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Author Topic: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route  (Read 10715 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« on: 07/08/12, 01:04 PM »



On July 6-7, my son Tom and I made a ski-climb of Mount Baker.  I've been wanting to take Tom up Baker for several years now, but I didn't want to rush him. This year he's entered high school and grown a lot stronger, and I became confident that he'd enjoy it.  We decided on a Friday-Saturday trip to avoid some of the crowds and take advantage of great weather.

I had heard about the bridge washout at Grouse Creek and expected a log crossing.  But I didn't expect the sight of the old footbridge.  The avalanche that removed the bridge tore it from its moorings, lifted it (whole) above the south bank of the creek, and hurled it about a hundred feet into the forest (see photos below).  The bridge appears to have been built to railroad specifications, with massive iron girders and heavy wooden planks.  The avalanche tossed it like a child's toboggan. 

After passing the old Kulshan Cabin site, we left the woods and found continuous snow.  We hiked up the Hogsback and skied up the Coleman Glacier to Heliotrope Ridge.  We chose a campsite near the crest and settled in for a lazy afternoon.  Before supper we skied to a saddle higher on the glacier that offered a closeup view of Lincoln Peak and a nice run back to the Coleman flats.  The evening was hazy and comfortable.

On Saturday morning we left our campsite around 6:30 a.m. on skis.  At Colfax Saddle we found unusally strong winds.  Tom was more interested in reaching the summit than in skiing from the top, so we cached our skis and continued to the top on foot.  At the summit we paused briefly to remember my brother Carl and Tom's grandmother Ingrid.  Ashes from both have now been scattered on Mount Rainier and Mount Baker (and a few summits in-between).

Back at the saddle we retrieved our skis and began the descent back to camp.  The recent new snow was only partially consolidated and a little tricky to ski. But it sure beat walking.  We gathered our overnight gear and skied back to the trail, descending the snowfield to climber's right of the notorious Hogback gully.  The moat in the gully was well marked with bamboo poles and hikers were avoiding it.  Kudos to the people who have helped make the descent safer.



Selected Photos:

Tom at the site of the Grouse Creek bridge:



The bridge was tossed 100 feet into the forest.  (The perspective in this picture makes the bridge look smaller than it is.)



Relaxing in the tent on Heliotrope Ridge:



One of the best parts of any ski trip--the evening ski run without packs or extra gear:



Admiring our evening tracks on Coleman Glacier:



Tom enjoys the view from our campsite. From left to right: Mount Baker (Grant Peak), Coleman Glacier, Colfax Peak, Thunder Glacier, Lincoln Peak.  Click here for double-wide panorama.



Hazy sunrise from Heliotrope Ridge:



Colfax Peak during the ascent of Coleman Glacier:



Lowell and Tom at the summit of Mount Baker:



Tom skis Coleman Glacier below Colfax Peak:



Skiing the lower Coleman Glacier:


« Last Edit: 07/08/12, 02:10 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
cumulus
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #1 on: 07/08/12, 01:26 PM »

Looks like a great cross-generational spirit integrating trip! Tom looks psyched, the weather glorious, and the mountain perfect for it. Thanks for sharing.
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Stefan
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #2 on: 07/08/12, 03:23 PM »

Cliff Mass has an explanation for the haze we experienced on Mt Baker--smoke from fires in Asia!

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2012/07/asian-smoke-reaches-north-america.html

Here's a picture that shows the smokey appearance better:


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old guy
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #3 on: 07/08/12, 05:35 PM »

I don't think there is anything better then skiing in the mountains with your children.  Congratulations!
Has the Black Hole opened up enough to be obvious from above?  I was intending to get up there this weekend to check on the  bamboo but had house chores to do instead.  My plan is to head up there and remove the boo when it is no longer needed.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #4 on: 07/08/12, 06:41 PM »

Has the Black Hole opened up enough to be obvious from above?  I was intending to get up there this weekend to check on the  bamboo but had house chores to do instead.  My plan is to head up there and remove the boo when it is no longer needed.

I recommend keeping the bamboo in place a bit longer. I don't think the hole is all that obvious from above yet.

As we were changing into tennis shoes after skiing down to treeline, a ranger came hiking up. She asked if "by any chance" we had placed the wands which marked the place where the hiking trail disappeared in the snow. (I imagine that somebody placed the wands to make it easier to find the trail when descending.) I told her no, which was the truth. I assume she didn't approve of the wands.

