June 9, 2001, Heliotrope Ridge, Mt. Baker
WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Meeting at 7 AM in Bellingham seemed like a good idea when we were making our plans, though in the end we sat at the trailhead (having decided to try Heliotrope instead of Skyline Divide, per our original plan) watching it pour down rain for quite a while ("Let's have another look at that map. Maybe another cup of coffee, too....") before actually gearing up and going. Rather soggy, at first, but there was snow coverage above 4500 feet and more falling from the sky. By 5500 there was whiteout, and I led though the nothingness at a 140 degree bearing for a while, then left up the ridge to 7000 feet. We skied badly at first in 50 ft. visibility on slushy corn under 2 inches of heavy new, then spectacularly well once the skies mysteriously cleared for ten minutes. That inspired us to go up for another shot, climbing into a cold wind with blowing snowfall....and whiteout, of course. Again we skied badly in bad visibility, much better once we got low. By 5500 feet I was skiing pretty well despite the slush and the boot tracks, bounding along the bumpy mess down the last snow gully to pick up the trail as it entered the woods around 4600 feet. Lots of disappointed climbers up there, hoping for a break in the weather, but the three skiers showed nothing but smiles. The Glacier Creek road is clear to the trailhead, in good shape with a few potholed stretches, and the trail has only intermittent snow to 4500 feet, just below the moraines and timberline. Creek crossings were perfectly tolerable despite the rain, and the trail itself is in good shape. Couldn't see any open crevasses where we were - of course, most of the time we couldn't see much of anything at all - but the lower Coleman and Roosevelt Glaciers are very broken up. I was really alarmed to see how far they've receded, too, in the seven or so years since I first came up this way to play on the seracs.