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Table Mountain Circuit

Feb 19, 2005

Despite the lack of recent snowfall, I was confident we could find some enjoyable touring off the baker ski resort. The weather forecast was perfect and avalanche danger was moderate in the alpine. Given the choice, I would always take good weather and avi over powder.

Despite our best efforts, our departure from Vancouver was delayed. Colin didn’t wake up, Grahame was late, I forgot my skins and we had to detour to pick up Julia. Neil was the only one who was both on time and prepared.

By the time we reached the parking area is was well into the morning, but clear skies were exciting. We headed up the resort and out towards table mountain, at which point Julia and Colin decided to have and easier day. We split with the plan to meet again at Herman Saddle later in the day.

Neil, Grahame and I headed up the south ridge of Table to the base of the prominent rocky step. Being my first time in the area with good weather I was pretty excited to get some views of the area. I was surprised at the number of folks around. We encountered tons of backcountry skiers from both Washington and B.C., an avalanche course, several folks camping, a number of kite skiers, and 2 mountaineer types heading for baker. And we met all of these people within 1 hour of the parking lot! I get the feeling places in Washington are a lot busier than the duffey.

About an hour from the parking lot we reached a pass with excellent views of the route out towards Ptarmigan Ridge and Mount Baker itself. I was very impressed with the opportunity for ski runs off Ptarmigan Ridge. Unfortunately I had forgotten the topo map in the car (which I worried I had lost during a break that morning) and I didn’t even realize that the Sholes Glacier was hidden from view. There was even more touring to be done, and I’m sure I’ll be back there soon. The guidebooks all describe Ptarmigan Ridge as a tour to Coleman Pinnacle, which is a bit misleading in my opinion. The real objectives here are the many enticing runs off Ptarmigan Ridge.

We debated heading out a bit along the ridge, but instead opted to circumnavigate Table Mountain and meet our friends at Herman Saddle. Some folks gave us beta that you couldn’t cut straight across from the pass overlooking Ptarmigan Ridge which turned out to be untrue, but thanks to them we did enjoy more descent then we would otherwise have. We gat a nice run off the pass for about 500 ft and found some excellent snow. From there we toured up trough trees and eventually reached a lake below Herman Saddle. Another short grunt up and we met the rest of our group at the saddle. The views from this saddle are inspiring: it’s possible to see both the north face of Shuksan and Mount Baker.

After a late lunch we decided to head back to the car. The runs from Herman Saddle and Table Mountain heading back to the resort were pretty cut up. This is a very popular area and if it hasn’t snowed in a while it’s unlikely to find anything fresh. The flip side of this is that the area likely benefits from significant skier stabilization.

Overall it was a great day. Good weather, good company good views. I was excited to see some of the great terrain near baker and I’ll be heading back sometime soon. I think in the future I’ll ski out towards Ptarmigan Ridge one or two hours and pitch a cam. Day trips from Vancouver also work very well here, and the mountaineers cabin would be another good bet.

Mount Baker Backcountry to do objectives:

  • North aspect chutes off Table Mountain
  • Runs off Herman Saddle and especially the north facing slopes on the east and west side of the saddle.
  • 4 Runs off the north side of Ptarmigan Ridge
  • Sholes glacier
  • Table Mountain Circuit (very little descent on this route)
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