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| | |-+  May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
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Author Topic: May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry  (Read 3500 times)
markharf
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Posts: 622


May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
« on: 01/28/05, 03:56 PM »

Well, it was a long, interesting winter but I, for one, am glad to see it's finally spring in the mountains: the ski areas are closed, the ground is entirely bare from sea level right up to 3500 or 4000 feet;  the snowcover is shallow, dense, and wet; there's hardly even any traffic on the Mt. Baker Highway.  I drove to the vast, empty parking lot where the plowing stops, picked my way carefully through piles of turds in varying states of decomposition and liquefaction and started skinning uphill at the breathtakingly early hour of half-past noon this afternoon (having given free reign to my natural indolence recently, I am so grievously out of shape that it makes little difference when I begin my tours; typically, I'm exhausted by the time I lose sight of the parking lot).

As is commonly true this late in the spring, patchy snow begins in the woods around 3500 feet, with glide cracks, open streams and melting lakes right up to 5000 feet.  There are also cliff bands where just recently I remember uninterrupted slopes, the existence of which recommends exercise of a degree of caution in times of poor visibility.  The ski area claim of 30 inches on Pan Dome appears to be a gross exaggeration, with much bare ground visible even on runs like North Face and Pan Face.  It is difficult to imagine a re-opening in the absence of another 18 inches or two feet of new snow.  

I skied north, east and west aspects, finding perfectly reasonable turning above about 4600 feet wherever I was able to evade the debris piles left by other skiers and avalanches.  Lower down, the absence of new snow made the skiing jarring and somewhat unpleasant....but not bad, really, considering it's late May.  Visibility was good, in mixed clouds, sun and light flurries.

I also poked around in Bagley Basin, where the entire north-facing slope from the Blueberry Chutes across to the falls below the Inner Glacier avalanched in the recent cycle, right to the ground in many areas (those who like to farm that slope following fresh snowfall might want to take a look before the situation gets obscured).  Below Little Alaska Wall, debris piles range to about 30 feet deep and extend across the valley floor to just short of the opposite slope.  Pretty striking considering there was relatively little snow available to slide in the first place.

Overall, skiing was actually not bad: Suncups and runnels are small and not too hard, and a couple of inches of fresh, damp snow covers the worse of the seasonal dirt. Underneath this fresh snow, the snowpack consists of a walkable crust over not-fully-consolidated, isothermal mush.  This suggests the possibility of further instability should we get any more rain.  I did not dig a pit, seeing little point to it, but upon arriving home I read the Canadian Avalanche Association report, which states that faceted snow remains intact in some areas around tree-line (and presumably above), a possibility which I admit had not occurred to me following the recent torrential rains.  Under such conditions, slopes reloaded with substantial fresh snow might again become susceptible to climax slides.  







Ok, seriously now, people:

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH ALL THE SNOW?Huh  When I left on holiday three weeks ago there was 70 inches on the ground and a major snowstorm was in progress, with snow levels below 500 feet!  Where did it go?  Listen, either someone takes appropriate action with respect to our missing, oh, say, 10 feet of snowpack, or I'll have no option but to have a word with the them that are in charge of such matters.
« Last Edit: 01/28/05, 03:59 PM by markharf » Logged
Jeff Huber
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Posts: 771


Re: May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
« Reply #1 on: 01/28/05, 05:20 PM »

Very funny Mark . . .
« Last Edit: 01/28/05, 05:20 PM by Gaper_Jeffey » Logged

ema
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Posts: 92


Re: May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
« Reply #2 on: 01/31/05, 05:52 AM »

sadly mark, it was one of tay's own who is reposponsible for the devastating pineapple express...i am not naming any names, but see http://www.turns-all-year.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=ha1;action=display;num=1105463714

i am rather surprised actually that charles has not taken any measures against such destructiveness on the site...this is after all much worse for the tay community than commerical postings !

Quote


WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH ALL THE SNOW?Huh  When I left on holiday three weeks ago there was 70 inches on the ground and a major snowstorm was in progress, with snow levels below 500 feet!  Where did it go?  Listen, either someone takes appropriate action with respect to our missing, oh, say, 10 feet of snowpack, or I'll have no option but to have a word with the them that are in charge of such matters.

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fleblebleb
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Posts: 15


Re: May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
« Reply #3 on: 01/31/05, 06:07 AM »

I'm living vicariously through you, Mark. And you can join me any time in my new and exciting hobbies of bowling, curling, backcountry sun-chair lounging, and getting fatter by the pound.
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curmudgeon
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Posts: 457


Re: May 22, 2005, Mt. Baker Backcountry
« Reply #4 on: 01/31/05, 09:55 AM »

Uh, Mark ...

Under TAY ordinance #1023 regarding the non-publication of secret stashes in order to preserve the resource for the worthy locals, I hereby declare all TR's referring to the environs of HWY 520 to be illegitmate, illogical, illegal, and ill advised.
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