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Here at WildSnow we’ve always been amazed by Jason Hummel’s photography.
This past weekend I got up on Mount Baker for an early season summit and ski descent. September was drawing quickly to a close, and I still hadn’t gone skiing. Washington skiers everywhere are lauding the July snowpack we still have, making the decision to head up Baker once again an easy one. Only a few more days left in September, and after last month, I guess I’m doing the Turns All Year type thing.
Jason Hummel was up there with some of his friends, and ended up making a few images with yours truly in what are sometimes called “human landscapes” because they’re a landscape with a smaller human figure in it. Jason said it was okay to share a few of his photos here, so I grabbed some of his and mixed in a few of mine (which are of course quite meager in relation to the master). Result, scenic TR. Thanks Jason!
Convincing people to give up climbing and get back on snow was somewhat tricky, but after some late night phone calls, we had a solid crew of good friends assembled for a Mount Baker foray. We agreed to head up the Coleman Demming route, in hopes of bluebird summer corn.
I woke up at 3:00 and drove to Bellingham, where we formed a caravan and arrived at the trailhead around 7:00. From the amount of cars, it was evident we were not the only ones with high altitude inspiration.
The trail to snow line went quickly, as always, and I happily switched to boots and crampons. The only other time I’d been up to Baker this late in the year, the lower glacier was exposed ice. This time I was pleasantly surprised with no ice in sight; La Nina delivers, once again. The weather was beautiful, with an occasional gust of wind. We hung out for a bit and ate, then started up the glacier.
It was surreal walking up through the melted out crevasses. Early season glaciers are nice. With most of the snow bridges melted out, what you see is what you get. No lurking thinly covered cracks to swallow you whole. As long as you don’t slip, you are fine. Some sections were surreal. I felt like I was walking on another world, an ant traversing a landscape of cracked cowhide.
As we made our way on to the upper glacier, we met Jason and Josh Hummel and some friends. You’ve probably seen Jason’s photography in recent years in a number of magazines. If you haven’t, head over to his website to have your mind blown. I’d never met Jason in person, but I’ve seen his work all over the place, and it was fun to ski with him and his friends.
We continued up the glacier, withstanding intermittent blasts of air coming down the glacier. At the saddle we finally found the source of the gusts. Evidently the jet stream had decided to pay a visit to Baker for the day. We hunkered down behind some rocks and weighed the allure of the summit with the summer layers we carried. Some of us decided to go for it, and we headed farther up.
I’d say the wind was 70 mph, with gusts perhaps quite a bit higher, judging by the pebbles thrown in our faces. Ferocious wind in the mountains is always interesting, a somewhat miserable, but also exhilarating experience. We trudged on, expending as much energy staying upright as gaining altitude. We made the summit and got our stuff together as quickly as we could. Surprisingly the snow had softened up, which made for great turns down the Roman Wall.
We arced through fast corn and flew over gaping crevasses as we made our way down the glacier. It felt good to be on skis again. Further down on the glacier the wind abated, and we were able to slow down for a bit and enjoy the sun and warmth and the majestic chaos of the glacier.
My tired legs pulled to a stop next to the rocky moraine, and we paused to look up and revel in a perfect descent. I pried my unaccustomed feet out of my boots, and started the hike down to the car. As always, getting down the dirt hike seemed to take ten times longer than the way in, but we were back at the car soon enough, and a little while later enjoying pizza and burgers in Glacier.
The next day I slept in, then drove up the Skagit river for some solo fly fishing in the wind and rain. The fish snubbed my fly, but once or twice some distant snow-capped peaks poked out of the clouds. It won’t be long now until the rain turns to snow, and they receive a fresh coating of fluff to be skied and explored anew.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.