I’ve done Adams twice before and its outstanding south ski slopes have turned it into what I hope is an annual pilgrimage for me. Both times I chose to climb/ski it in a day instead of camping over – both of these are brutal due to the long drive from Seattle and the very large amount of gain. This time we elected to camp and I think it was a good variation.
David and I arrived at Cold Springs campground in the early afternoon on a Saturday and struggled to find parking, per usual. I think backcountry skiing has gotten more popular even in the short time I’ve been doing it myself. We lifted our heavy packs and started out walking on dry ground, for around an hour until we hit the around the mountain trail. We transitioned shortly after and started skinning up Suksdorf Ridge (the winter route, skiers right). We gained, gained gained elevation and I could tell my conditioning wasn’t what it was last year – thankful that we were breaking up the climb into two days. However, my new Dynafit Denali touring skis and bindings were a huge weight improvement over my old set. It was especially apparent on such a long ascent.
After a few hours we made it to our campsite at around 9000′ on Suksdorf Ridge, among rocks overlooking the ‘lunch counter’ area. We could see the massive south slopes that we would ascend the following day. We also considered descending the Southwest Chutes route, but that would involve carrying over our overnight gear and the high snow level made the traverse back to the trailhead a bit of an unknown.
The campsite was gloriously scenic as the sun set that night.
Mt. Baker has been staring me in the face for months, ever since I started hiking Central Cascades peaks again. Rising almost straight out of the ocean from some viewpoints, Baker towers over the North Cascades with one of the most extensive glacier systems in the lower 48 states. While nearly 4,000’ lower than its neighbor Mt. Rainier, prodigious snowfall more than makes up for the difference when it comes to ice and snow.
This trip was lead by Radka and Chris, a couple of instructors with the Mountaineers glacier ski and snowboard travel course. This was the second year that they had agreed to lead a trip for recent graduates of the course like myself, and I had to take advantage of the opportunity. (See C&R’s turns-all-year trip report)
Mt. Baker made me a little nervous as a ski objective. There were a lot of “news” associated with this trip: first time summiting a glaciated peak, first time skiing on a glacier unroped, first time wearing crampons with my ski boots, first time climbing on steep snow as a rope team. Most of all, I was concerned about my admittedly not awesome skiing ability when considering the “Roman Wall” on the upper mountain. I had skied to 30 degrees steepness on Mt. Adams with no trouble, but under icy or hard snow conditions, the 35 to 40 degree Roman Wall would be some of the tougher skiing I’d ever done outside the resort, and with pretty terrible consequences in the event of a fall. This kept me thinking twice about whether I should join the trip, but ultimately I resolved to go along, knowing that I could hang out at the summit crater and wait for the rest of the group to summit and come back down if I didn’t like the looks of the conditions.
Becca (a classmate from the Mountaineers ski/snowboard mountaineering class) and I headed up Mt. Adams from the parking lot at Cold Springs to take advantage of the beautiful weather window and no permit fees yet. This would be my second climb of Adam’s – after a trip on foot in 2012, I was really savoring the idea of a ski descent.
We arrived from Seattle after a 5 hour drive through Portland at about 9:30pm and crashed for a very short time.
We headed out at around 3am thinking the snow would get soft and sloppy early in the morning given the warm night. The first ~mile and few hundred feeet were on dirt but we hit continuous snow at 6000′, transitioned to skis, and found that the snow froze harder under the clear skies than we were expecting; a breakable glaze covered everything and made skinning a bit challenging, especially on the steeper sections. As we skinned up Suksdorf Ridge we got pulled a little bit too high below South Butte in the dark and had to backtrack a bit to regain the line.