Mount Baker-Skiing the Coleman-Deming Route

After a three hour drive from Federal Way I arrived at the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead on FSR 39 (see the 2000 report for driving directions) around 10:30pm. My alarm was set for 3:00am. Somewhere around 3:45am I awoke for no other reason than the back seat of a Kia Sportage is a tough place to sleep. I was off to a late start. After pouring down  a couple of mocha frappuccinos and stuffing down too many cinnamon powder donuts, I was on my way. The original plan was to go light and go fast but by the time I added skis, crampons and an ice axe to my pack  the plan was just to go fast. 

I started the hike on FST 677 just before the clock struck 4:00am. It was dark but I knew the sun would be out soon. It was warm and the sky was mostly clear but I could see that there were a few high clouds. The trail was in great condition relative to many of the trails I had been on this spring. There was very little snow and only a few trees downed below c.4800' where the forest gives way to more open terrain. From there is was all snow to the crest of the Hogback which was mostly melted out.

Bring on the sunshine-Baker from the "Hogback"

At the top of the Hogback there were several tents set-up at the traditional camp. I started up the Coleman Glacier and worked between a few small crevasses on the moderate slope just above the camp. Beyond that the glacier was in great shape, particularly if you were thinking of crossing it to climb one of the more difficult routes. It wasn't until I was past the Colfax Peak ice cliff that I encountered a crevasse that made me wonder just how deep it was. It was a step across on a really short but somewhat steep slope. There didn't appear to be a better way around it and I made a note of its location for the descent.

Somewhere on the Coleman Glacier

I could tell by the speed at which the clouds were moving over the summit that it was windy. After reaching the saddle between the summit and Colfax Peak, I found out just how windy it was. I was being tossed around pretty well due in part to the skis that I had strapped to my pack. After kicking myself for not bringing my climbing skins so my skis could be an asset rather than a liability on the ascent, I decided to leave them at c.9400'. After reaching the top of the partially melted out divide between the Coleman and Deming Glaciers I crossed onto the steeper slopes of the upper Deming. Noting that there was a lot of  ice hanging on Roman Wall, I traversed until I was at a safe distance away. For the most part, the snow on the Deming was less consolidated than it had been on the Coleman and there was a softening crust. 

The Twin Sisters with the Black Buttes in the foreground

I passed two people on their way up and four climbers on their way down as I made my way up the steepest slope on the route (40 degrees max). After reaching the summit plateau, I made my way to the summit. It was 9:20am when I arrived. I checked out the views. Shortly after arriving a couple of climbers who had climbed via the Easton Glacier Route reached the summit. The couple that I had passed on the Deming arrived and I was a bit surprised to find out that he was a 65 year old seasoned mountaineer and she was 49 and had never climbed anything before! By 10:00am I had had my fill of the mountain social scene and cookies. I was ready to descend.

Baker's steam vent

I post holed my way down the upper Deming and would have kicked myself for not bringing my skis if I had thought I wasn't taking enough abuse already. Finally on skis, I made my way to the one crevasse that I had noted on my way up. The snow had been near perfect to here. Beyond that it was straight forward skiing on more good snow back to the top of the Hogback. The [skier's] left side of the hogback was partially melted out so I went down on the right then crossed the crest on the one remaining patch of snow and continued down to c.4800' where the snow ended abruptly. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't skied the entire distance from the summit to snowline, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the 4600' that I did ski. 

Mt Baker from the Coleman Glacier


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 3, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 29, 30, 31
100 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes in Washington; Rainer Burgdorfer; Pages 48-50
Alpine Select; Kevin McLane; Pages 344-345
Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes; Jeff Smoot; Pages 42-43, 49
Climbing Washington's Mountains; Jeff Smoot; Pages 24-29
100 Classic Hikes in Washington; Ira Spring and Harvey Manning; Pages 26-27