It’s no secret that Mount Baker Ski Area gets dumped on—it holds the world record for most snowfall in a season with 95 feet over the winter of 1998-99. And as a popular lift-served destination, it’s getting more and more crowded by the year. But if you want to experience the slopes of the Pacific Northwest sans people, head to the resort’s namesake. Washington’s third-highest peak, 10,778-foot Mount Baker stands just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. On this snow-covered volcano, you’ll find a mountaineering adventure rife with deep pow opportunities. With permanent snowfields, 12 glaciers, and an average of 50 feet of snowfall each year, the peak is skiable year-round—just be sure to monitor conditions, know your avalanche safety and watch the weather.
You’ll find plenty of technical challenges on the peak, but the popular Coleman–Upper Deming Glacier route, which gains 7,000 feet in 5.5 miles, delivers sweeping views and a relatively straightforward ascent if conditions and visibility align. Remember, it’s a technical glacier climb: Ski mountaineers should have helmets, crampons, ice axes and ropes, and they must posses proficient glacier, navigation, travel and rescue skills. Permits are not required, but the Forest Service urges parties to register at a nearby ranger station. For more info go to tinyurl.com/yarjy6fh.
From I-5 just north of Bellingham, Washington, drive east on SR 542/Sunset Highway. One mile east of the Glacier Public Service Center, turn right (south) onto CR 39/Glacier Creek Road and continue nine miles to the trailhead at 3,700 feet. The road remains snow-covered until approximately mid-June so plan to drive in as far as possible and then hike or skin to the trailhead. From here, work your way uphill through dense forest as you follow the Heliotrope Ridge Trail, which is completely snow-covered in winter and spring.
2. Climber’s Route
After crossing Kulshan Creek, the trail curves left, wraps around a small ridge and forks. Take the right path (the left heads to Glacier View) and follow the climber’s trail up. It soon punches above treeline, delivering clear views of the peak.
3. Hogsback Camp
Head up the lateral moraine to reach camp and the start of the glacier at approximately 6,000 feet. We suggest spending the night here. There are higher spots to bivvy, but Hogsback offers sheltered, flat sites and makes a prime start for a reasonable summit day.
4. Black Butte Camp
After climbing steeply up the Hogsback Headwall, the route eases a bit and gradually ascends along Heliotrope Ridge. Near Point 7242, veer left (southeast) to leave the ridge and climb below another ridge of rugged, rocky peaks where you’ll likely see tent campers.
5. Coleman Saddle
Be aware of avalanche conditions and wary of rockfall as you skirt along the Black Buttes. Continue up as the route curves directly east to gain the 9,200-foot saddle between Colfax and Grant Peaks. Head left (northeast) and stay right of the Roman Wall as you ascend the Pumice Ridge, a rocky, icy spine with an incredible view. Depending on snow conditions, you might want to leave skis/snowboards at the saddle.
Leaving the ridge behind, begin scaling the upper Deming Glacier as you tackle the steepest pitch yet on the route to reach the wide, inviting plateau that leads to the summit.
Baker’s a volcano and its highest point (called Grant Peak) is actually a 1,300-foot-deep mound of ice hiding a massive crater. From your perch towering above the surrounding landscape, revel in views of the Twin Sisters, Picket Range, Mount Shuksan and Puget Sound. Retrace your steps for the descent, utilizing skis when you feel comfortable and remaining aware of crevasse and avalanche dangers.
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