How many NW HIkers does it take to plan an overnighter in Junuary - er, I mean, February? Everyone wanted to take advantage of this glorious weekend - can you believe that we haven't had two sunny weekend days since Aug. 1 & 2 of 2009?? (At least according to Steve Poole of KOMO-TV!) Apparently, alot of NW Hikers decided to get out. Some did an overnighter on Sourdough. Some did a day trip along the Mountain Loop. And then, there was our group. In various degrees of organization, we at least agreed to meet at the Mt. Baker ski area parking lot. Heck, once we got there, we could have just stayed put and saved ourselves a lot of time and needless energy expenditure!
Views from parking lot . . .
Jim was a bit nervous about the lack of certainty for our destination.
Jim checking his life insurance policy.
However, undaunted, we lined up to discuss our plans for the next 36 hours: Barb E., Jim K, Opus (David); Scarlett Dorian (Beth), and Lauren.
Yup, that's just about which way we went!
You guys don't have a clue, do you?
We did notice one gentleman who was over by the edge of the parking lot, intensely studying the snowpack. We all were curious about who he was and why he was so focused on the snow in front of him. Barb E, the international representative of our group (and medal-winning Olympian from the Humpback Uphill event) merely stated that, "He is a Euro-peein'!" With that, off we headed for destinations unknown. It was about 9:30 a.m. and already the day was absolutely glorious. Our initial thought was to head to Mt. Ann - but one of our group was not "feeling" the love of this trip - that is, she woke up sick in the morning - but was determined not to let this spectacular weekend get away from her. So, we readjusted our overnight destination, thinking that we could make a day trip of Mt. Ann. Snowshoes came on immediately, although the snow was quite firm - but there was still sinking each step and the shoes belonged on our feet and not our packs! We were surprised to see so many people camped so close to the parking area. Maybe they knew something we didn't!
Pimples on the peak
We set our somewhat non-functioning compasses towards Artist's Point and off we set . . .
Mazama Dome in the distance
Lots of folks out and about
Some of us took our mission seriously . .
Barb seriously studying the route
While "others" dallied behind . . .
David and his women chatting it up . .
However, none of us could keep our eyes off of the views opening up around us - the combination of white-white snow and blue-blue sky almost was overwhelming.
First glimpse of Baker
At last, we reached what would be our overnight destination and lunchtime.
Shoes get a rest . . .
Before long, there were swarms of people around us - they must have known that we were the (in)famous NW Hikers group! One set of visitors particularly was enjoying Junuary at Baker.
Just about sums up the day . . . .
Alaska visitors . . .
But, we needed to set about preparing camp - with the hopes that we could still get in some kind of an adventure yet today. You will notice who is doing all of the work here . . .
Lauren doing some housekeeping
Lauren figuring out which end is up . . . sorta'
The knock-off version of an MSR tent
Gus supervising . . .
By about 1:30 p.m. we set off for a try at Table Mountain (5742') - although it's not really much gain to get to the top, when there is a vertical slope of snow, it presents more of a challenge.
Lemmings reaching the edge of the earth . . .
Others have more pics of this heroic effort by David and me to summit this "peak," but I'll just say that Tom S. and Jim D. have nothing on the two of us!!!!
Who needs stinkin' ropes????
It was the traverse that did us in, however, and we retreated to safer ground back with the others - deciding that maybe if we went around to the other end of Table, we might find another route. But, not far on our way as we were going down a steep section to reaching the traverse at the base of Table, Beth's "crud" caught up with her and she opted to head back to camp. The softening snow turned Jim around too, as he was slogging along with Barb and me - so he turned back. Barb, Gus and I were on our own for further explorations - pointing in the direction of Coleman Pinnacle where we had seen two skiers (and their small white terrier) headed - they were going to climb Baker the next day and ski down (with pup in the pack!).
The girls and their dog
We crossed several spots of much earlier avi debris
Barb and Gus crossing avi debris heading out toward Colman Pinnacle
but as we progress, the views opened up more to the south and the west (except the views that were blocked by this big ol' lump of Mt. Baker!
Captivating views all around
And looking behind us to Shuksan.
Glorious scenery near Artist's Point - Mt. Shuksan behind. President's weekend 2010
Reaching the end of Table Mountain, I spotted a worthy bump for us to at least stake a claim on for the day
The unrequited bump
- but Barb looked at me rather askance and suggested that it was getting late and we might not make it back to camp in daylight! Oh well, we got some distance and elevation on our little sojourn, so we called it good and headed back towards camp. By now, the snow was firming up considerably, because the temp had dropped. We reached camp just as the sun was dropping behind Baker casting some wonderful light.
Barb and Lauren in "evening" glow (looking north)
Lauren glowing . . .
Fading light on Mt. Shuksan
The temperature was dropping fast - as was the light. We organized for appetizer hour (the wine platypus definitely comes in handy - holds a whole bottle!). By the time we finished dinner it was all of about 7:15 p.m. Not wanting to spend close to 12 hours in the tent, we did a little star gazing. Even though the moon was only about 1/3 - it was so bright we didn't even need our head lamps! However, we did think that we spotted some headlamps over towards Sourdough and the Matt troupe! There was question about how warm people would be during the night. Lauren was in a very light-weight MSR (or RSM knock-off) tent; Barb was in a Rainbow Tarp tent; Beth and David were in a Hele Nallo II; and Jim and I were in a Nallo III (well, Gus needed some space too! ). Both Jim and I had ExPed down mattresses and we were glad we did! I was toasty in my 15 degree bag - even with the vents open to prevent condensation. Others didn't fare as well. Poor Barb and Beth were almost popsicles! And, the cold didn't help Beth feel much better in the morning. But, it was another spectacular day.
