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| | |-+  February 9, 2002, Mt. Baker backcountry
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Author Topic: February 9, 2002, Mt. Baker backcountry  (Read 2226 times)
Mark
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February 9, 2002, Mt. Baker backcountry
« on: 09/11/02, 04:48 PM »

Ah, well: another week, another deep, powdery tour in the secret heart of the Mt. Baker backcountry. In the end, three of us went chugging up the ski area cat track toward the scenic viewpoint we all know fondly as The Usual Place. Snow was unmistakably wind effected, with ten inches of low-density powder over another couple of feet of fresh snow from earlier in the week (on top of what is now well over 200 inches of seasonal snowpack). My compadres indicated an interest in accessing the secret ridge, gully and bowl which figured so prominently in recent trip reports, so, upon reaching the high point of our tour, we made the necessary preparations.

First, incantations were muttered, magical substances scattered in the prescribed manner, and burnt offerings were, err, offered. Then, all in attendance were sworn to eternal and unremitting secrecy. This being done, we dropped down the ridge, thrashing on the flats and bounding with varying degrees of finesse down the steep sections, wrapping the corner down a gully and across a bowl surrounded by weird, swirling cliffs. The skiing was very, very good, sometimes verging on outstanding. We stopped at the bottom to skin up, snack and rehydrate and grin beatifically at each other.

No sooner had we spread ourselves out in glorious solitude than a loud and crazed cackling was heard, and across the slope came a pack of sled dogs and a triumphant skijorer yelling that he'd tell the world about the secret ridge run, and that this would sure teach us Pugetopolites a thing or two about....oh wait, sorry: wrong storyline. I was saving that version for the television pilot. Actually, out of the woods came the only other person I know who has ferreted out and skied this line and who, though normally limited to skiing in blizzard conditions by moonlight, happened to be in the neighborhood and thought he'd drop by. Introductions were made, and our guest, who is, at minimum, three times as energetic as myself, was delicately maneuvered into taking on far more than his share of trailbreaking for the remainder of the day. This was a remarkable stroke of luck for the rest of the party.

In all, we skied north, east and south aspects to about 45 degrees steepness. There was lots of apparently stable powder virtually everywhere we looked, with loose sluffing of the surface snow consistent on slopes greater than 40 degrees, but no deeper releases. Of course, there are obvious areas of windslab, obvious fresh and unstable cornices, and obvious recent natural releases to size 3 scattered all over the place on a surprising variety of aspects (one of these was on a west/southwest aspect; it broke 5 or 6 foot deep a couple of days ago, ran close to a thousand vertical feet then across a flat valley floor and started up the opposite side). We made reasonable route choices, skied to exhaustion in relative safety, quitting about 5:00. On occasion, the clouds broke open and we actually saw our own shadows-not as common as one might think during the dark months of the PNW winter-and backlit snow plumes went leaping, swirling and dancing all along the ridges.

Enjoy.

Mark
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