July 17, 2002, Ptarmigan Ridge, Mt. Baker

7/17/02
WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
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Posted by Charles on 9/10/02 9:37pm
Andy and I wanted a long tour, so we headed for Ptarmigan Ridge to see what we could find. Bottom line: lots of snow, mostly bad, due to suncups and runnels. We still had to park at the ski area; although the road was clear to Austin Pass, plowing was in progress just beyond. Only patches of snow in the first 1/3 mile (before first switchback), then continuous snow up to Austin and beyond, with one short melt-out just before the S slopes of Table Mountain. At the saddle where Ptarmigan Ridge begins, we crossed to the N side and skied out to a saddle just W of Coleman Pinnacle, where we crossed back to the S side of the ridge. A short steep run on reasonable snow, then crossed back again to the N side and the Sholes Glacier through a broad saddle. We traversed the upper Sholes to a saddle labeled The Portals on our map, crossed to the S side of the ridge, and traversed W a bit to the edge of the Rainbow Glacier. Here we found the best turning, and did a couple of short runs. The return trip, over the same route, featured lots of gliding, a few short sections of turning, and some exciting traverses across steep, hard snow. As we returned across the south slopes of Table Mountain, a slab of winter snowpack cut loose from up high, releasing big icy chunks which tumbled down across our intended path.

Overall, the snow was pretty bad, although it was fast. Steeper snow was generally less suncupped, gentler was generally both suncupped and runneled. North facing stayed very hard, other exposures receiving the sun's warmth softened acceptably, for the most part. We were not tempted to make lots of runs, although the coverage was there for it, but where we needed to lose some elevation we usually found OK turning snow. Traveling across the snow was hard work, whether ascending or traversing, due to its massive unevenness. Nonetheless, it was a good trip. Baker and Shuksan came out, we could see lots of North Cascades peaks, and we saw a bear very carefully traversing steep hard snow near Coleman Pinnacle. Next year, we'll go a little earlier in hope of finding smoother snow.

There are photos from this trip here.

Charles

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july-17-2002-ptarmigan-ridge-mt-baker
Charles
2002-09-11 04:37:39