May 30-31, 2015, - Squak Glacier (pictures added)

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by cchapin on 6/1/15 1:25am
Radka will add photos later.

Summary: Our 2nd annual Mt Baker trip, led for recent graduates of the Mountaineers Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue on Skis\Snowboard course.  This year we went up the Squak Glacier where we enjoyed complete solitude.  The route had no major crevasse issues and the crux crevasses around 9200€™ are still well bridged.  The Roman Wall is more open this year than we€™d ever seen, but certainly not impassable.

Full story: Ben, Rebecca, David, Ryan, Radka, and I met up at Ash Way P&R at 8am.  We decided to head to Sedro Woolley Ranger Station to pick up blue bags and the 2nd car was following ours.  In Sedro Woolley I decided to show off my navigation skills by turning the car around twice, thinking we had already passed the Ranger Station.  Turns out this is a great way to build confidence in the trip leader.

We left the completely packed trailhead just before noon, and I headed towards where I had skinned from the year prior.  Woops!  No trail there, just brush.  So we turned around a 2nd time and went to the trail proper.  And I€™m silently hoping the Scott Paul trail will appear soon.  And it did.  The first few minutes along the Scott Paul trail don€™t head towards the Squak so I€™m quietly wondering if this is the correct leg of it.  Soon enough though, it cuts right, and starts heading in the direction I want to go.

We hiked the Scott Paul trail to 4600€™ where it first opens up and get a teaser of snow.  Still disjoint from other snow patches so not quite able to start skinning yet.  At 5200€™ we finally reach continuous snow.  Everyone is glad to get their sliding equipment off their backs and a few of us stash our shoes in the nearest tree.

Remembering the trouble we had last year going along the Crag View ridge, I didn€™t want to go there.  The slopes below that ridge were already looking rotten and still had a cornice.  So we decided to drop down and get on the glacier.  We could see some cracks opening up so we roped up.  Hey, this trip is for a glacier course.  We€™d have to get the rope ready for tomorrow and some point any way.  Now seemed like a good time.  We arrived to the camps at 6550€™ around 4:30 and were kind of scratching our heads€¦ wow, no one€™s here?!

We set up tents and began snow melting operations.  There were a few trickles of running water here and there but none seemed to be pooling.  There was a small puddle of water but didn€™t seem to have an outlet.  No thanks.  During the dinner hours Ryan started handing out massages.  Holy crap, how is this man single?!  Ryan is now welcome on any and all future trips!

The sun creeped behind the skyline at 8pm.  One by one we started to head to bed since tomorrow€™s wake up was 4am.  At one point during the night, on a bathroom break, I note the full moon was completely illuminating the mountain and headlamp was not required.  I am tempted to wake up everyone up for a moonlight ascent.  Someday.

The alarm goes off and I got out of the tent.  For a brief minute I see a red moon before it goes behind the clouds.  Sadly, by the time Radka gets her camera ready it is already out of view.  Weather had started to move in during the latter part of the evening and there were high clouds forming.  We enjoyed a great sunrise and left camp around 5:30am, roped up and ready to assault. 

Despite the high clouds, the snow surface re-froze nicely and allowing for easy and quick ski cramponing.  Around 8000€™ feet we noticed an Everest sized base camp on the Easton route.  At least 50 tents.  Damn.  It was good to be on the Squak.

We continued on without any issues.  Route finding was straight forward and each crevasse we encountered was well bridged.  Eventually the Squak turns the corner to the summit crater and joins the Easton route.  I was immediately struck by the huge open gaper just below the summit crater.  That wasn€™t there last year when we did this route a week later.  I wondered if it was a new crevasse or if just didn€™t get bridged this year.  Well, I guess we won€™t be getting a view into the summit crater.  There was also number of large open crevasses on the Roman Wall.  Our route last year, which went straight up the right side, was looking pretty sketchy this year.  The schrund there was wide open, although people were still doing it, some un-roped.  This was our 4th time up Baker via Roman Wall, and we€™d never seen so many large open gapers on it.

So we stopped below the summit crater, refueled, and made the transition to booting.  We then did a rising traverse all the way over to the left side of the Roman Wall, now joining the Coleman-Deming route.  We crossed 3-4 crevasses along the way, but still well bridged.  Finally we made the summit at 11:30am.

The wind on the summit proper was ~30 mph, so we only stayed briefly to snap some pictures, then descended back to the plateau for a longer break.  After about 30 minutes it became more obvious the entire Roman Wall wasn€™t going to corn up for us this year, so we booted back over to it.  While some skiers decided to slide down the upper section, they were going about as fast as we were on foot.  The scratchy sounds, side slips, and jump turns confirmed our decision to down climb.  We descended about halfway down when something very crappy, but also very good, happened.  I started to post hole down to my waist.  Yay, the snow was finally soft enough.  So we made the transition and started sliding." />

Just after getting on sliding gear, it started to snow on us, but it stopped seconds later.  We could feel the snow surface firming back up, though.  We carefully crossed the gapers on the wall and under the summit crater back to the Squak.  The Squak greeted us with smooth corn for ~1500€™ feet.  Fantastic!  We hit this section at about 1:30pm.  Probably too late on a warmer and sunnier day.  Once back to the benchy area at 8000€™ the snow was getting a bit stickier but still great turns were to be had." />" />

We got back to camp exactly at 2:30pm, left by 3:30pm, and headed back to pick up our shoes.  I redeemed my navigation skills from the day before by plotting a series of traverses that led back to our shoes, and required no uphill travel (at least for those who could slide further and don€™t have as much skin glue on their skis as me).  We were able to milk another 100€™ feet of skiing out from our previous transition point the day before.
The grunting and groaning resumed as we all put our heavy packs back on.  Fortunately it was only another hour and half from here, mostly on pleasant trail, and we arrived back at the car by 5:45pm.  Thanks for a great trip!

More pics
Thanks for leading a Mtnr trip! Sounds like a typical July trip, but in June (was 5/31, close enough)

Nice trip report! Any pictures of Roman Wall?

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2015-06-01 08:25:34