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2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => April 2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: radka on 04/14/16, 07:32 PM

Title: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: radka on 04/14/16, 07:32 PM
Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier

Day 1

We wanted to ski the Boulder Glacier for a while and it seemed like a good choice given the current conditions. The road was marked as “NOT CLEARED” on the NFS website and we had no trouble driving all the way to the trailhead. The trail on the other hand is full of blowdowns – 45 – we counted them on the way out. After about a mile and a half on the trail, the snow is pretty continuous but not really skin friendly. There was a party of 3 from Canada ahead of us and we happily followed their boot pack. Soon their tracks veered off the summer trail and up to the saddle east of point 4461’.

Around 3600’ we decided to transition to skis since the post holing was getting obnoxious and coverage seemed like it would be continuous from here. The Canadian party traversed west from here but we decided to climb up to the toe of Boulder Ridge. The forest skinning through here is steep at times and eventually we decided to go up to the ridge crest. It’s flat for a bit then starts to steepen again. Skirting through a narrow tree well bridge, the sidewall collapsed and I was sent tumbling in to the well. Good times.

Posthole city

Chris is down

The beta suggested 3 different approaches to gain the glacier and we still hadn’t really decided which one we were doing. Then a couple emerged behind us. We quickly apologized for our skin track and let them know we didn’t know where we were going. They jumped ahead of us and we soon spotted the skin track from the other party a few hundred below us. The couple descended to the skin track but we were still undecided. We forged ahead along the ridge a bit further until we could see a rock step and 20’ of steep snow to its left. After the steep snow was dirt. We stomped a skin track in to the dirt and took skis off. Above this was about 30’ of booting up steep snow back to the ridge crest. Once back atop the ridge crest, we soon realized it was smooth sailing from here and no steep side hills or rock steps were to be found. The skin along the ridge was very scenic, yielding views over to the Park Glacier and Park Cliffs. We cruised along to the last tree patch bench and set up camp, getting the tent up just before the sun fell behind Sherman Peak. Cell reception was strong and we gave Facebook a good ole Saturday Night Live check-in.

Boulder Ridge views
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-bW8s7SP/0/XL/RAD_3762-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Boulder Ridge
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-LTdPphW/0/XL/RAD_3770-XL.jpg[/img]

Milky Way from camp
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-DzZkN59/0/XL/RAD_3787-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Shooting stars above Baker
[img width=1000 height=687]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-JxcftK5/0/XL/RAD_3793-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-qnPFf87/0/XL/RAD_3798-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Day 2

It was clear that multiple options to ascent existed – the glacier was well filled in. When we left camp just after sunrise, we saw the couple was already around 8000’ and had decided to take the climber’s left side of the glacier. We headed for the Boulder Cleaver and eventually decided to take climber’s right of it. The first open crevasse we came across was somewhere around 8000’. Shortly after this, the slopes steepen and several sags and insipient cracks are encountered. I was really looking forward to skiing this steep slope on the way back. The route brought us back to cleaver proper (about 9000’) and we saw the party of 3 was about 500’ above us and had taken the central glacier route. We considered dropping down 100’ feet to gain their skin track but didn’t. We forged ahead up the cleaver where many large and open crevasses flank the narrow and steep slope leading to the bergshrund.

Now a few hundred feet below the ‘shrund, it was obvious we could get above it on its left most edge but we’d have to boot it. I was determined to continue skinning though and headed to the right edge of it. Well, no such luck was had. The ‘shrund was wide open with 2 marginal bridges that ended on steep slopes that would have to be booted any way. We roped up and booted back to left edge of the ‘shrund along its bottom lip. Radka crossed the ‘shrund on a good bridge and belayed me up. Now at about 10,000’ we just decided to boot it to the summit from here but in hindsight it wouldn’t have been too bad to skin it. We made the summit around 2pm, later than anticipated, but glad to be there.