Baker in the morning
It was decided that Jim, David, Barb, Gus and I would head on towards Mt. Ann (~5860'). We decided to leave a lot of our gear in Barb's tarp tent at Austin Pass (good idea! ) and then start our trek from here. Meanwhile, Beth and Lauren were going to lounge in the sun and meet us back at the car around 4 or 5. We found the summer trailhead and were amazing at the low snow level.
Summer trailhead for Lake Ann
Even at 9:30 a.m. it already was beginning to warm up as we dropped down towards the meadows we would need to cross to head up the other end of the valley.
Heading to the meadows on our way to Mt. Ann
We were uncertain if we should attempt the route that David had done in June with Trail Pair - then, they headed up to Lake Ann and following the ridge to a false summit, dropped around it and on up to Mt. Ann; or, should we follow Matt's legions last December that took a more direct route up the end of the valley just below the ridge to Mt. Ann - the former route might be less steep, but Matt's route would be more direct and cut some distance. Given that we had been fairly directionless to this point in any case, we decided that we would attempt Matt's route. Well, that sounded good in theory, but what we didn't plan on were all of the creek crossings and gullies we had to go down and up to make any progress. Even in when David did the trip in June, these areas were filled in and were not a problem, but these crossings would eat up a LOT of time! The first major crossing was the most challenging - just trying to find a place to cross. Gus easily found a route and peered at us from the other side wondering what was taking us so long - of course, he picked a route that he easily swam across! I finally found what looked to be a partial snow bridge, but it required a steep climb up the other side and using a tree for a belay. I took off my snowshoes and was able to kick footholds and scramble up the side, and then set an ice ax so the others didn't have to remove their snowshoes. Here are a few pics of that crossing.
Barbara hauling Jim K out of the creek - Gus supervising
David crossing creek
David crawling out of the creek
By the time we reached the end of the valley we had to make a decision. It already was after Noon and we doubted that we had enough time to make Mt. Ann - so we agreed to settle on Lake Ann (4700'). That in itself was a worthy goal, as we still needed to climb quite a ways from the valley floor to the lake - and had more ravine and creek crossings to make. Occasionally we ran into some ski tracks - but no snowshoe tracks.
Troops coming up the last leg to Lake Ann
Before long, (and after several false ridges) we were at Lake Ann.
Barb at Lake Ann
We did notice two snowshoers back behind us. (We would follow their more direct route back - but it, too, had creek crossings that became somewhat problematic - although not as bad as what we encountered on the way in.) Barb and I wanted to get a little higher on the ridge to take in more views.
David and Jim were content to stay down closer to the lake. From our perch, we could see the two other snowshoers who were headed to the far end of the lake (and disappeared!).
Snowshoers heading to the southeast end of Lake Ann
We also got a spectacular view of Shuksan, with the moon above (you'll have to click on the picture to get a zoom and see the moon!)
Moon above Mt. Shuksan
Poor Gus was at a loss as to who had the better lunch - should he stay close to us or go back to the guys? He ended up running up and down the slope about four times. David and Jim captured his escapades! He did finally settle on sticking with the girls - guess we had a better lunch!
Gus guarding Lake Ann
By 1:30 p.m. we knew we had better get started back - not wanting to miss an adventure, we decided to take a more direct approach of our own, ending up on a very steep (fortunately, short) slope that required micro-spikes and tricky footwork. Once down that, we rejoined the other snowshoers tracks and headed back toward the meadow (grabbing a group shot too) and looked back at where we had been.
Meadows southwest of Shuksan/Lake Ann
Now was the final slog back up to Austin Pass - the snow was pretty firm, but it was about 400' of fairly steep uphill at the end of the day . "Someone" suggested that we should head up the steepest part of the slope to get back to the tent, but "others" said, "Oh no, head for that lower, less steep gap and blue sky!"
Barb celebrating a little too soon!!!
Well, we got to the gap, but had to climb up a ridge to be able to drop back down to where the tent was! We quickly got our gear stuffed into our backpacks however we could and beat feet off of Austin Pass and back to the cars by about 4:30 p.m. - Beth and Lauren arrived only about 15 minutes ahead of us. The light was fading and the temperature already had dropped to 32. So, we figured a warm meal at Grahams in Glacier was in order! An absolutely spectacular trip - even though we really didn't summit anything (Barb and I got about 5400' - Gus about 10,000' and Jim K and David about 4800') - but great friends and lots of fun make up for any lack of altitude!!! And, the views, oh the views! Not bad for June in February!
We never would have guessed that creek crossings would have been a problem. What a beautiful area!
You and me both! We just waltzed through that valley two years ago. Guess we were lucky. Even with all our aimlessness it was a grand weekend to be out! Finally some great weather, and the company wasn't too bad either.
Big thanks to Lauren for saving my butt with her Pocket Rocket stove and extra fuel. My Whisperlite failed for some unknown reason.
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