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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Table Mountain Circumski

In early March, I spent a weekend making the most of the ski conditions down around the Glacier, Washington area. I had low expectations for the snow conditions, but warm temperatures were in the forecast and all I wanted was good views and corn skiing. On the Saturday, Agi Georgia Keith Kasia Mitch Catherine Martin and I headed up to the Mount Baker ski area in search of turns.

This year, the snowpack to the south has been just as dismal at the low elevation. Normally, on the drive up to the Heather Meadows base area, the side of the roads are lined with high snowbanks. This time the road was barren, the parking lot completely visible and everywhere was green or brown. Looking around, it might as well be June.

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A bare parking lot, with Mount Larrabee behind.


Agi poses with her skis, the first photo was taken on a cold day in November, with temperatures down to -15C. In contrast, the temperature reached 10C on this early March day.

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Just enough snow to ski on.

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Mount Shuksan dominates the skyline here. The south side of Shuksan arm is free of snow.

The trees leading into the south face of Table Mountain were thin. It's best to traverse high here to get to the open slope. Normally this isn't an issue, and going down through the trees is fine, but I found discontinuous snow and deep tree wells this time.

Corn skiing was excellent on the smooth south slopes at 11am. Most of the snow has fallen off the south face of Table Mountain, with avalanche debris below. Freezing levels were high all weekend, at 2400-2600m. The winds were light all day, and temperatures reaching 10C. I skied in a t-shirt the entire day, never needing to put on another layer.

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Agi harvesting corn on the south side of Table Mountain

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Keith skis without a shirt on this warm March day.

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The group skiing along the south side of Table Mountain

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Agi transitioning, with a view of Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacle, and Mount Baker Park Glacier behind.

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The group and Mount Baker.

I enjoyed two laps down from the col south of Table Mountain, down into Wells Creek. Compared to last year, there was way less snow here, with rocks showing on exposed moraines. The skiing was good, smooth and buttery.

We continued the circuit around Table Mountain, adding in an extra climb to the summit plateau. Instead of skiing down the steeper northeast aspects into Bagley Lake, we reversed the climb and skied more soft west-facing corn back down. The corn was slightly over-baked, but everybody was having a great time. Especially Agi, who shredded with perfect technique. It's the type of snow and ski conditions that she grew up with back in Ontario. Not like the weird fluffy deep stuff we normally get here.

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Thin snow coverage on this moraine. The open slopes of Ptarmigan Ridge will continue to have good skiing for a while.

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There's more rock exposed than normal, but not an issue for skiing.

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Agi climbs up for another lap

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Catharine and Kasia skinning along the summit plateau with Mount Shuksan

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Agi skis the west facing corn

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It's all about the timing and aspect in spring conditions.

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Agi railing in the soft corn conditions

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Kasia having fun in the snow.

Mazama Lake was not frozen, and I took off my skis to cross the creek draining from Iceberg Lake. After crossing the frozen Iceberg Lake, we continued up to the Herman saddle. I was not looking forward to the descent down to Bagley Lakes. From the parking lot, I noticed that the entire south side of Mount Herman was snow free, with snow patches below trees and talus field. The creek draining southeast from the saddle was also snow-free.

We skied down below the Herman Saddle to 4600' and then took off skis to cross the creek, easily done on solid boulders. The entire north side of Table Mountain had avalanched in the past week, leaving behind several hundred metres of icy debris to navigate through on skis.

The ski area has been doing their best to stay open. The Blueberry cat track was groomed, and uphill access on it was fine, with some bare patches. There were lots of skiers out enjoying the sunshine and groomers despite the limited terrain available. The ski area closed the following Monday, and operations are on standby. The good news is that the base area received another foot, and twice that on the upper areas in the last storm. Some rain is forecasted before the weekend, but there is a chance of snow after that. Here's to a snowy spring!

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A very short walk between the snow. Don't let this deter you.

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Crossing Iceberg Lake

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Doing my best to stay cool during the day. Snow angels first, then barrel rolling down the slope.

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Mount Shuksan

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Kasia skiing below the Herman Saddle

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Crossing the creek below Herman Saddle. It was straightforward, again, don't be deterred by this!

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Back at the cabin,  Keith and Georgia prepared an awesome dinner. Ski to eat!


Smoked salmon with cream cheese, and Coq au Vin

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The evening entertainment was a murder mystery game. We all dressed up for our roles. Here, Martin is dressed up as a French Duke.


Agi as a journalist, and Kasia as a wealthy socialite.

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