Ascent to Mount Baker-Crater Rim on 2016-04-16

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Eric Gilbertson
Date:Saturday, April 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Mount Baker - Crater Rim
    Elevation:9750 ft / 2971 m
    Remaining Elevation:1031 ft / 315 m (13% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Out trip was off to a bad start when I high-centered my car on an icy snowbank while driving to the trailhead (elevation 3005') at 11 PM on Friday night. We spent almost an hour digging the car out, and then parked and quickly tried to get some rest. This cost us some precious sleep and added about a mile to our hike each way the next day.

We left the car at about 4:15 AM on Saturday morning. Of course, the road was bare and dry for a long while past the snowbank that had stopped us. A sign prohibiting further wheeled access was a good place for me to put on my skis (with skins), while Eric donned snowshoes--his plan was to carry his downhill skis and boots up on his back.

At Schreiber's Meadow we decided to avoid the usual Railroad Grade approach and instead head up on obscure trails towards the Squak Glacier. This worked pretty well--we followed a wide road for a short bit and then followed some snowshoe and ski tracks uphill into the forest. The deep snow covered all the brush and we eventually stopped trying to follow tracks and instead climbed straight up through the open old growth. The snow was hard and crusty, and my skins held well on the surface.

We gradually broke out of the trees and started angling to our left over wide-open rolling terrain. We steered for the rock spur of Crag View, and eventually decided to go right over it, which required me to take of my skis briefly on the corniced and rocky crest. Once down the 35 vertical feet or so, it was a long uphill slog on a massive, featureless slope. I was starting to feel a bit out of gas and needed frequent rests, but we were still making good progress.

At 9100 feet I stopped to catch my breath one more time, and here Eric suddenly noticed that he has lost one of his ski boots from his pack. It had somehow fallen off the binding of the ski lashed to the side of his pack. Thinking it was down at the last rest stop, he left his pack and took off. I told him I would continue up at my slow pace and he would likely catch up to me.

I slogged uphill a bit more and intercepted the main Easton Glacier route shortly, and continued up, behind a pair of skiers ahead. By 1 PM I was at the crater rim area, between the Sherman and Grant peaks, at 9750 feet. Here I decided to wait for Eric. The weather was now clouding up, and a lenticular cap was forming over the summit above me as I ate my lunch.

At 1:30 I was alarmed that there was no sign of Eric. So I got ready for downhill skiing and took off down the icy slope and was shortly back at Eric's pack--still no sign of him. Worried, I started preparing to lash my pack to his so I could take all our stuff down and look for him, hoping he was not in a crevasse below.

Eric then showed up--with the help of another skier, he found his boot back at Crag View, 2600 feet below! No wonder he was gone so long. I was not about to head back uphill, but Eric wanted to at least try for Sherman Peak above us. He made a quick attempt but found the way barred by crevasses, so he got into downhill skiing mode, rejoined me, and we both started our long ski down.

Not surprisingly, the next 6000-odd feet of downhill ran the gamut of snow conditions--from semi-icy corn to heavy concrete to pine-needle-covered snow in the forest to mushy glop down low. We followed our ascent line, except for bypassing Crag View to the west. The forest offered challenging tree skiing, and we each had minor falls or mishaps in tree wells. The roads were mostly too flat to get up any speed given the slushy snow, so we had to pole/skate/walk for a while before finally removing our skis at 3140 feet.

We definitely had a good ski day despite our tribulations. Our route avoided most of the snowmobile traffic that plagues this side of Baker on sunny spring weekends--we saw a few nearby when up high, and heard their drone in the distance all day, but we only really were near them on the road back to car at the very end of the day. This route also is shorter than the usual Railroad Grade and offers a slightly steeper grade on average, too.

We both set personal skiing records this day, too. Eric was at his highest up ever on skis (9250 feet) and had biggest descent ever, and I set my single-run vertical record of 6610 feet (although it was not unbroken due to one skis-off rest and one ski-loss fall).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6780 ft / 2066 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6780 ft / 2065 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.6 mi / 25 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Skis, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6780 ft / 2066 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 6745 ft / 2056 m; Extra: 35 ft / 10m
    Loss on way in:35 ft / 10 m
    Distance:7.8 mi / 12.6 km
    Route:Squak Glacier
    Start Trailhead:3005 ft / 915 m
    Time:8 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6745 ft / 2055 m
    Distance:7.7 mi / 12.5 km
    Route:Squak Glacier
    End Trailhead:3005 ft / 915 m
    Time:3 Hours 15 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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