After a brutal finals week spent stuck inside, I was eager to get out skiing. Especially since the forecast for Mt. Baker called for sunny skies, something that I have a feeling I am not going to be seeing often over the next few months. When we woke to a foggy day I wondered about the accuracy of the weather reporting. Perhaps “sunny” has a different definition up here in the wet and scrappy PNW?
The weather still looked iffy as we drove up the Mt. Baker Highway. We kept faith alive and drove on. As we got up higher and farther inland, the fog started thinning. Then, while we drove up the final switchbacks, we broke through the clouds and were treated to an amazing bluebird sky.
We decided on hiking up to Ptarmigan Ridge below Table Mountain and skiing some laps there. Hiking up to Ptarmigan Ridge from the parking lot, we were a little disappointed at the snow conditions. What had been powder a few days ago had turned into nasty breakable crust that we were barely punching through.
However, as we moved farther up the ridge and into the sunshine, the air started warming up, giving us hope that it would melt the crust a little.
We began the traverse, but as the day got warmer we began seeing signs of wet snow avalanches. It definitely wasn’t crusty anymore — it had gone too far the other direction. To avoid any chance of being ‘launched by a sloppy,’ we decided to take a run towards some lower elevation trees and hike back through them. Things definitely didn’t feel like December as we skied down in t-shirts though heavy wet stuff.
Once we got to the bottom, we did one more lap in the trees and then headed back. On the other side of the ridge the snow was still almost rock hard, as the low sun hadn’t hit it all day, and the air felt about 10 degrees cooler. We got back to the car about three, and arrived home in time to catch something bland to eat at the dining hall.
Good to get out no matter what, and in the bluebird no less!
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.