Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mt. Baker - Coleman Deming Snowboard Descent 3/9/13

Video of Coleman Deming Ascent - March 9th, 2013

This climb really began on Friday at 5:00 a.m., the moment the alarm went off indicating that it was time to head to work at the Baker Ski Area.  Scotty and I decided to take advantage of the low avalanche danger and sunny weather on Saturday by splitboarding up the Coleman Deming, but this meant we would have to start after work on Friday without a return trip to Bellingham.  By 8:00 p.m. we were fully geared up and ready to go, however we were meeting our third party member, Kevin, at 11:30 p.m. which meant we had 3 long hours to "sleep" in the small Subaru.

Scotty sucking down some precious liquids
     Kevin was right on time with skis in hand and we were off at 12:10 a.m. from the 4-mile marker on Glacier Creek Road.  Two hours later we reached the trailhead to Heliotrope Ridge.

     The route up Grouse Creek starts behind the bathrooms and heads ESE into the major open drainage.  Skinning through this section up onto Heliotrope ridge was one of the toughest sections of the climb as it seemed to last forever.  We arrived up onto Heliotrope and the Coleman just beyond as the sun was beginning to light up the sky.

Twin Sisters Range from Heliotrope Ridge

We all put on harnesses and had our glacier gear ready to go but we felt it was not necessary to rope up this time as there was a faint skin track that led up through the obvious filled-in sections of the glacier.  By the time we arrived at the col at ~9,000 feet the sun was just getting onto and over the Roman Wall.  The sight was nothing less of spectacular!
Scotty and Kevin at the col ~9,000 ft

The wind was whipping at the col and above.  Ice formations built up on top of wind blown snow forced us to boot pack up to the summit plateau.  With skis on our backs and an axe in hand we ascended through the persistant wind at a slow pace.  We were feeling quite worn down as it was around 11 a.m. as were working the roman wall.
Kevin leading the bootpack party up to the Roman Wall above
Scotty on the upper slopes of Baker
As the slope mellowed onto the plateau we put on our skis for the final stretch to the true summit.  It felt good to be done with the vertical but every step was still a challenge even on the flat terrain.  The wind was whippin' hard on the summit (10,781 ft) so we did not stay much longer than it took to take a few photos and "touch poles" (ski poles... what'd you think I meant?).
Mt. Shuksan and surrounding area from Summit of Baker
We headed back to our spot above the Roman Wall to switch back to snowboard mode and we dropped off the plateau at 12:40 p.m., after about 12 hours of ascending ~ 9,000 vertical.  My camera began to malfunction (or perhaps I was malfunctioning) and so I did not get any photos of the epic ride back down.  Taking a total of 80 minutes to get from the summit to the car is enough reason alone to never walk up a volcano again!  Snow on the roman wall was windblown but very manageable and breakable with controlled turns.  A quick steep step and we were back onto the Coleman enjoying some beautiful powder all the way down grouse creek.  The snow was excellent the entire way down.

We were back to the car at 2:20 p.m. and back to Bellingham by 5.  I didn't get to sleep until 7 p.m. which puts my time awake at about 38 hours (5 a.m. friday until 7 p.m. saturday, not counting 1.5 hours of cramped hallucinations in the subaru).  I wish I had more time to sleep but the alarm was set for 5 a.m. again, had to go back to the Ski Area for work Sunday morning...

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