Mount Baker Climb + Ski Descent Overview
The trip was incredible. I give it 5 of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone. It’s tough to imagine a better time than we had. The mountain was beautiful and the guides were really wonderful. They were equally at home teaching those with less experience as they were with pushing the veterans. They found some great routes, set a good pace, and, most importantly, kept everyone safe. The skiing was AMAZING and the true highlight of the trip—it’s so good, that the summiting was almost incidental.
Boasting over a vertical mile of excellent skiing/riding, it’s no surprise that Mount Baker is high on the list for visiting ski mountaineers who flock to the Pacific Northwest as part of their spring volcano pilgrimage. First descended on skis in 1933, Mount Baker – Kulshan in the local Lummi language – earns its spot as one of the premier glaciated ski/ride descents due to its deep snowpack, numerous terrain options, and stunning position in the heart of the North Cascades. Mount Baker offers an ideal venue for any aspiring ski mountaineer and an excellent objective for graduates of our Intro to Backcountry Touring or those with prior backcountry skiing/riding experience.
This three-day instructional climb and descent is an excellent introduction to big-mountain skiing. We will have ample time to cover essential techniques for glaciated ski/splitboard mountaineering, as well as methods to increase efficiency and ease in backcountry travel in general. With a low 3:1 skier-to-guide ratio, our world-class guide staff will be able to provide personalized training and coaching throughout the expedition. A ski descent of Mount Baker is not only a worthy objective on its own but also an ideal stepping stone to other great ski descents and tours around the world.
Mount Baker, the highest point in the North Cascades, is a heavily glaciated and active but quiet stratovolcano. The 12+ active glaciers of Mount Baker cover an area exceeding 20 square miles. Mount Baker is unique with respect to its great mass of snow and ice and easy accessibility (requiring less than one day of hiking). This combination creates a perfect ski mountaineering training ground. This climb and descent of the ice-king of the North Cascades via some of the largest and most scenic glaciers in the contiguous US will be conducted by our experienced guides in what will be an unforgettable adventure.
TENTS EQUIPMENT & MEALS
Provided: All group climbing equipment, including climbing ropes and technical hardware; meals (except lunch); and tents.
Not Provided: Personal equipment and lunches. You are responsible for all items on the Gear List.
Note: We also offer a 10% discount at the Alpine Ascents Gear Shop located at our offices. We conduct a mandatory gear check the day before your climb. A confirmation package with all details will be sent upon registration.
Mount Baker Climb + Ski Trip Profile
|1||Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead to Base Camp||~2,750 ↑||4-5||40|
|2||Ski Training Day + Powder Run||~2,000 ↑, 2,000 ↓||4-6||15|
|3.||Basecamp to Summit to Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead||~4,350 ↑, 7,100 ↓||8-12||15 / 40|
We had a fantastic time. Our guides couldn’t have been better. The highlight of the trip was a unique descent route – although there were plenty of other parties on the mountain that day, all parties skied down the ascent route. In contrast, our guides took us down the fall line, a much more scenic ski between ice falls and away from the “crowds.” Great trip, I wouldn’t hesitate to do another trip with AAI. —2021 Climber
Frequently Asked Questions - Mount Baker Ski Descent
You will be emailed specific information for your course upon registration. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline.
A descent of Mount Baker includes terrain up to 40 degrees in steepness, sometimes in less than ideal snow conditions. You will also be skiing through glaciated terrain with open crevasses – thus you need to be able to ski in control at all times in all snow conditions.
The better your skiing or riding skills the more you will get out of ski mountaineering. You are not required to be a high level expert – but you should regularly ski terrain much more challenging than the groomed blue square or black diamond runs in a maintained ski area.
In addition to very good downhill skills, it is required that you have prior backcountry skiing or ski mountaineering experience. It is likely that if you need to rent touring gear for this program you should spend more time in the backcountry before attempting a ski descent of Mount Baker or any other glaciated peak.
Splitboards have been used in some of the toughest descents in the world and are regularly used for snowboard descents of Mount Baker. It is required that you have prior splitboarding experience. It is likely that if you need to rent a splitboard for this program you should spend more time in the backcountry before attempting a splitboard descent of Mount Baker or any other glaciated peak.
Snow conditions encountered on Mount Baker can range from perfect corn skiing to difficult crust and everything in between. Sometimes we even get spring powder turns. We do not expect skiers to link perfect turns in sun crust or other difficult snow conditions. We do expect you have the downhill movement skills to safely navigate challenging snow conditions with the direction of the guide.
Yes, you are required to bring both ski and boot crampons. Boot crampons are often needed for terrain that is too steep for us to ascend on skis and skins. Ski crampons are commonly used on glaciers so we can stay in our skis for uphill travel and not resort to walking on foot when the snow surface is firm and slick. Though ski crampons are not commonly used in many parts of North America during the winter ski touring season, they are a standard piece of equipment in the Cascades for spring ski mountaineering descents.
Yes, a simple ski mountaineering harness is required for this program and will be worn at all times on the glacier – even when we are not roped up. Bulky, padded rock climbing harnesses are not adequate for this program.
Though making a single turn on a glacier is pretty much like making a single turn anywhere else, we operate with a much higher state of awareness with glaciated skiing. Skiing into partially hidden and even open and obvious crevasses is a very real risk we mitigate with careful routefinding and a stricter travel plan than in normal backcountry skiing.
- From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street Exit and follow the signs to Seattle Center/Space Needle. (A quick right turn onto Fairview Ave., and a quick left turn onto Valley St., which becomes Broad Street.)
- After you pass the Space Needle on your right, make a right turn onto Denny Way.
- Proceed to 1st Ave. North and turn right.
- Proceed to Mercer Street and turn right.
- We are located at 109 West Mercer Street, directly across the street from Bank of America and Next Door to Ozzie’s Tavern.
Street parking is limited to 2-hour zones and parking meters, though there are several pay lots near our offices.
Guides are permitted to accept and greatly appreciate tips. Your guide team is composed of four guides. They will pool all tips received. An average tip for the full guide team is $100-$150.
Please be aware that we are unable to process tips by card. You are welcome to tip your guides with cash or via mobile payment such as Venmo or PayPal.
This is our highly recommended shortlist. We would be happy to pass along a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.
Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski MountaineeringMartin Volkan, Mountaineers Books
Staying Alive in Avalanche TerrainBruce Temper
Snow SenseJill Fredston and Doug Fesler
Backcountry Ski BookAllen O’bannon and Mike Clelland
“This was another great expedition with Alpine Ascents! Every step of the trip was very enjoyable and I had a great time with all of the guides. The guides were very nice and took the time to get to know each member of the group. The food was amazing once again and it is one […]