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| | |-+  Mar 12-13, Mt. Baker, Stormfest
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Author Topic: Mar 12-13, Mt. Baker, Stormfest  (Read 2034 times)
pipedream
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Mar 12-13, Mt. Baker, Stormfest
« on: 03/14/16, 01:43 PM »

After last year's dismal conditions, the powers that be decided to bump the annual Mt. Baker Splitfest up a few weeks into early March, which was great except that the transition to daylight savings time happened and made for a tougher start on Sunday morning after the raffle + party. It didn't help that the weather wasn't playing nice, with howling winds and driving, wet snow greeting us at Heather Meadows first thing Saturday morning and Sunday's windstorm chasing us out in the afternoon. In fact, the best conditions both weather and snow-wise were to be had Sat. afternoon and Sunday morning. Nonetheless, we set out to make the best of it, relegating ourselves to short laps in the treed terrain of Swift Creek on Sat. and getting fooled by the Sunday morning calm into a harrowing return from Artist Point Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday we found generally stable, albeit heavy, snow below treeline on both sides of the Swift Creek drainage. The resort side offered better turns, but the melt-freeze + rain crust from Fri. night was noticeably present beneath the 4-6" of new snow which fell overnight Friday and during the morning on Sat. The temperatures continued to drop and the snow continued to fall, bringing another 4-6" of rightside-up snow over Sat. night for a total of 12-16" by Sunday morning.

Sunday morning started off cool with calm winds, high clouds and comparatively good visibility. As we geared-up in the parking lot we watched the first wave of resort riders charging down Pan Dome from the top of Chair 1. Conditions looked good and we made quick work of the cat track all the way to the top of the divide between Swift Creek and the Canyon. We dropped into the main gully between Pan Dome and Hemis down to Swift Creek making hippie turns and earning faceshots on every slash. It was good, the weather was good, and the stoke was high. After skinning-out on the Hunatoon Ridge side of Swift Creek, we decided to go ahead and make our way towards Artist Point. The storm was coming, but it seemed as if it wouldn't arrive until the late afternoon.

As we crossed the road for the first time, the wind began to increase and light snow began to fall. When we reached the road for the second time, the light was going flat and we were feeling less certain about our plan to drop a mellow line off Hunatoon Ridge and back into Swift Creek. As we crested the ridge, we were enveloped in a cloud and visibility went to zero. The wind picked-up, the snowfall intensified, it was not good. We bailed on our plan and followed the ridgeline north to what we deduced was the Artist Point parking lot. I had a binding failure which we quickly resolved while taking shelter beneath a large cornice on the edge of the parking lot. A quick check of the time revealed it was already half-past 1 - it also highlighted the fact none of us had any cellphone service.

We busted-out map and compass and put our rusty orienteering skills to work to navigate the undulating terrain from Artist Point back to the top of the popular uptrack. Here we caught a break in the weather, rapidly transitioned and ripped waist-deep turns down to the road. Nothing moved, not even a sluff, so we dove left down the mellowest line closest to the resort through the Blueberry Chutes and skinned-out to Grandma's House. Upon reaching the cat track the wind began to blow so hard it was difficult to stand-up, the snow was falling at 2"/hr and the visibility was even worse than before. Too exhausted, cold and wet to even transition, we split-skied down the cat track back to the car, quickly stripped out of our wet gear and booked it back to Glacier to return overdue demo equipment and say our goodbyes.

Departing Glacier around 5:30, the weather was still mild, however the wind and rain picked-up dramatically on the drive to Bellingham where it was gusting into the upper 50 mph range with pelting, sideways rain. After getting soaked and nearly knocked-over while refueling before getting on I-5, we were on our way back to Seattle, heading southbound on one of the windiest drives I've ever made. The sunset to the west from the Samish mountains was spectacular and the rain let up in Mt. Vernon. Arriving back in Seattle around 8pm, we were happy to find no trees had fallen on our residences and the lights were still on. A 48-hour trip to Baker had been, yet again, a success.

Saturday afternoon:


Sunday morning:
« Last Edit: 03/14/16, 01:48 PM by pipedream » Logged

Moral of story is don't ski when you can snowboard
nemolonsdale
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Re: Mar 12-13, Mt. Baker, Stormfest
« Reply #1 on: 03/14/16, 06:58 PM »

Great summary of weather/conditions. The best splitfest conditions ever?  I rode the chairs Sunday morning and it was good, except I had no camera for that cool silver light, the glaciers glowed blue!  My last trip down the blueberry's into swift then out to grandmas put me just behind the last visibility of the day. Made for a slow exit. Wanna thank the crew that puts this on every year, Pete at chair 9 is a great host. See ya next year.
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