Good morning, Shuksan!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-mS3XdD4/0/XL/RAD_3806-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Sea of clouds
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-3fM92Dg/0/XL/RAD_3815-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-SxkMBTH/0/XL/RAD_3823-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-w97VmDS/0/XL/RAD_3828-XL.jpg[/img]

Canadian team skiing down
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-4rmmZHV/0/XL/RAD_3832-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-ZvQZ92s/0/XL/RAD_3838-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=670]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-F8wS9vR/0/XL/RAD_3844-XL.jpg[/img]

We didn’t stay long since a steady wind was making temperatures chilly. However, only a hundred feet below the summit, the winds were gone and the snow was perfectly softened and smooth corn. Wow, we’ve never had such great snow conditions right off the summit of Baker! We descended to the col above the summit crater and stopped for lunch, both dizzy with hunger.
After eating, we were already below our ascent route, so we thought we’d ski the center glacier and traverse at the bottom of it back to our camp. Well, after the first traverse skier’s left to get around a crevasse, we were back to the cleaver and could see our ascent track. So we decided we might as well ski that side of the glacier down since it still had fresh tracks! I also felt that side of the glacier would have better snow conditions since it has a more easterly aspect and the center is more SE. In other words, it wouldn’t be overly cooked. The first few hundred feet of turns on the cleaver were great but a little too soft. Once we got off the cleaver though, the snow surface had indeed started to firm back up slightly, and we enjoyed the best volcano corn we’ve ever had all the way back to camp.

Corn o'clock!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-BL8jpFg/0/XL/RAD_3859-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-phpCgsS/0/XL/RAD_3889-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=659]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-4nrHD85/0/XL/RAD_3939-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-tdrmKQg/0/XL/RAD_3946-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

After packing up camp, we decided to try a different route down instead of going back along the ridge. Just south of camp is a steep south facing gully and bowl that we’d take. It was thoroughly cooked and we deliberately triggered many loose-wet avalanches and waited for them to run their course before skiing out. Once in the valley, we saw all the cliff bands and glide cracks on the south side of Boulder Ridge that make this route kind of tricky down low. From we skied to about 3400’ where continuous snow ran out. Sadly, we were still a quarter mile short of where we left the summer trail the day before. In hindsight, I think I would take the ridge next time.
We had some navigation shenanigans and went down a steep slope to “the trail” as per the GPS. Big mistake. A good reminder to trust intuition instead of technology in cases like this. We then had to climb back up the steep slope and many veggie belays were required. After climbing out we quickly found the tracks from the other parties and were glad since they’d found all the holes in the snow. An hour and half and 45 blowdowns later, we were back at the car, with soaking wet feet and exhausted.

Triggering some loose wet slides
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-vGp3833/0/XL/RAD_4029-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-d67C66S/0/XL/RAD_4033-XL.jpg[/img]

Looking at Boulder Ridge
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-fchFcFW/0/XL/RAD_4040-XL.jpg[/img]

See you soon!
[img width=1000 height=666]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-69xFFj5/0/XL/RAD_4052-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Despite it all, the Boulder Glacier is a really great route. It’s certainly more challenging than your trade routes up Baker but it’s quiet and peaceful. It was really interesting to see this side of the mountain, especially the toe of the glacier and valley below it. I’ve never seen so many glide cracks in one area and it was obvious that a lot of erosion occurs here.

[img width=1000 height=701]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Mt-Baker-via-Boulder-Glacier-Apr/i-9STWHpw/0/XL/BoulderGlacier-4-9-2016-4-10-2016-XL.jpg[/img]

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: Robie on 04/14/16, 08:11 PM
Just when I needed a shot of pizazz, you delivered ! Thanks !

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: slacker on 04/14/16, 09:37 PM
very cool trip and post.  love the milky way pic w the the tent in the foreground.  nice effort all around!

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: danpeck on 04/14/16, 09:38 PM
Me Gusta!

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: radka on 04/14/16, 10:43 PM
Pizzas or pictures, glad to be of service  ;D

Muchas gracias!

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: lrudholm on 04/15/16, 07:08 PM
Best crew of the season in my opinion!!!!!

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: andreism on 04/15/16, 07:26 PM
Thank you for report and good pictures.

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: wcurchin on 04/16/16, 02:34 PM
Your photos are always incredible! Long time admirer

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: kamtron on 04/19/16, 01:53 PM
That's my favorite side of Kulshan, Radka. Glad to see it getting some love (and awesome corn!)

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: radka on 04/19/16, 06:45 PM
Thank you all for your kind comments.

Skiing the Boulder Glacier made me curious about Park Glacier - it seems very remote. Something tells me Baker is going to get at least one more visit from us this year  ;D

Title: Re: Mt Baker via Boulder Glacier, April 9-10, 2016
Post by: rlsg on 04/24/16, 07:31 PM
Great write-up and superb photos...as usual.

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