Mt. Baker Touring

Coleman-Deming, Mt. Baker

Some of the peakers climbed Mt. Baker via the CD last weekend. We opted to skip any attempts at trailhead napping and decided to leave Seattle at midnight on Sunday morning. Fueled by the finest donuts in the 2 AM selection from Safeway, we pulled in to the trailhead around 2:45 and were walking by 3:30.

The trail is snow free up to 5,000 ft, where we ditched our shoes and put our skis where they belong, on the snow. We followed a faint skin track up the gully and to the ridge. Switch-backing up the first headwall proved tricky for those of us without ski crampons (everyone but me) but a breeze with them.


As we cruised along the Black Buttes the wind started to pick up. The small amount of fresh snow from the past couple days was getting blown around with great enthusiasm and was giving our faces a nice scrub. At this point I joined the ski carrying club and we started booting up Pumice Ridge.

Although less windy than the col, any loose snow from the ridge had been blown off and what was left behind was balls of blue ice embedded in super firm sastrugi. The Roman Wall was more of the same, but steeper. Nonetheless we carried our skis up and had a good feet-numbing and ear-piercing descent. Below the col wasn’t much better with patches wind blown snow on top of ice. We got back to our shoes by 2:30 and got back to the softest ground we had all day – the trail out. We were at the car by 3:15, just short of 12 hours, what a day.

Mt. Rainier

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

On Saturday we joined the mass-exodus from the lowlands up at Rainier and set our sites on Camp Muir. Anticipating an icy snowpack that would need some help from the sun in order to become enjoyable, we took our time through Puyallup, going as far as driving several exits in the wrong direction all in the interest of getting the best turns possible.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Paradise around 10:30 which was just about at capacity. The sky was blue and the snow was cold so we set off toward Panorama Point opting to boot last 500 ft or so, while the stubborn struggled with the skin track nearing the top.


From there it was a straight shot and about 2000 ft to Moon Rocks where we decided on our turn around. The snow was consistently icy for the entire duration of the trip, making it difficult to hold and edge while side hilling along what I believe is referred to as The Sugarloaf, as well as extremely jarring on the ride down.


Heading back toward the car around 3:30 we skied the Nisqually Chute, which despite sitting in sun all day, was no exception the hard snow conditions experienced everywhere else. A quick hike out of the chute and a bumpy ride back to the parking lot put us back at the car around 4:20 where we took our time packing up until the rangers came around and warned us that the Longmire gate closes at 5:00. I’m not sure how strict they are on that time but we drove through at 4:59.

It was a nice day at the mountain that can be summed up like this; Great weather, very poor snow conditions. The coverage up there is fine right now but it was horribly icy. I guess it just depends on what you are in it for.


Photos courtesy of Charlie Coultas