Mount Baker Backcountry | Artist Point, Blueberry Chutes, Mt Herman South
Day 1 (Saturday) - Artist Point / Blueberry Chutes
Total Distance: 6.05 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,466 ft
Difficulty: Easy uphill, moderate ski down
View my Gaia GPS track here
Day 2 (Sunday) - Bagley Lakes / Mt. Herman South / Boulderfield
Total Distance: 3.47 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,433 ft
Difficulty: Moderate uphill, moderate ski down
I hate to call you out on it Punxatawney Phil, but if the past weekend was any indication, your 6 more weeks of winter prediction looks to be wrong.
It was a gorgeous, sunny weekend in the Pacific Northwest and after too-little sleep, Weston, Dave and I were off to Baker for a weekend of touring. It was a pretty uneventful drive there, but I did discover a new gem of a cafe called the Wake n Bakery in Glacier on our way up. They have all kinds of delicious pastries, drinks, and burritos there!
Enough about food, onto the more exciting stuff.
I've more or less been laying in bed for the past 2.5 weeks from the flu (this year's was a doozy) so I was pretty excited about being able to move about again despite the awful hacking cough (sounds worse than it is). We had a later start to the day around noon and started out with a group of 8 for the hike up to Artist Point. It was a pretty easygoing hike up, not too much elevation gain and mostly great snow - it took us about an hour or so to get up there. We had a spectacular view while we lunched and snacked. (Non-important side note about food: I hate Cheez-its but I guess being in the mountains is like being in an airplane, where the way you taste flavors change because I realized I was really into the Cheez-its Dave had brought up.)
Six of us continued on after lunch and went up a bit further before descending. The first bit was a decent wet powder. But then we made our descent into the Blueberry Chutes and that's where it got sketchy. The north face hadn't gotten much sun exposure and it was ridiculously icy. Dave dropped in first, hit the ice, and took a few scary tumbles on the way down before he was able to stop. Tyler went next, followed by other Dave – that went mostly well. I was up next – slowpoke award goes to me – and cut across with all my muscles tensed up and inching forward extremely cautiously because I really did not want to fall. Karrin followed, fell early on, but was able to stay on her butt the whole slide down and dig the edge of her board in to slow herself a bit. And Weston being his usual self was able to get down uneventfully.
As it turned out, Dave's tumble had ejected his phone from his pocket so Tyler, Karrin, and other Dave made the descent further down into the lakes area to wait for us. I stayed put halfway while Dave and Weston booted back up the icy mess at an attempt to locate the phone. Sadly, the phone was not successfully recovered, and after a second icy descent down the chutes, we all made it back to the parking lot in one piece....where we decided to take a quick break before skiing back up to catch sunset.
This was the point of my regularly scheduled hangry segment of this trip. At this point I was really cold and was having a difficult time to warm fully back up so I had gone into the lodge to grab some tea or cocoa. But the lodge had closed just a few minutes prior to me arriving and they wouldn't give me tea, cocoa, or even hot water for that matter (still salty about this). And I was hungry. And the food I wanted (cheese and salami) had been forgotten in the car as we were going back uphill. This made for a grumpy, slow Amber. But somehow I kept trudging on; thanks to the ever-cheerful Karrin and made it to watch the cloud-shrouded sunset.
We skied out via the groomed runs by headlamp and arrived back at the cars to make dinner and set up camp. We whipped up food (by we, I actually mean Weston), hung out for a bit (and by that I really mean that I dozed off in the car while waiting for food), and set up camp (I actually did work on this one). I passed out almost immediately once I crawled into my sleeping bag.
The next morning, we were down to just three of us (Weston, Dave, and me) for an easy tour. We went along the Bagley Lakes area then up a sunny southern face that we determined would hopefully make a good ski down (I later looked it up and the run appears to be called Boulderfield). Until the last bit of it, the skin up was easy/moderate. Then it got all crusty as we started approaching the top.
I was having trouble making kick turns without sliding back down and I was getting frustrated. Dave was having issues with his bindings and his skis kept popping off – also frustrating. And Weston slipped and caught his hand on the edge of his skis and sustained a nasty gash. And of course, while the three of us are usually super responsible and bring first aid kits on every trip, none of us had brought one. But we eventually made do with what little duct tape was available.
We ended up booting the last bit since it was steep and icy and made it to the top with tons of views! The ski down was pretty great with snow conditions being mostly dust on crust. The sun had been beating down on the face and had softened up the snow enough to make it easy enough to find a non-crusty sections to make enjoyable turns. We made it all the way down, slapped the skins back on (ran into Aaron and Mike while we were doing this — it always surprises me for some reason when I run into people I know out in the mountains) and booked it back to the car to get back to Seattle at a reasonable hour.
I really enjoyed this tour. It was great to be able to do day tours instead of an overnight one (lighter packs make such a huge difference) and to explore the beautiful Baker backcountry area. Three lessons I took away from this trip:
- Always bring your first aid kit – no matter how small of a trip it is going to be.
- Alwayswear gloves even when you're skinning.
- Bring insulated pants to sleep in – the cold is not fun.
This trip made me want to climb everything and ski everything. And that is the goal for the year – earning those turns!