Home > Trip Reports > September 16, 2001, Coleman Pinnacle, Mt. Baker

September 16, 2001, Coleman Pinnacle, Mt. Baker

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 9/16/02 12:54am
Anxious to see what the area in and around the east side of Baker had to offer this late in the year for skiing, we had planned to make a trip to Coleman Pinnacle about 1 week prior. Our group of 6 arrived at Artist Point between 9-9:30am. The weather on the drive up didn't look that promising with the thick marine cloud layer. Fortunately by the time we got into Glacier, it was blue skies throughout. Despite the low snowpack year, was surprised to still witness some fairly decent sized snowfields. We all gathered just below Coleman Pinnacle about 1 hr. from the parking lot to decide what would be our best opportunity to check out snow conditions for skiing. We attempted a north-to-northeast facing snowfield as our first run of the day. It was definitely worth forgetting.

The suncups were well established and the snow was still quite firm. After some lunch, we abandoned that location and decided to head back to a south facing snowfield just below the saddle of the Coleman Pinnacle on the south side. This was our best move...With the sun beating down on it from the high-point of the day, it provided for a couple of inches of soft and essentially cup free. The first 300 feet provided for some decent Sept. skiing, however, the lower tongue beyond that was rather firm, which extended for another 200+ feet. After a few yo-yo runs and some photos, we decided that would be all the fun we would find on this day. Like Ron says, "pray for snow".


It was the worst and the best. It was easily the worst September ski I have ever had, as far as the snow is concerned - mostly hard, dirty suncups which never really softened and provided a jarring ride. A ranger said we were skiing on snow from many seasons ago, and the level of consolidation supported that claim. We did find some softer, smoother, cleaner snow just below the Coleman Pinnacle, southeast side, and did most of our runs there. The best snow ended as the run steepened into a gully, but we skied that anyway, giving us a 500vf run. There were longer runs in the immediate area, but they were north-facing, hard, and unpleasantly sun-cupped. It was, however, probably the best we could expect given the previous winter's meager deposits. The weather was spectacular, the trail was easy, and the scenery was incomparable.

Capping off the day was an encounter with a parking lot ranger enforcing the NW Forest Pass/Trail Parking permit project. I have a valid pass, but didn't display it since I wanted to get one of those little yellow envelopes to use to send in my protest letter (it is supposed to be used to send in $5 for a day pass, retroactive). It turns out that we just happened to be there on a very special, "educational enforcement" day. The rangers stuck the yellow envelopes on windshields while people were out on the trail, but were waiting to write out $30 tickets until they could confront the offenders directly. I challenged the ranger about the reported voluntary nature of the pass system, and he said there is nothing voluntary about it (if anyone has more info about this, please contact me). But before he could write me up, I pulled out my pass - he later thanked me for providing him with some excitement! Demonstrating the fairness of the whole system, Ben, who also got a yellow envelope while on the trail but did not have a pass in his wallet, drove off while the ranger was otherwise occupied and avoided the $30 ticket.

Photos from this trip can be viewed here.


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2002-09-16 07:54:01