Baker's Blitz: Park Headwall plus Sky Chutes Corey above the Boulder Glacier

15 June 2004

The Boulder-Park Cleaver is the most direct and aesthetic ski route from Grant's Peak, the summit of Mt Baker. It concavely ascends toward the summit directly from a snowfield around six-thousand feet, poses the least possible crevasse hazard, and conveniently situates the lucky ski mountaineer around 9,200' near the base of the Park Headwall when it is finished. Let us rejoice that the Boulder Ridge Trail starts a daunting 1,000+ vertical feet lower than the Heliotrope Ridge Trail. Combine that with the fact that it is nearly an hour closer to Seattle, so that no one goes there because it is too crowded, and I can sleep easily at nights; I know my stash is safe.

Corey and I left Seattle together late Monday night. We decided to stop at the hot springs before getting some sleep at the end of the road. It was raining as we drove to the hot springs. While we were sitting in the warm water relaxing, it sounded like it was raining, but it was only drops falling off leaves in the forest; the rain was finished. We finally got to sleep after midnight. I was amply motivated by the early light before sunrise and a strong desire to ski more than one route. We were out of our sleeping bags shortly after four. The first thing I did was brew a liter of hot chocolate, then I threw a big bag of coffee grounds into the pot and let it simmer for a minute. We were well motivated as we threw our bags and pads into Corey's Jeep and headed up the trail.

skinning Corey skins up the cleaver with Mt Shuksan in the background.

The trail had only really small patches of snow up to the marsh. There weren't many patches of snow along the trail, but there was a good snowpack when we exited the trees around 4,500'. For an easy two-hour hike we were rewarded with 6,000+ continuous vertical feet of skiable snow to the summit of Mt Baker. I was ecstatic.

There was a Californian who was by himself. He asked us how far we would go. I told him we would go to the summit. He did not seem interested in venturing so high alone. I was only interested in charging up the mountain to ski some killer lines. Corey was with me.

I donned boots and crampons where the cliffs were melting out of the snow, just before the toe of the glacier. The snow was great. Once off the toe of the Boulder Glacier, we skinned up the remainder of the snowfield to the Boulder-Park Cleaver. I usually don't like skinning on exposed slopes so much, but the snow was perfect and we sailed as I laid a track and Corey followed for 3,000 vertical feet. Due to recent heavy snowfall, possible shallow snow over crevasses, and some close calls I remembered from May, we used the rope for safety at the top of the cleaver. I made a direct line for the Park Headwall.

The bergschrunds posed no problem at all. I skirted the rockbands on the right and we continued up the headwall without bothering to remove the rope. I just didn't want to stop. The headwall seemed smaller than before as I climbed it.

climbing Park Headwall Corey climbs the Park Headwall.

We took a break on the summit. Corey tried to find shelter from the wind, since he had dropped his down vest on the cleaver. The headwall always looks more intimidating from above. It starts over forty degrees, then it rolls convex so that you can't see it. A steep, convex slope like this is one of my greatest skiing pleasures. Making a smooth jump turn over the edge, out of sight, yields icomparable exhilaration. Add to this deep, fresh snow in which one could scarcely fall and the result is often uncontrollable laughter. Corey may or may not agree with me. He made a few tentative turns off the top. I think he was just trying to hide his elation; he's a more modest fellow than me.

We met at the roll. I went over it, then had Corey ski most of the way while I snapped photos. I skied an interesting narrow spot between two rocks. We stopped about 1,500' below the summit after traversing the slope to our boot tracks.

Conditions had seemed quite safe the first time up the headwall, so we decided not to bother with the rope this time. We followed our tracks without a problem. I had to kick new tracks on the upper half since fresh snow had already filled them. Our ski tracks were scarcely visible. I love June in Washington. I had scoped a tight chute above the Boulder Glacier for the next run. I eyed it from the summit. I sure hoped we could find a good entrance.

skiing How's that for June?

ski high It's good to be above the clouds.

We did find a good entrance. It was a really fun little shot. The light was just perfect as we skied it. I'd like to ski it again. Who knows, maybe with an ample midwinter snowpack it could be skied more directly, maybe with some shenanigans through the cliffs above it!?!?!?

scenic skiing The entrance to the chute is just left of Corey.

chute me Da Chute

peligro Slightly intimidating


carve corn on skis Delicious, perfectly roasted corn above Baker Lake

beautiful corn snow

Washington Ski Map