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Ascent of Sherman Peak on 2018-11-12

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Monday, November 12, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sherman Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:10160 ft / 3096 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mount Baker (10,781ft) and Sherman Peak (10,160ft)

Eric Gilbertson and Jake Robinson

November 11-12, 2018

A rare November weather window aligned with a weekend and Jake and I set out to ski Mt Baker. It had been snowing for the past few weeks, and appeared there may be fresh snow all the way down to the trailheads. I’d already climbed and skied Baker a few other times and I recalled the Squak Glacier route had generally been free of crevasses much of the way. It was important for a November ascent that we try to choose the least crevassed route, since there likely hadn’t been enough snow yet in the fall to fill many crevasses in. So we decided to ascend the Squak Glacier route over two days. This would give us enough buffer time to account for not being able to ski everything if the snow coverage was thin, navigating crevasse mazes, and dealing with short November days.

We left town Sunday morning and were able to drive all the way to the Schriebers Meadow trailhead on the south side of Baker. Snow started on the road around 2,800ft, but was thin and packed down by other vehicles to the trailhead.

Amazingly, there was just enough snow at the trailhead to ski from the car. We put skis and skins on and headed up the Scott Paul trail at 10am, laying fresh tracks in the snow. Snow coverage was a few inches, but just enough to be able to skin. We followed the trail until around 5,000ft at the edge of treeline, only needing to remove the skis a few times to cross streams or short bare sections.

After traversing west at 5,000ft directly beneath the Squak Glacier we left the trail and skinned up a bare ridge. We then ascended through deeper and deeper snow through talus fields, and eventually reached the edge of the glacier around 6,800ft. We were both amazed that we were able to skin up almost the entire way.

It was 3pm, and appeared to be the highest flat spot. With sunset in just 1.5 hours we decided to camp there and prepare for an alpine start the next morning. We melted snow and enjoyed the sunset, with great views of a snowy Mt Olympus sticking out of the Olympics, the San Juan Islands, Rainier, and the rest of the North Cascades around us.

We were sleeping by 6pm and up and moving by 4am the next morning. We roped up out of camp and I led the way up the glacier in the dark, roughly following a gps track from my ascent up this same route back in April this year.

There were a few more crevasses than I remembered, but they posed no challenge until we reached about 8,700ft. Here we encountered what looked in the dark like an impenetrable maze of crevasses. The sun would rise soon, though, so we took a break to melt some snow and eat snacks.

By 6am there was enough light to see a possible way through the maze. The terrain was steep, icy, and complicated enough that we switched to crampons and carried the skies on our packs. I kicked steps up and into the crevasse maze, getting halfway through until we encountered an enormous chasm spanning as far as we could see in each direction. I frontpointed across and up and found a possible crossing that would require a bit of WI2 ice climbing. That sounded tough since I just had a whippet.

Instead we tried descending, and eventually found a passable bridge, that required only a bit of icy downclimbing. After crossing that bridge we ascended more icy slopes in crampons and reached the saddle below the Roman Wall. We ditched the skis at the saddle and cramponed over to the east to tag Sherman Peak first. Neither of us had climbed Sherman, so weren’t sure of the best route. We ended up traversing to directly south of the summit, then front pointing up steep and icy slopes.

The summit ridge was icy with big rime ice knobs sticking out that grabbed the rope, so we unroped and took turns
walking over to the exposed summit. For the descent we followed the ridge along the crater rim as far as possible, then made a shorter and safer downclimb back to our skis.

It was 10am then, and it appeared we had time for one more summit. We thought about tagging Colfax, but the Easton Glacier looked very complicated to cross to get there from our location. We were confident we could climb Baker, though, and it sounded much funner, especially if we could ski from the summit.

From the saddle we skinned up to the base of the Roman Wall, then put the skis on our backs. From our previous ascents and other trip reports we thought it was likely the Roman Wall would be icy, but miraculously it was packed powder snow the whole way up. I kicked steps up the whole way and we soon crested the false summit of Baker. From there we put the skis on and skinned over to the true summit by 11:30am.

We enjoyed the spectacular views for a full half hour. There was no wind, it was sunny, and the temperature was around freezing. It felt like it could be a spring or summer morning, not mid November.

Around noon we put the skis back on and skied directly from the summit. Skiing down the Roman Wall was fast and fun, and my favorite part of the day. The snow was packed powder, almost like a resort run. We soon made it back to the saddle, then switched to crampons to descend the icy section. We made it back down and through the crevasse maze, then put our skis back on at 9,000ft. By then the sun had been covered by thin clouds, which made the snow more firm instead of the slush I had feared. We had a fun ski all the way back down to camp at 6,800ft.

After packing up camp we put the skis back on and continued skiing down. It was a bit complicated skiing through the talus field with many rocks sticking out, but there was just enough snow to ski all the way down to 5,100ft. We briefly took the skis off the walk the last 100ft back to the trail, then continued skiing the trail down to 4,600ft. By that elevation the snow had melted enough that it was no longer worth skiing.

We put the skis on our packs and hiked the rest of the way back in ski boots, reaching the car just at sunset at 4:30pm.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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