January 13, 2002, Mt. Baker Backcountry

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 9/11/02 9:37am
Mister S, Miz L and myself (aka Tinkerbell, Pigeon and Gorilla for reasons which are best not elaborated here) went exploring a secret ridge run in the very heart of the overpopulated Mt. Baker backcountry.

Mister S, acclaimed expert on freeheel techniques, skied tiny, tight parallel turns most of the day, finally condescending to throw in a few telemark turns towards dusk after being threatened with public ridicule (it was noted that he first made sure that the trip scribe was watching). Miz L, recently returned from an epic river journey, kept pace on this, her first ski tour since last May, by politely and judiciously declining to break trail for longer than 35 seconds at a time. Nevertheless, she was seen launching graceful, linked semi-jump turns through steep powder at various times during the day without any of the grimacing and grunting that characterizes my own skiing style. Myself, I tried to ski gently, in deference to a recent injury. Results were mixed, of course, since an excess of caution is clearly dysfunctional in variable snow.

We found mostly good skiing in heavy, unsullied powder, 10 to 16 inches deep on a firm base that in some places had refrozen after the rains, in some places remained soft. We skied south, east and northeast aspects to steeper than 40 degrees, finding reasonable stability for the most part, with areas of shallow windslab. At odd intervals one of these pockets would fracture and release when cut, usually just 2-4 inches deep. Once I had another fracture in a firm layer deeper within the storm snow, suggesting that caution is indicated around places that might be windloaded for at least the next couple of days.

Returning uphill to the place where the masses congregate we were passed by a group of four headed down the secret ridge, obviously following our tracks; apparently, we neglected to brush out our tracks when we accessed the run. I suppose that by next week I'll have to find another secret run, this one being by then likely packed with crapulous bootpackers, widely dispersed (and rude) snowshoers, large men in street shoes smoking cigars, and adorable, encopretic family pets.

Until then and as always, enjoy.


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2002-09-11 16:37:53