Home > Trip Reports > November 25, 2001, Bearpaw Mtn., Mt. Baker area

November 25, 2001, Bearpaw Mtn., Mt. Baker area

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 9/16/02 10:59am
Five of us met in the dark in the usual corner of the usual sea of asphalt by the interstate. Drove up the Mt. Baker Highway, turned left on Canyon Creek Rd. Found snow on the road at about 2500 feet, nicely compacted by the giant truck tires of a fleet of snowmobilers from the previous day. Turned off on F. R. 3160 and drove with some minor trepidation to 3300 feet, where we parked. One of us had somehow forgotten to bring poles, but by judicious use of approximately three and a half miles of duct tape was able to fashion interesting facsimiles out of saplings, parts of two avalanche shovels, and the tops from a couple of disposable coffee cups that were rolling around on the floor of the truck. We kept offering to trade off the available poles amongst the five of us, but the more observant in the group noticed that she was consistently outpacing the rest of the group, and kept having to wait for us to catch up.

We toured up the road to the trailhead at 4800', then through woods and glades to a series of N-NE bowls topping out at 6060' on the southern flank of Bearpaw Mountain. Saw only one snowmobiler all day, and he was either totally deafened or fully clueless as to the sorts of things that interested us, like snow stability-though he'd just traversed alone through a 35-40 degree windloaded bowl. Lots of nice looking terrain up there, with bowls and glades in all directions surrounding small, horn-shaped peaks. Some of it had been thrashed pretty good by the snow machines, but there was plenty left for us.

There was much discussion amongst ourselves about stability, as some of our party had been skiing nearby on Friday, digging frightening pits and/or setting off minor sluffs and slabs. I did a hasty pit during the discussions on a NE aspect on the lee side of a ridge, getting a 5, but as we all noted on the way up the feel of the snow had been changing drastically and unpredictably from pocket to pocket as we approached the ridge. Definitely worth exercising a bit of caution wherever there's been recent windloading.

In the end, the skiing was excellent: a couple of laps in 12-16 inches of powder on a firm base. Visibility, of course, was somewhat questionable, with flat light getting flatter by the minute in increasing light snow, and the wise skiers in our group tended to hold back a bit in order to allow others the opportunity to locate the hidden rolls and sudden drop-offs...not to mention the occasional invisible snow machine track from the previous day's highmarking competitions. Our pole-less skier looked as graceful as the best of us, turning fast and confident with a mass of Voilé-black metal and duct tape in one hand, a moderate-sized tree-trunk in the other. I must say, all were unfailingly polite in waiting for me at intervals all the way back to the truck, my legs all rubbery and soft on the long, logging road descent. This is one of the perquisites of those who write the histories, you know: everyone is gracious and polite, and offers at least the appearance of respect, whether deserved or not.



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2002-09-16 17:59:58