramponing up the mud and moss to the ski area, fun! I have to say I lagged quite a bit on that section. We made it back to the parking lot just before dark, and started discussing Baker for the next day’s backcountry skiing ski mountaineering adventure.

The next day we woke even earlier, prepared for the long dirt slog into Baker. Surprisingly, we were able to drive all the way to the trailhead, and had a few miles of frozen dirt hiking before we made it to skinable snow. Normal snowpack this time of year requires a several mile skin/snowmobile just to get to the trailhead. We made it to the climbers camp just as a few people were getting up to start the climb. I’d much rather wake up a bit earlier than lug overnight gear up to the glacier! The glacier was super filled in, and it was a straightforward skin and boot to the summit.

Backcountry skiing Coleman glacier on Mt. Baker

Climbing Coleman glacier on Mt. Baker

We saw a few people on their way down from climbing the Coleman Headwall, and they mentioned it was in great skiing condition, so we spent 10 minutes at the summit deciding whether to try it. I didn’t feel too good about tackling something like that without hiking up it, so we opted for the rime/sastrugi of our ascent route. We made it back to the car at just about dark and headed home, ready for school the next day.



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11 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing Shuksan and Baker in a Weekend”

  1. Mike April 2nd, 2010 9:58 am

    Great photos!

  2. Andy_L April 2nd, 2010 11:11 am

    That’s a nice-looking solution you’ve got for your photo enlargements. What is it? Something JS/Open source?

  3. Wyatt April 2nd, 2010 11:34 am


    Cool report! What crampons do you guys use? Thanks!

  4. Mark W April 2nd, 2010 9:05 pm

    Inspiring tales. You’ve kept many of us from getting out the rock climbing gear, and with the best skiing of the year still to be had, this is very appropriate.

  5. Sky April 2nd, 2010 10:00 pm

    Way to get after it and stay safe, Louie.

  6. Randonnee April 3rd, 2010 11:12 am

    Very nice!

  7. kirk April 3rd, 2010 12:08 pm

    For crampons I just have some old petzl simi-automatic’s no idea on the name, I think louie is on the new BD sabretooths?

  8. Jason Hummel April 3rd, 2010 1:19 pm

    Nice to see you getting up into the cascades Louie! It’s been a great year for BC here.

  9. Louie Dawson April 4th, 2010 9:16 pm

    yep, I have some old aluminum crampons, and some shiny stainless BD sabertooths, been using the sabertooths alot lately.

  10. Mike Traslin April 6th, 2010 11:27 pm

    Good one!

    Great call on the snow study!

    It can be tough to turn around when you get summit fever,or shall I say in my youth I found it tough…….

  11. Drew Tabke April 7th, 2010 11:46 am

    Nice, Louie!
    I’m in Seattle, would love to get out sometime.

    How about Shuks and Baker in a day instead of a weekend?

    Maybe up the NF of Shuks, down the Highway to the Chimneys and down to Lake Anne, out onto the Ptarmagan, up the Park and down the CD.

    Sounds like a job for a Traslin.

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