Afterward I wondered a whether she would have any objection to the bamboo in the gully. I have no idea...
« Last Edit: 07/08/12, 06:46 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
tobae
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #5 on: 07/08/12, 08:00 PM »

My absolute favorite trip up Baker was the one I did with my sons.  Kudos to Tom.  Sounds like he's got the family ski mountaineering bug.  What's next for him?

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Robert Connor
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #6 on: 07/09/12, 12:24 PM »

Nice work Lowell.  I am looking forward to the day when I can introduce my daughter and son ski mountaineering.  It looks like Tom had a great time.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #7 on: 07/09/12, 10:28 PM »

An email from a friend got me thinking about the preparation that went into this trip. Every parent has a different style, some very cautious, others leading their kids into some pretty wild situations. I'm somewhere in between. Here are some things we did before this trip, for what it's worth:

* Self-arrest practice at Mt Rainier
* Roped climbing practice at Magnuson Park (belaying, rappeling, prusiking)
* Theory of pulley systems (a school project)
* Snow climbs of Mt Daniel, Ruth, Black, Eldorado
* Rock climbs of Pinnacle Peak, The Tooth, Ingalls Peak
* Ski tours on Mt Rainier, Fortune Peak, others (plus lift skiing)

These preparations spanned several years. On Mt Baker, we roped up from camp to the summit, both on skis and on foot. We both had prusik slings and I had a picket and rescue gear. We took off the rope to ski from Colfax saddle back down to camp. If I had fallen far into a crevasse, I don't think Tom could have rescued me. If the reverse had happened, it's hard to know for sure. We were just a party of two, and we were relying in part on the presence of nearby parties for our safety. There's no denying that. Based on my experience I think it was a reasonable bet.

Tom Miller, an older mountaineer who passed away last year, told me about a friend of his who had taught his son to climb. The son later died in a rock climbing accident. Tom said, "You're never really whole after something like that." I've met several climbers of that generation who refused to teach their kids to climb. They told their kids that if they wanted to learn they should sign up for the Mountaineers course. I can see why they might do that.
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bakershredda
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #8 on: 07/10/12, 01:47 AM »

We were just a party of two, and we were relying in part on the presence of nearby parties for our safety. There's no denying that. Based on my experience I think it was a reasonable bet.

I was taught to never rely on other parties to come to my rescue. What you've said suggests that you are not confident in your skills or the people in your group. Seems foolish to adventure so far away from the paved road, onto glaciers with such doubt. Nothing against you personally, obviously as I have no idea who you are, but again, as I have always been instructed... Go prepared for the worst and understand how to save your own life, the others in your party and if need be, others like you who rely on people who are more skilled.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #9 on: 07/10/12, 07:48 AM »

I was taught to never rely on other parties to come to my rescue.

It sounds like you've been taught well. That's what I've been taught too. I believe in self-reliance as a goal, but I think it's pretty rare that we actually achieve it. Think, for example, about a mountain guide leading an inexperienced client. Can the guide rely on the client to rescue him if something goes wrong? Probably not.

The important thing is to be honest with yourself about the abilities and resources of your party and make decisions in the field that keep your risks acceptable.
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Pete_H
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #10 on: 07/10/12, 08:32 AM »

I have to say, that's a very classy response, Lowell, to a rather obnoxious example of internet armchair quarterbacking.

Bakershredda - You are right that you have no idea who Lowell is.
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Splitter
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #11 on: 07/10/12, 08:58 AM »

If you have actually practiced pulling someone out of a crevasse (even with a Z), you may have legitimate doubts about self rescue.
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bakershredda
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #12 on: 07/10/12, 10:35 AM »

Sorry for sounding 'obnoxious', that wasn't my intent, nor is who I am. Thank you Pete_H for the PM containing info on who Lowell Skoog actually is. Sounds like quite the badass and he does have class. Bottom line is that Lowell and I agree upon the fact that not planning to rely on others for rescue is a good thing. Best wishes to those climbing this season.
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danpeck
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #13 on: 07/10/12, 05:05 PM »

Lowell--

This post is most excellent.  It gives me a lot to look forward to and much to think about in preparing my own kids (2 girls, 2 boys) for ski touring and mountaineering.  I have to admit that everything I am doing now is to stay in shape and improve my own skill and judgment so I can coach them safely.  I also have to admit that I have had the very debate you mention:  should I teach my kids how to ski and climb and accept the risk that I could lose one of them?  How would I ever feel whole again if that were to happen?  How could I avoid blaming myself?  Sobering thoughts for sure.  But I believe as you do that with care and good judgment risk can be minimized and the mountains can be enjoyed safely.  Again... I look forward to that day with my children.  I think I will like watching them ski off of Eldorado more than I enjoyed it myself.

