Mt. Baker, Heliotrope May 16th - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-17-2004, 03:27 AM Thread Starter
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Default Mt. Baker, Heliotrope May 16th

With all this nice weather we have been enjoying lately, Tundra and I got sucked into heading up Baker earlier than in previous years. Our plan was to go up and practice some glacier travel skills. We ended up parking about 1/2 mile down from the trailhead because of snow on the road although I'm sure a vehicle with high enough clearance could make it the whole way. A van driven by our American Alpine Institute friends gave us a short lift to within 1/4km of the TH.

The trail was basically dry for the first 1/4 km and then it got progressively covered in snow as we got higher. I think the snow beneath the treeline was the most hazardous part of our trip because of all the postholing, gigantic treewells, and narrow slippery trail across some steep slopes. All of the creek crossing were bridged with snow but they still made me nervous. There were only two blowdowns across the trail which were easily overcome.

A really enjoyable thing about this trip was how we could follow a creek draw straight up towards the hogsback once we had cleared the treeline rather than switching up to a steep climbing trail which is covered with loose scree at other times of the year. A cornice had earlier collapsed off one of the nearby bluffs, which line this route, and created a small wet snow avalanche. I suspect conditions are soon going to get worse on this little route as temperatures get even warmer. We kick stepped our way up to low camp. The snow was slushy. As much as we would have liked to use our crampons to take more secure steps, they would have been useless in this slushy snow so they stayed in our packs.

For almost the whole trip we were engulfed in cloud but we did get about a 20 sec teaser of Grant Peak on our way up when a sucker hole opened. All the crevasses are well covered and the route is completely safe for now although I would be concerned about avalanche conditions under the Roman Headwall. There is even deeper slush, up to 3 feet of postholing on top of the Coleman Glacier all the way over to the Black Buttes. Apparently it was just as soft all the way up to the summit.

We stopped for lunch and watched the clouds as they thickened around us. It was almost whiteout conditions. Surveyeor's Rock, the icefall, and the tents at low camp disappeared in the mists. Reluctantly we turned back. We thought we'd be able to glissade all the way back down to the trail however the snow was too heavy and deep for that. We developed a sort of sink slide step.

It was nice to see this route at this time of year even though we weren't rewarded with the usual stunning views. It was uncrowded and there were no bugs yet. We'll be back up there once we get a little more ice to play on...

pictures to follow

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-17-2004, 10:06 AM
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sounds like you folks had a nice day out despite the snow conditions being so undesirable
From what you describe (snow too soft for crampons) its much the same as when we were at Artist point a couple weeks back, we were sliding on our snowshoes.

I can hardly wait for the snow to melt in the whole Baker area, so I can enjoy some solid ground to do some major exploring, I really want to catch places like Lake Ann just after the snow melts, but before the crowds and the bugs arrive

Looking forward to the pictures
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-18-2004, 10:13 AM Thread Starter
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The pics as promised...

The expected gear unloading shot



Lots of snow at the waterfall, at least 10 ft deep!



The hike up to the hogsback (upper ridge)



The small avalanche



The icefall before it clouded over



Put some clothes on!



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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-18-2004, 11:36 AM
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quote:There is even deeper slush, up to 3 feet of postholing on top of the Coleman Glacier all the way over to the Black Buttes.
Was it because of the weather on that day or is it more like a typical conditions for this time of the season?
I understand the waiting for clear access road and better, solid snow has its own trade offs - open crevasses and more people on the trail. What do you think is the best time (dates and AM hrs) for ascend given the current snow level?
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-18-2004, 03:30 PM
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Thankyou for the pictures HB

Makes me want to go again, soon, very soon, there is so much in this whole area to see (I have been drooling over my map... they all should be printed on tyvek!!)

Timing issue I think here, since I really dont want to go when the snow is no fun like this, but want to miss the crowds, I remember last year there were so many people on the ptarmigan ridge trail, tho it was truly worthwhile.

I learned quickly to step above and around the person who wouldnt move out of the way, since stepping below almost caused a long slide down the loose rocks!!!
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-18-2004, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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Anton, right now is pretty much the best time to head up. It's not that far from the parking to the TH and the crevasses are all bridged. The best time to start the climbing would be really early ~4 am from one of the camps (high camp would be best) before the snow warms up. In a couple more weeks the crevasses will be opening up and more snow and blocks of ice are going to start crashing down.

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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-19-2004, 04:53 PM
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quote:Originally posted by Hiker Boy
Put some clothes on!

Cool report!

Haha scarey that the cajun made this week's top 10 most viewed photos! He'll be strutting around now.



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