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December 25, 2001, Mt. Baker Backcountry

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 9/16/02 10:40pm
I just couldn't manage to sit still in front of my keyboard all day, so I snuck out on another afternoon tour under blue skies with just a hint of breeze; t-shirt on the uphill, long sleeves but no gore-tex on the downhills.

From the Mt. Baker ski area parking lot I climbed to the usual scenic viewpoint, then dropped down an unexplored (and trackless) ridge over stairstepped rolls, steep groves and flat meadows; you know, 200 feet of 40-45 degree powder followed by a little snowed-over lake, followed by more nice powder. There was a bit of back and forth before I found the exit gully right where the map said it would be, and dropped into a big bowl fringed by cliffs made of swirling columnar basalt. I stopped at the bottom of the bowl, though I could've continued another thousand feet through old growth woods (or all the way out to Baker Lake, had I chosen). The cliffs were sun-warmed and kept dropping loud but inconsequential point releases....sprinkled generously with rocks the size of softballs. I kept an eye out while climbing back uphill. Across the valley I could see three little specks descending Lake Anne Butte, but I was way too blissed out to feel jealous.

From SE through SW up high (>5000 ft.) the snow is crusting a bit wherever the terrain concentrates the sun (bowls, gullies, lakeshores), but remains perfectly skiable in most places where it hasn't been tracked. Down low (<4000 ft.) there is something close to corn in some areas. Other aspects remain totally powdery, though settled to about 14 inches from the 2 feet that fell a week ago, and all was apparently stable to about 45 degrees, though I did kick down some wet sluffs on steep terrain in full sun near my lowest point. Also of note: the glistening surface hoar on everything not touched by the sun.



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2002-09-17 05:40:25