Last weekend we high-tailed it up to Mt Baker for a couple days of eating and riding. Going up I knew the cabin would be full as I had invitied 4 extras so we had a total of 10 people going up. I was surprised, however, to find 3 other people there WITH THEIR GIANT DOGS. Only one of them was a member of the cabin so I was disappointed to see that they had inivited friends with dogs into a shared cabin. WTF?

The good news is that they kept the dogs quiet, for the most part, and only occupied one room. Somehow they managed to leave at 7am without waking anybody. AMAZING.

The next day was slow going as a number of the pople that came up were beginners and also unfamiliar with the mountain. We took our time getting up to the mountain at about 10:30. We waited with them why they rented their boots and bought their lift tickets, but once they had everything they needed, we ditched them.

I felt kinda bad for leaving them. I guess I should’ve been the host, but this was perhaps the last chance I’d have all year to ride some great runs in the backcountry and I’d spent the last few weekends playing host, so I was pretty over that.

We did a few runs off chair 6, but quickly realized that most everything was tracked out. There were a few good turns tucked in-between trees here and there, but nothing that great and the middle of the runs were hard and thick and inconsistent.

With that in mind we headed up to chair 8. At the top we switched on the transceivers and threw our boards on our packs and started hiking straight up. That first 15 minutes or so is pretty much vertical and when you do get to the top, you are beat. I did convince the others to go higher than normal to squeeze out a few turns before heading out on the Arm ridge line. I’m glad I did too, as we had 5 or 6 turns on waist deep powder that nobody had touched yet.

From there we hiked out about 35 more minutes to the Heli-route, a moderate, but long run that is basically always avalanche safe, depending on the line you take. Getting out there is a workout though. You’re sort of yo-yoing the peaks of the ride (in blue), sometimes riding between them and sometimes walking. In the process, the weather kept changing from sun to light snow, never making up its mind. We also sort of wore out our 23 year old newbie.

We waited for him to catch-up and as we did, the snow started to get heavier and the visibility started to drop. We rushed him a bit and then started down.

Heli Route

The run was amazing. AMAZING. Best run of the year, hands down. The snow was surprisingly light and fluffy and the boards cut through the thigh-deep powder like it was butter. While a number of people had been down the run (maybe 20?) since it snowed last, there was still plenty of room to have virgin turns all to yourself.

We laughed all the way down. If you’ve never had a run through virgin powder like this, it’s really hard to describe. When there’s nobody around except your 3 buddies and the trees, it feels like you’re out in the wilderness, making turns in the middle of nowhere. I wish I had some pictures to show you, but I didn’t bring the camera.

I literally laughed the whole way down.

Even J, our 23 year old backcountry newbie, quickly forgot about all of his pain and proclaimed that the hiking was all worth it.  

Despite it being 1:30 and despite not having eaten lunch, and despite the pain in our legs from the hike and run, we had to do it again. We quickly hopped on chair 8 again and started the hike out. J was too tired to do it again (did I mention he’s 23? wtf?), but this time we made it out in about half the time. I think we were so excited from the first run.

The second run was just as good as the first and there was more laughing. However, when we were done, we were beat. I could barely stand up on my board again. We did do one more traverse out from chair 8, bit the opposite direction and with no vertical.

The run down was ugly. After the first few turns, it turned into a fight just to stay up on the board, calfs and thighs burning.

In the end, we made it down to the bar before the beginners. In fact, I think we finished a pitcher before they even showed up. We might have only boarded for 4 hours, but we were exhausted and the exhaustion was well worth it. Long live Mt Baker.