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Author Topic: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver  (Read 7162 times)
markharf
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July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« on: 07/18/04, 07:16 AM »

Subtitle: Earning Turns on the World's Biggest Blue Groomer:

Several partners wanted a Sunday ski--something to do with mid-summer family responsibilities--but with deteriorating weather I opted for a half-day on Saturday instead.  By sleeping late and dawdling for as long as possible at home, I managed to delay my departure from the trailhead until a very civilized 1:15.  That's PM, not AM.  By this time, it was ungodly hot, but that's the price I pay for a life of otherwise-agreeable indolence and sloth.  

Boulder Ridge trailhead is a mere 1:20 from my Bellingham home--the same as most other Mt. Baker trailheads.  It is easily distinguished from the more popular routes by the fact that its parking lot remains essentially empty at all times (in contrast to the Schreiber's Meadow and Heliotrope lots, generally packed with an assortment of Suburu wagons and giant, elaborately roof-racked vans).  It is possible that the Boulder's relatively sparse usage has something to do with the low start (2600 feet), the long approach (several miles through nice old growth before you wade through a minor swamp, turn right and start climbing) or the lack of a giant, pre-cast concrete outhouse paid for with trail-pass dollars.  Whatever the reason, there was a single car parked at the trailhead when I arrived, and I never saw any sign of its owners on the mountain.  In fact, I never saw another person the entire afternoon, despite picture-perfect weather, stellar corn snow, and the fact that the east side of Baker is quite a spectacular place.  Must be the lack of a proper outhouse.  Yeah, that's it.

Now, last time I posted about extraordinary snow conditions I apparently dealt a blow to my credibility from which it may never recover.  This time, I'll try to be more measured in my assessment.  The snow was good.  Very good, in fact.  Snowcups down low (<5500 ft.) are 4 inches deep and chattery; from 5500 to above 7500 they are miniscule--an inch or so deep. There are hardly any crevasses open, though more will be evident shortly.  The snow is dirty around the cleaver, but far cleaner than at similar elevations on the south side, and it lacked that uneven, gluey sensation so common this time of year.  Oh, and the runnels....yes, the runnels, getting to be such a problem elsewhere.  I found a few, scattered here and there.  I measured one of the worst: a full three inches deep.

Skiing was great, despite the generally moderate pitch, with a perfect inch of corn over a solid base.  I understand that, following my previous disgrace, no one will take my word for any of this...but it's all true.  Picture this: it is 6:30 in the evening. The air is warm and calm, with late-afternoon light streaming in at low angle off the nearby tidewater.  I am skiing down the middle of a huge, smooth, rolling, perfectly-corned slope; there is not a crevasse in sight, with at least a quarter-mile of untouched, similarly smooth slope to my left, and 2500 feet of skiable snow below me.  Views are spectacular, east into the Picket Range and north to Canada. I am grinning hugely.  

Unlike previous, more speedy and motivated posters, I took 2 1/2 hours hiking uphill to the ridge above the handline.  Like one, I turned around below 8000 feet, although in my case I suffered from a mysterious lack of time, not a failure of energy or enthusiasm. I skied down to the same spot on the ridge, around 4600 feet, although several short, melted-out heather and pumice sections broke the flow of my descent.  This gave a very reasonable ratio of 2000 feet of climbing for 3000 feet of skiing: not ideal, perhaps, but a much better state of affairs than prevails in, say, Wisconsin or Indiana.  A bit less sloth and correspondingly more ambition would have easily yielded another thousand feet of skiing.

The approach really is rather long: perhaps an hour (and a thousand feet) longer in each direction than the more popular routes on Baker.  Once I got on the snow, it was obvious that the requisite effort was entirely worth it: for the views, the solitude, the quality of skiing.  Once I got back on the climber's trail, walking endless ups and downs through the woods as darkness gathered and consolidated, I began to wonder.  Arriving at the trailhead at 9:15 in a dense cloud of thirsty mosquitoes, I named the day a success.  

