Mount Baker 1 Day Attempt June 29, 2010 - Easton Glacier. (Andrew Gorohoff)
Back in March, while returning from a week of skiing in the Selkirk Mountains at Valhalla Mountain Touring with Ben Haskel, we found ourselves talking about future adventures. During one the days at Valhalla Mountain Touring, Jasmine, one of the guides, discussed doing the Spearhead Traverses in one day. I brought this idea up to Ben Haskel. Ben looked at me and frowned, and then said that with my terribly slow 10+ minute transitions, I would end up wasting at least 4-1/2 hours on transitions alone if I attempted something like the Spearhead Traverse. Ben then turned his attention to Jason Ramsey who had been one of the strongest members of our group, often being the last person to come in for the day. Ben suggested to Jason a 1 day attempt on Mount Baker (I thought this would be ideal for me, since it would only require one transition).
Ben went on to say that the challenge with guiding is that the guide and the client agree on a day or days, then they go and have to deal with whatever weather or conditions happen to come there way. If guide and client could be a bit more flexible, and try and both be available when the weather and conditions happened to be just right, then it would be possible to do a 1 day guided ski descent of something like Mount Baker. The real advantage of a trip like this, is that you wouldn't need to carry as much gear as you would need on the more traditional multi-day trips on Mount Baker.
I think that the other guys were unconvinced, but I personally really liked the idea of this trip. So over the coming months, Ben and I kept in touch. Ben would have a few free days, but I would be busy. I would have a few free days, but Ben would be busy. Eventually Spring slipped into summer, and quickly June was coming to an end. I figured I had one last shot at this trip. Ben and I finally managed to agree on a day (Tuesday June 29) and a time (4 AM at the Park & Ride North of Lynnwood). I managed recruited my brother Alex to join me on this adventure. Then a few days before we were going to leave something came up, and Ben was no longer able join us, but he talked Margaret into guided my brother and I on this trip.
When the actual day rolled around, we didn't get going until after 4:30 AM, and ended up needing to make a couple stops on the way up to the Schriebers Meadow, and without the use Ben's lead foot the drive took us a quite a bit longer than expected. In the end, it was nearly 8:30 AM when we started up the mountain. At the trail head there was a serious lack of snow, so we found ourselves hiking with skis on our back for over an hour, occasionally crossing patches of snow. After an interesting river crossing Margaret changed our path from the trail to following the river straight on up towards the Easton Glacier, with the hopes of reaching snow quicker.
It was a couple more crossings of the creek but we did eventually reach the snow and quickly started touring up the Easton Glacier. We toured for about an hour taking in the mountain, then stopped for a brief food break low on the glacier before continuing on our way up again. As Margaret led the way weaving around the crevasses lower on the glacier we found the sun constantly threatening to come out, but never appearing for more than a few moments at a time.
Around 11 AM, Margaret suggested that we were not going to reach the summit, and that we should plan on a 1 PM turnaround time. Despite the fact I was dragging a bit, I asked Margaret to consider extending it to a 2 PM turnaround time with a ultimate goal of 10K' and she agreed. However, by 1 PM I was really dragging and despite the mostly overcast conditions, I could not seem to get enough water in me. I was not at all disappointed when 2 PM rolled around and we were finishing with 9,750' high point at the crater rim. Where we stopped on the west side of the crater rim we were a bit more exposed to the wind than we had been on the way up and this made it pretty cold. Despite the chill, we all enjoyed looked into the steaming abyss, breathing in the sulfurous air, and considering the extra 90 minutes we would have needed to summit and turn around. Then we started the 6,400' descent back to the car.
Despite the late season we got about 1,500' of good turns, but then the snow got real soft, the clouds rolled in, and we were in the middle of a crevasse field hidden in thick clouds. I was glad to be following in Margaret's tracks at this point as we weaved our way around the crevasses, trying to catch the railroad grade at around 7,000'. Eventually finding the railroad grade we descended until there was literally no more snow to be skied, and for the first time this season I got a chance to do some distance down hiking in my AT-boots.
The hike back to the car seemed much longer than I remember it being on the way up, as the trail weaved in and around the seemingly endless Schriebers Meadow before eventually making it to the car. Before long we were in Mount Vernon enjoying a beer, burger, and considering plans for repeating this adventure again in the future.