MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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July 1, 2015

Father and Son Shred the Mighty Baker Horn!

Just because winter is over, or didn’t really happen up here in the Pacific Northwest, doesn’t mean that that ski season is over!  Dan and his dad Magnus joined Mountain Madness and AMGA Certified Ski Guide Chris Marshall on a four-day ski mountaineering program on Mt. Baker.  They chose to head off the beaten path and climb and ski Mt. Baker via the Squak Glacier.  The Squak offers over 3500’ of fall line skiing!  The Squak Glacier is best described as an endless “Blue Square” ski run complete with the aesthetic views of large crevasses, the ocean, and towering serac fields.

Dan carving past crevasses.

With warm temperatures in the parking lot, our team got plenty of looks and inquiries from other folks as we strapped our skis/boards and boots to our packs and began hiking up the trail.  The approach to the Squak is more direct than the approach to the Easton camps, and we were at a beautiful camp below Crag View at 6100’ with time to spare in the evening.  I had never camped there before, and it was amazing!  The views of Shuksan to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west are not to be missed.  Add to this a complete lack of people for the first two nights, running water, and dry tent sites -- we were psyched.

People thought we were crazy, but the turns were worth it!

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. 

The exquisite view from camp at Crag View.

The weather on the mountain is fickle, as is the reliability of weather forecasts.  An unsettled weather pattern was moving in, and it looked like our best weather window called for an early start the following morning.  Unfortunately the window didn’t last long, but we persevered and successfully navigated around large crevasses and bergshrunds en route to the summit.  Magnus had never ski toured before, and quickly realized the benefits of alpine touring skis and skins.  Dan was a trooper as he bootpacked with his snowboard on his back the entire way!  The low swirling clouds gave the glacier an outer-worldly feel as we’d catch a glimpse of the serac fields to the east.  

An early start from camp got us moving up the mountain in good style.

Rope team travel up the Squak.

Due to the weather,  snow surface, and glacier conditions, it was inappropriate to ski from the summit on this particular trip, so we stashed out skis and boards at 9600’ before tackling the Roman Wall guarding the summit plateau.  As we climbed higher, the clouds began to thin, and to our disbelief, we saw blue sky as we made our way above the clouds.  A quick dash across the summit plateau, and we stood on top of Mt. Baker in time for some summit high fives and photos before the clouds moved in again. 

Dan and Magnus nearing the summit.

Father/son team on the summit of Mt. Baker.

All that awaited was the long and well-earned ski/ride back to camp.  We found great fall line skiing and riding, carving turns in the softened snow, passing crevasses and icefalls, and finally descending below the clouds for some welcome visibility.  It was a dramatic backdrop to cap off an extraordinary day and effort on Dan and Magnus’ part.

 

Magnus skiing past some seracs.

Dan riding with Sherman Peak in the background.

We used the remainder of the trip to dial in crevasse rescue skills to prepare for more glacier skiing in the future.  If you are a skier or rider of intermediate or above ability, YOU can ski Mt. Baker.  Skis/boards with skins make uphill travel more efficient, and the downhill infinitely more fun!  As with any ski mountaineering objective, you really “earn your turns,” and each one is more sweet because of it!  Dan and Magnus were introduced to ski touring for the first time on this trip, and they’re ready for more.  There are lots of classic ski descents here in the Pacific Northwest, come let us show you around!

 

Practicing crevasse rescue in camp.

~ MM Guide Chris Marshall