Oh yes, there's also the issue of the handline.  For some reason, I couldn't resist hanging on to it both up and down, despite feeling distinctly unsteadied by the way that this left only one hand free for actual climbing.  In fact, I continued to cling even when, nearing the top, I noticed various cuts in the line, both with and without knots tied around them. Further, the rope is of an apparent age and brittleness that suggests that it would be extremely unseemly to fall on it, or even to entrust it with one's full weight.  I think that for my next trip up there I'll donate a section of less-geriatric rope to the cause.  


Charles, Russ and sb:  remember, YMMV.


Edit: errors in Macintosh to PC translation.
« Last Edit: 07/18/04, 07:31 AM by markharf » Logged
Paul Belitz
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #1 on: 07/18/04, 07:26 AM »

SHHHH! Stealing our stashes! How could you!  Wink

That's a horrible, horrible route, everybody should stay away from it AT ALL COSTS. Trust me. Really.
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twopass
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #2 on: 07/18/04, 08:11 AM »

Quote
Subtitle: Earning Turns on the World's Biggest Blue Groomer: a half-day on Saturday............



Hmmmmm.........

I think I need to have a word w/the Telemon.
« Last Edit: 07/18/04, 08:13 AM by twopass » Logged
skykilo
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #3 on: 07/18/04, 10:26 AM »

Mark,

Wasn't it a bit unnerving?  Is it really as enjoyable without the overall traversing characteristic of the Coleman Deming?  Wouldn't you rather wind around crevasses on a never ending 20 degree slope like the Easton route?

And what about all those logs across the trail with steps cut into them?  I think they're disgusting; they represent an unsatisfactory marginalization of either wilderness experience or a quality trail.

I'm glad you managed to have a decent time on such an abominable route.  

Sky

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powscraper
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #4 on: 07/18/04, 12:38 PM »

Eh?  Yeah that approach sucks don't it?  Well I don't see any real negativity from Mark... at least not compared to my praise for the Wanna-Shwhack. Grin  Would it be wrong to bring a machete and hack out a ridge trail? (Boulder "Ridge" Trail? WTF?)  Yeah, I guess it would.  Anyway it's got to be better early season when you can skin over it all.

Yeah, CD and Easton are definitely much more convenient for just getting some turns in.
« Last Edit: 07/18/04, 12:39 PM by username » Logged
Amar Andalkar
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #5 on: 07/18/04, 01:16 PM »

Quote
Would it be wrong to bring a machete and hack out a ridge trail? (Boulder "Ridge" Trail? WTF?) Yeah, I guess it would.  ...


I think that "Boulder Ridge" refers to the trail's destination, not its route. But I like the idea of using a machete, or even better some loppers and a bow saw, to remove the numerous small trees and branches that impede progress along the upper trail beyond the bog. Such maintenance would best be done in late August or September when the bugs are gone. Perhaps the easier access to summer skiing on the Boulder-Park next year is worth the efforts of a TAY work party this fall? I don't see anything wrong with doing proper maintenance on an unmaintained trail.

There may be numerous other unmaintained trails to prime summer ski terrain which could benefit from an occasional autumn trim, especially those trails where climbers' packs can squeeze through, but packs with skis can not. I know the Shuksan Sulphide trail is a prime candidate. Any others?
« Last Edit: 07/18/04, 01:17 PM by andalkar » Logged

powscraper
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #6 on: 07/18/04, 01:26 PM »

I was just joking... it would be wrong to turn that trail into anything like the highways up to the CD or the Easton.  I don't know, there's something about the overgrown nature of the approach that just seems right.  I thought it was really cool, except that I had ski gear on my back.  It's just an amazing hike, and a unique experience that I'm sure is appreciated for it's wilderness feel by many others.  As a first timer in that basin I felt pretty lucky to be there, at least a small part of which was due to its remoteness.  I'd say leave it be, if you want something easy, go to the dog routes...
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johnnyutah
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #7 on: 07/18/04, 01:37 PM »

 ----Maintaining a trail in general is a necessary evil.  Not only do overgrown trails impede a hikers progress but they support alterior routes resulting in greater impacts to the environment. This can be a large problem in areas prone to erosion already, such as the side hilling opportunities above the meadow en route to the Boulder Glacier. Anyone who shows the initiative for basic trail maintanence should be applauded, just wait till the snow pack is at its thinest.
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Paul Belitz
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #8 on: 07/18/04, 01:49 PM »

NO. We need to eradicate the trail. Then nobody will go there and we'll be able to ski fresh snow forever!!

