Alright! Time to break the long silence with the first snowboard trip report of the season. Did you miss us?
We went up Table Moutain and Herman a couple weeks ago but it didn’t quite warrant a write up. Fast forward to today and once again we were heading out of the upper lot at the resort around 9am. The snow around Bagley Lakes has been hit hard with tracks since the last storm but was holding up great with the cold temps in the last week.
We headed toward the high saddle that splits Bagley Creek from Mazama Bowl where we found deep consolidated powder on E and SE facing slopes. Dropping in off Mazama Dome we found much looser unconsolidated but mostly stable snow on N and NW aspects that made for some killer turns but difficult uphill as we transitioned and made the approach to the saddle below Herman proper.
From there it was a boot pack traverse out to the top of the couloir where we made the transition at 11:30am. While we were not the first to ride Stoneman Couloir on this last storm cycle, it hardley mattered as there was plenty of room for everyone and the snow was deep and light. At the bottom we traversed left above the trees to a smaller tighter couloir that starts at about 5300ft.
Now to find a way out.. From 4800ft the exit down to Bagley Creek either requires a hard cut right or a hard cut left. We tried to split the difference and ended up on a cliff band that required some trickery to get down. Next time I will opt for the honest line. In the end we made it out arriving back in the Heather Meadows parking lot a little before 2pm.
Check Stoneman off, and then add it back on the list. This one is a classic!
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.
The storm last Tuesday left a lot of trees and other debris across the road, though the trees have been cut up now and most of it is passible in a higher clearance vehicle. The snow starts at about mile 6 and parts of the road are vary icy. Another good snow storm and the road up the the trailhead should be out for driving this season.
The good news is, you can start splitting from the trailhead. The bad news is, that only lasts for a quarter mile. The snow on the trail gets patchy so we threw the boards on our backs and hoofed it up the the second creek crossing were we could resume the split.
The snow is punchy down in the trees down low with big windblown spans of ice as you move up onto Hogsback ridge, making ski crampons useful. From the top of Hogsback we trended right and then took a straight shot up to Heliotrope ridge, topping off around 7200 ft.
The good turns are the top 1000 ft or so where the mountain is north facing and more protected. Not enough snow to make us feel comfortable skiing straight down to the creek so we followed out skin track back down the hill getting back to the car about 3:30 pm, about 5 hrs after we started.
Lots of good snow for mining up above 6000ft, with more on the way. The good turns have finally come around.
Someone definitely got the memo that Mt. Baker on Sunday was getting POW. We arrived around 9am to an already halfway-full upper lot. It was filled with 200+ backcountry enthusiasts eager to ride some powder. After last season being such a wash in the Northwest, stoke levels were very high.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the snow conditions highly favorable. There was great coverage starting well below the upper lot. By the time we got to eying up our first drop near chair 1, we were happy to find the snow depth was easily waist deep. One needed to find steeper lines on Sunday because it was deep and heavy! The snow was pretty typical of the Pacific Northwest, a classic Baker storm. Keeping to steeper faces was key for the day, if not you’d often find people digging themselves out from burying their tips. TIPS UP!
After a lap near chair 1 we headed out near Artist Point. Here the sun was starting to break through and produce some amazing light. Even with the breaks in light, dropping in just below Table Mountain the light was still very flat once you got dropped below the ridge line. Flat light and heavy snow were some of my biggest concerns for the day. Some small sluff slides had been set off in the area by others, but nothing too alarming. We will have to see what the future storms bring over the next couple weeks. Layers of rain could be a concern as we move into late November. Lets hope this great dump of snow stays around for a bit!
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.
After getting off-route 2 weeks prior, fellow peakers Andrew, David, Whitney and I gave the Easton Glacier another shot on a beautiful June weekend this summer. Choosing a two-day itinerary, we left seattle around 9 am on June 21. We arrived to an overflowing parking lot and found a spot on the side of the road. After stashing our beers in some snow and deliberating over whether to bring approach shoes we got moving by noon (no approach shoes). Folflowing the trail up to Sulfur Creek it became clear shoes would have been worth the weight.
After jumping across boulder fields and a couple hopeful transitions along the creek, we finally found continuous snow in the gully below the Railroad Grade. The gully looked easy and the railroad looked dry, so we wound our way up the next 1600 feet. An hour later we crossed our first crack and started traversing west to find a camp on the shoulder. Heading straight up (due north) the rolling ridge we cruised past camp sandy and found a shelf with ridiculous views down onto the toe of the Deming glacier and the east side of Colfax. We melted water, ate some macaroni, drank some whiskey, and set the rope up for the morning.
We woke just in time for the sunrise and started spiking up the short headwall above our camp by 5:30. The route was straight-forward, we followed the obvious bootpack up and were able to skin the first 2,000 feet (following the immediate headwall out of camp). In hindsight, we may have left too early and ran into several short, steep sections that required spikes with the hard snow. The crater rim offered a nice lunch spot and sulphur bath before we booted up the Roman Wall.
The view and weather from the summit were all time. We could see down to Mexico and you couldn’t have flown a kite if you had one. I think we even took layers off at the summit. The Watson traverse looked especially appealing from this angle, so we put it on our list for next year.
After lounging for an hour waiting for the snow to soften we finally clicked/strapped in around 10:00 am. The Roman Wall was a little firm but below that the skiing was 5-star, A-plus spring corn. We arrived to camp about 20 minutes after leaving the summit and the snow was already rotting below 7,000 feet. About 2 hours of heavy-pack, heavy-snow, boulder-hopping and trail walking we were back at the car drinking a beer.