A week of sun and 70 degree temperatures in the city will begin to induce touring withdrawal symptoms for even the heartiest of peakers. With raging monkeys clawing at our backs, we set our weekend sights for a fair-weather summit attempt of Washington’s 3rd highest mountain and stratovolcano, Mt. Baker (10,800′). The snowpack this year has been deeeep, and with summer weather forecasted for the mountain, conditions looked ‘absolutely splitter’ – to quote D.B. Kiker himself.
For Brian and I, this would be our first experience with glacier travel so a large part of the trip was educational. If you happened to be at Gasworks Park last Thursday, then yes, we were those kooks pretending to rescue each other out of imaginary crevasses in the grass.
We chose the Easton Glacier route, and Ranger reports indicated that the road was still snowed-in for about mile before the trailhead.
1:00 PM: Parked the car at 3000’ elevation, threw the splitboards into tour mode, and hit it. A large section of un-snowed dirt road about 100 yards around the first bend in the road forced us to portage the boards on our backs for a bit, but trailhead access was uneventful other than that ~ 1 hour.
** Touring the snow-covered road pre trailhead
We followed the well-defined sled trail about 1500 vertical feet from the trailhead up to the start of railroad grade, where the sled tracks broke-off into the valley above. 3:30PM
** Garrett starting up the valley – railroad grade on the left. With the snow from earlier in the week compacted and wet from the heat, the snowmobile tracks made for easy touring.
6:00PM: With daylight waning, we exited the north end of the valley, and set up camp at 6500’, just below the Easton Glacier. The night was clear and the views were spectacular.
**Brian and David scoping out a campsite
**Sunset view of the San Juans
**Night Mountain. Roman Wall & Summit on left, Sherman Crater in middle
**Turning in for the night
3:00 AM – Wake-up. Clear sky allowed the temperature to drop overnight and freeze snow. A leisurely morning of pacing for warmth, hugging warm coffee mugs, and packing camp leaves us ready to hit the trail at 6AM. Splitboard crampons required.
**Roping-up to start the day. We ascended through the saddle to the NW (top right), then pointed directly to the Sherman Crater.
The snow was very firm throughout the morning, but splitboard crampons made short work of the first 2200’. At 9000’ the grade steepened, necessitating a switch to boot crampons and board carry to the Sherman Crater.
** Approaching the Sherman Crater. Roman Wall to left. If you look real close, you can see two people (dots) just to the edge of the shadow formed by the left crater.
This early in the season there was minimal crevase exposure. Throughout the ascent and descent we saw just 2-3 open crevasses that were small and easily avoidable. Worth noting that it’s important to remember the location of these for the snowboard descent, else you end up having to do a last second emergency ollie.
11:00 AM: We stopped for a quick lunch at the crater rim
*David and Brian taking a breather
**Brian and Garrett on the Sherman Crater lip
**David contemplating the meaning of life
** The Sherman Crater was smoking like a chimney
Revitalized, we cramponed our way to the summit by noon with boards on our backs. At this time of day the Roman Wall was very steep and icy – even a boot crampon ascent felt sketchy.
Obligatory summit pics:
Fearing that the bottom of the mountain would become a slushy mess, we strapped on our boards and rode down quickly after reaching the summit. In retrospect, we could’ve waited until ~1PM to descend – which would’ve made the roman wall a bit more enjoyable.
Phenomenal Corn skiing was to be had below the Sherman Glacier. Packed up camp quickly at 6500’, and snowboarded the remainder of the way out.
3:00 PM: Arrival back at the trailhead