You think that thing needs maintainance, Justin, do it with 188cm skis rather than your silly 166 board.  Grin

In all seriousness, that trail should stay above the bogs, it would reduce the impact by a large amount. In general, though, I like that trail as is.
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #9 on: 07/18/04, 01:52 PM »

Quote
I was just joking... it would be wrong to turn that trail into anything like the highways up to the CD or the Easton.


I think you misunderstood my point, which is to improve such trails for summer skiers (not necessarily for climbers or hikers).

I've long thought that the reason that some trails were left in an unmaintained condition (and thus allowed to deteriorate) by the USFS or NPS was simply a lack of funding or resources, not any desire to enhance or maintain a wilderness feel. Trimming the trees on the Boulder Ridge trail (and other similar trails) won't create significant additional usage, since the masses will still avoid any trail reputed to be so muddy and nasty with so many ups-and-downs. But trimming the trees and branches which have grown across the trail since maintenance ceased would simply level the playing field for summer skiers (i.e. those carrying skis on their packs) versus other users who are not bearing such unwieldy loads. This would simply be returning the trail closer to the more tolerable condition it had in years past, not actually improving it significantly. The deteriorated tread would remain nasty and muddy, but this affects all users equally (unlike overgrown trees which selectively target skiers, especially me).

By the way, trimming trees is by far the easiest aspect of trail maintenance, almost effortless compared to the back-breaking labor of creating or rebuilding proper tread. I would certainly have appreciated a few less trees snagging my skis during the approach last week, and the extra energy wasted in fighting the trees would have been useful up high on the mountain. I would certainly be willing to help trim trails (only those which are useful to skiers) during the fall.
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powscraper
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #10 on: 07/18/04, 01:57 PM »

"Not tragic to die doing what you love. You want the ultimate thrill, you gotta be willing to pay the ultimate price..." Cool

Eh, Johnny?
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powscraper
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #11 on: 07/18/04, 02:00 PM »

Just watch out for the granola guerilla...
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johnnyutah
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #12 on: 07/18/04, 02:01 PM »

ha ha - never leave your wing man!
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Paul Belitz
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #13 on: 07/18/04, 02:16 PM »

Quote
Just watch out for the granola guerilla...

You mean Granola Gorilla, right?
 Cool
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powscraper
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #14 on: 07/18/04, 02:19 PM »

uh, no...

?

You wouldn't be referring to He of the blessed semi-dreadlock?
« Last Edit: 07/18/04, 02:22 PM by username » Logged
johnnyutah
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #15 on: 07/18/04, 02:51 PM »

Dreads... mabey- mabey not.

Any estimates on the amount of firn that is still left mid way up the Boulder- Park region?
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markharf
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #16 on: 07/19/04, 06:52 AM »

I'm not sure what you mean by "firn," which by my definition is snow which has survived one summer into the next season.  All I saw up there was snow remaining from the winter just past, therefore not yet transformed into firn.

I didn't probe the snow anywhere, but the fact that hardly any crevasses are open, with only minimal dips in the glacier indicating gently sagging snowbridges, suggests that this year's snow still has some depth (and structural integrity) to it. On the other hand, with temps forecast in the 90's later this week, there's no telling how long this will last.

Hope that helps.

Mark
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johnnyutah
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Re: July 17, 2004, Boulder-Park Cleaver
« Reply #17 on: 07/19/04, 12:31 PM »

Thanks Mark, thats all i was curious about. I was refering to the word 'firn' as anual pack but i guess it isnt firn quite yet.

way to get after it i'm jealous.
« Last Edit: 07/19/04, 12:42 PM by johnnyutah » Logged
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