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Kulshan, Boulder Glacier

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by Marc Schrameck on 5/19/23 6:09pm

Warming weather shifted our plans from the Isolation Traverse to something a little higher last weekend. The Boulder Glacier quickly came to mind!

A mad rush in traffic at the end of Friday's work day had us parking before the final road switchback around 8:15pm. We realized we should immediately start since we didn't know what to anticipate on the trail. We began our trek at 8:45pm and, sure enough, winter storms must have been intense on this side of the mountain because we found ourselves bushwhacking pretty quickly after the trailhead. It was a long steady mix of tree hurdles and post-holing in non-continuous snow. We were left to wonder if we would actually find time to take a rest before pushing for the summit. Eventually, we reached continuous snow at around ~3400' to put on skins.

Exiting the forest and skinning got us moving much faster. But, we quickly found it was time to throw the skis on our packs and ascend the fixed line. It was simple enough, often making me want to just scramble the pitch rather than hold the fixed line: But, a few crumbly holds and wet rock definitely made me stick to the line. Shoving yourself through the tree is probably the hardest part or, at least, ungainly. After a quick booter at the top, we were back to skinning and moving fast! Finding ourselves at the Ridge campsite by 3am (yep, that forest was slow going to start.) We opted for a short nap to begin the summit push at 4am.

With a cold wind we found ourselves shivering awake with a glowing orange moon. The milky way still above us, we began up slope. The ridge is quite straight forward, while we didn't feel the need to rope up for another thousand feet or so. Once we did, we were racing the sun. The rising light illuminated a beautiful aspect of this mountain. It's always a wonder to gaze across the North Cascades from this view, while the summit itself stood prominently. No question where you're going from here: it's right in front of you the whole time. Granted, you need to traverse out towards the Lahar Lookout then back to wrap around the rock walls and crevasses.

We summited around 9:30am, where we found our friends Tom and Ari already at the top after they ascended the Squak. It became a regular party up there once we eventually met Sam too (prior, only meeting via Strava comments haha.)

After a nice boot break, we dropped into our lines at a quarter after 10 or so. The upper mountain actually held nice corn for a ways, leaving us pleasantly surprised considering our freezing level concerns. Rob dropped the Park Headwall while the rest of us relinked up with him via the Boulder Route. It was fun skiing down to ~7500'.

Then began the heavy wet snow. Schmoo on down and back into the forest. We avoided the fixed line by skiing into the gully a bit higher up: But be sure to pick your line because there are more cliffs than ramps. We skied as low as we could into the forest before re-embracing the hurdles and post-holes. But, at least it was daylight this time. And there were beers at the car.


Man that looks nice!  Love that side of the mountain.

Watching the vid (1:30) made me wonder what your rational was for roping up as a 2 person team.  Roped together with no axe to arrest, a crevasse fall may pull both of you in?  Seems safer without a rope...

@cumulus We did have ice axes out for the steep/crevassed sections: That section in the video was a benign bit shortly after roping up (I think you can wait to rope up higher), so we opted to cruise through then pull out ice axes as the slope steepened and crevasse signs emerged.

Nicely done video. Definitely a good area to visit. Avoiding the cliff scramble when there's snow is totally worth it.

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Marc Schrameck
2023-05-20 01:09:52