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| | |-+  April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glaciers
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Author Topic: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glaciers  (Read 4295 times)
Amar Andalkar
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April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glaciers
« on: 04/20/05, 07:16 PM »

With the arrival of high pressure and springtime sun following 4 weeks of belated winter-like snowfall, David Coleman and I were eager to ski some big mountain lines. The forecast looked better farther north, with clear skies and 8000 ft freezing levels predicted, so we decided to head for Mt Baker and see if the spring corn had begun to form on the south facing slopes leading up to Sherman Peak. We left Seattle at 5 AM and eventually drove to 3100 ft on FR 13, within about 1 mile of the Schriebers Meadow trailhead. The road has snow patches and lots of mud for the previous half-mile, all covered in snowmobile tracks, and at 3100 ft there was 1-2 ft of compact snow, enough to block my 4WD Pathfinder. We skinned up the deserted road at 8 AM, on continuous snow except for a single short stretch of dirt, but most of the snow is along the road edges and so a few more days of sunny weather should make the road driveable to within about a quarter-mile of the trailhead. Current snowdepth at Schriebers Meadow (3400 ft) is about 3 ft, for comparison the average May 1 snowdepth there is 118" based on data from 1959-2000. In other words, in late April of a normal year, this building would be almost completely buried. However, as of March 15 this year before the recent storms, almost everything was bare below about 4000 ft, so this is certainly a big improvement.

We followed the countless snowmobile tracks across the bridge and up the Park Butte trail and then turned north beside Rocky Creek towards the terminus of the Easton Glacier. Above 4000 ft we veered right of Metcalfe Moraine and eventually up to Crag View at 6500 ft, cutting a switchback just below it on well-softened noontime snow and then taking the moderate slope left of it onto the Squak Glacier. Snowmobile tracks were everywhere, but luckily on this midweek day we saw and heard only 5 or 6 of the detestable machines. Lots of evidence of recent avalanches and sluffs on many steeper sun-warmed slopes, especially wind-loaded SE aspects, with many of them clearly having been triggered by high-marking snowmobiles.

Anyway, by now all thoughts of summiting Sherman Peak had been abandoned, because all day a combination of pre-existing tiredness, ongoing allergies, and foot pain/blisters had been sapping our energy and slowing us down. We continued up the Squak to 7200 ft, where increasing easterly winds and a crustier snow surface combined with exhaustion to put an end to our ascent, stopping near a huge group of exposed seracs on the eastern part of the Easton Glacier where it meets the Squak. We skied down at 2 PM, heading straight down the fall line towards the toe of the Easton. Very tricky skiing at first, wind/sun crust over deep unconsolidated snow (poles with small baskets could go in 3-4 ft), but improving to well-softened mush and almost-corn on steeper south-facing aspects which had consolidated more quickly. A few short stretches from 6500-5500 ft provided the best skiing of the day on corn-like snow. Heavier glop returned near the glacier terminus, but on the flatter terrain below the glacier and into the forest, the numerous parallel snowmobile tracks provided an almost groomer-like consolidated surface to help us avoid wallowing in the glop.

Overall, it was a fine day despite the pain and premature turnaround, with 4100 vert of fair to good skiing combined with the usual spectacular seracs and scenery. The south side of Baker needs several more days of sun and consolidation to improve the spring corn snow. The mountain is looking very snowy and white, and glacier travel conditions appear to be good on most of the Squak and Easton Glaciers. We carried rope, harnesses, and glacier gear, but it stayed in our packs all day.

Amar Andalkar
www.skimountaineer.com

David carves through the mashed potatoes past some exposed ice at the terminus of the Easton Glacier. Click here for an enlarged version of this photo.


« Last Edit: 04/20/05, 07:25 PM by andalkar » Logged

ron j
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Re: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glacier
« Reply #1 on: 04/21/05, 01:31 AM »

Nice report, Amar.
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wickstad
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Re: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glacier
« Reply #2 on: 04/21/05, 02:14 AM »

Thanks for the report.
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glacier
« Reply #3 on: 04/27/05, 03:25 PM »

I've been asked what the current crevasse conditions are like on Mt Baker, so I might as well post a photo here if it will help others. This photo shows glacier conditions above 6500 ft on the south side (upper parts of Deming, Easton, Squak Glaciers).

It appears that on the Deming, Easton, and Squak Glaciers, crevasse conditions are more like mid-June of a typical year. The route appears to be continuous to the summit with no major detours or hazardous crossings, but extensive serac fields are open near the Easton standard route. Above 9000 ft on the Deming (where the Coleman route joins it), the route appears to be better up the right half of the Roman Wall, since a large block of seracs is protruding in the left half near 10400 ft.  I don't know what the current conditions are on the Coleman, but the Coleman is usually fairly safe travel until July in normal years, so May ought to be OK this year.  Obviously bringing a rope and glacier gear is very advisable this year, even if you don't end up using it.

Also, here's a photo from the southeast showing conditions on the Talum and Boulder Glaciers. I guess this is what the Ski Route Photos section of TAY was intended for, but it seems that no one uses it. That's too bad. Maybe I'll start posting some more photos there.

« Last Edit: 04/27/05, 03:53 PM by andalkar » Logged

wickstad
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Re: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glacier
« Reply #4 on: 04/28/05, 09:56 AM »

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skilinksfr.html

According to the above:  Schreiber's Meadow is now closed to Snomobiles.

Sorry the URL does not work.  But it is a link that can be reached from this website in the "access links" section.

Go to "winter recreation" and "more information about snomobiling".  Or take my word for it.
« Last Edit: 04/28/05, 10:00 AM by wickstad » Logged
Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 20, 2005, Mt Baker, Easton/Squak Glacier
« Reply #5 on: 04/28/05, 11:30 AM »

Thanks, that's great news.  Here's a more direct link to the MBSNF website, http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/conditions/road_conditions.shtml, which says:

Quote
Schriebers Meadow is CLOSED to snowmobiles [updated 4-28-2004].
Only open when the snow depth exceeds 24 inches at the trail head. It is the snowmobile drivers responsibility to observe this requirement. The"NO WHEELED VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT" signs must be obeyed regardless of the road condition.


I'm sure there will still be some snowmobilers up there, though, due a near-total lack of enforcement. We might as well send all the prison guards on vacation, open the prison doors, and say "it is the prisoner's responsibility to remain in prison." I'm sure all those honest, law-abiding prisoners would stay right there.

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