Thanks again... I hope to follow in your foot-steps in more ways than one.
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Oyvind_Henningsen
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #14 on: 07/10/12, 07:05 PM »

it was good to see you and Tom in the parking lot Lowell.  Stellar effort Tom, congratulations again !
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Lytt til erfarne fjellfolk!
jackal
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #15 on: 07/10/12, 09:56 PM »

thread drift… Too many close relations have died in too many ways, in the mountains, in the water and other. I know that's true for many of you -- many condolences given every year on this site. We can't prevent accidents in our kids' future no matter what path they take, but teach them to be prepared and practiced, to think through situations, and to be willing to say 'time to turn around for another day'.

DanP, when a child dies for almost any reason parents have a hard time not feeling guilty so teach your kids what you love and love your life with them. Sounds sappy but you don't get a second chance.

thread return… Good post Lowell, both the original and the preparation comments.
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Cornfed
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #16 on: 07/10/12, 10:05 PM »

Lowell - Mike and I saw that you'd signed out about 15 minutes before we arrived at the Ranger station on our way in and were sorry to have missed you.  We were impressed with your early time out and figured you'd done a solo one day trip in that time!  Awesome trip report, and super special to do that with your son.

You also taught me something very important with the way you responded to an obnoxious post about your risk taking, which frankly was a very reasonable approach.  Your example about a guide/ client relationship is right on! 

So, the bridge is kind of funny and sad at the same time.  Mike and I were up there 2 or 3 years ago when they were putting that bridge in.  I was amazed and appalled at the same time that they would spend so much money on a bridge designed by some kid fresh out of engineering school who probably had never been there to understand why these bridges keep blowing out.  That bridge was designed to hold a freight train, but it was high enough that when the spring avalanches come down, it was just a big sail.  All they really need is a log across the river, which is super easy to repair every few years when it blows out.  Well, it looks like maybe the log solution is the way to go!  From the looks of it, there were several large trees laying close by so they've got bridges for the next several repairs!
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danpeck
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #17 on: 07/11/12, 10:11 AM »

We can't prevent accidents in our kids' future no matter what path they take, but teach them to be prepared and practiced, to think through situations, and to be willing to say 'time to turn around for another day'.

DanP, when a child dies for almost any reason parents have a hard time not feeling guilty so teach your kids what you love and love your life with them. Sounds sappy but you don't get a second chance.


Jackal:  Great points.  Life is good and the mountains bring great joy--I wouldn't live any other way.  I really respect how Lowell has taken the time to show his kids this joy as well as give them good judgment and preparation.  It is an excellent pattern for me to follow and I appreciate his sharing the details and the good times.
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mikerolfs
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #18 on: 07/14/12, 02:28 PM »

...thinking about the preparation that went into this trip. Every parent has a different style, some very cautious, others leading their kids into some pretty wild situations. I'm somewhere in between. Here are some things we did before this trip, for what it's worth:

* Self-arrest practice at Mt Rainier
* Roped climbing practice at Magnuson Park (belaying, rappeling, prusiking)
* Theory of pulley systems (a school project)
* Snow climbs of Mt Daniel, Ruth, Black, Eldorado
* Rock climbs of Pinnacle Peak, The Tooth, Ingalls Peak
* Ski tours on Mt Rainier, Fortune Peak, others (plus lift skiing)

These preparations spanned several years.


I need to call my dad and thank him.  My introduction to the mountains was a lot like the introduction your boy is getting.  I owe a lifetime of adventure to my dad who did for me what you described above.  Lucky kids are we who have parents who know the "freedom of the hills".
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-Josh-
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Re: July 6-7, 2012, Mount Baker, Coleman Route
« Reply #19 on: 07/15/12, 11:58 AM »

Thanks for the great TR Lowell. Went up there on Friday for my first time and had an amazing time, started heading down just as the thunderstorm was rolling in.
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Might not be the fastest but I get where I'm going!
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