Mount Baker-Park Headwall via BP Cleaver 10,781-ft
August 6-7 2005

Jason, Josh, Paul, Hannah, and Seth

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this pretty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

....Shakespeare: Macbeth

Summer skiing is like ice cream for breakfast. Mount Baker is just one big sundae.

Paul, Josh and I found ourselves deciding that a bivy Saturday night would add to our weekend splurge. The shooting stars rocketed across the night's sky and the Milky Way wowed our dulled senses more used to the cities muffled reflection of it.

The warm breeze reawakened us at 7am. Hannah and Seth, who had slept at the parking lot, could be seen inching up towards us. Meanwhile we gathered our gear and were able to meet them at the end of the moraine, pass a hello, before continuing up to the fixed line that leads to the ridge top.

Baker Lake and forest. Photo: Josh
Our bivy site.

There was snow where the ridge steepened, and this is where we all met up again before continuing with shoes up both the rock and snow, whatever appeared the easiest. After a few thousand feet, battle with the intolerable heat had won a victory, and left us downing our supply of water to lessen the sting of defeat.

More climbing up snowfields eventually ended as we made our way off of the Boulder-Park Cleaver onto the glacier proper. Crampons were strapped on so we could stay on the ice rather than the soft snow and they were kept on since the Park Headwall was coming up.

After another break we made the final push to the summit by first negotiating a bergschrund. We figured since Seth works for RMI (a guiding service), and since he does this stuff for a living, we'd allow him the privilege of breaking tracks for us. After he climbed over the cornice on top, a "Thanks man," from each of us was payment enough.

It became quit a bit more chilly on the summit and coats were quickly adorned to fend off its chill effects. Either that or thoughts of the Park Headwall were worming into our confidence. Either way the summit wouldn't be extending any invitations and we weren't inclined to overstay our welcome.

What are you smiling about, eh?.
Looking towards Baker Lake.
Seth, Paul, Hannah and Josh with Shuksan behind. Climbing up the glacier.

Working our way off of the Boulder-Park Cleaver onto the Park Glacier.

One particularly exciting crack that provided pause before crossing.
That crossing. Photo: Josh Seth. Photo: Josh
Hannah crossing debris. Josh and Seth climbing the headwall.

Sherman Peak.

Looking down on Hannah.
Standing on the summit. Skiing off of the summit cap.
How does it look, bro?

Seth and Paul didn't feel comfortable skiing the headwall and joined Hannah on the descent of the Boulder Glacier while Josh and I looked for the best place to drop in. The snow throughout wasn't appealing, offering an icy crust (that easily broke away) over slush and another layer of hard snow. At the top I did manage to turn, if conservatively while lower down I resorted to the classic sidestep and sideslip technique. When we both arrived at the bottom, we were pretty happy. One of these days I'd like to get that route in good condition; it makes all the difference.

No, this is how you do it bro. Photo: Josh
It must be good? Seth going fishin' for a ski.

Fortunately there was still thousands of feet of promising skiing to go, the first turns of which we watched as the others skied down to join us. There was some scattered rocks and Hannah didn't want to scratch her nice skis, so she took them off and fumbled one of them. In a gulp the first crevasse hungrily swallowed.

Since we hadn't used the rope, now seemed like a good time to do so. Paul would lower Seth who had just finished making a bollard with his skis, down into the crevasse. Near the end of the rope which is a 100-ft, he called out, "I see it 20-ft below!" Paul was looking at maybe 5-ft of rope. I got his pack to lay on and he gave him as much slack as possible. We didn't know whether or not he was able to retrieve it until he climbed over the top...with a ski and a weary expression. He told us, "I was on a ledge when I yelled that I had 20-ft, when that broke and dropped me another 10. With your slack and my inverting and reaching out with my axe, I was able to snag it."

The sun had lagged behind Baker and the shadow now marched down the glacier, always one step ahead of us. There was so much wide open terrain up there that we couldn't help ourselves. The route did tighten up into a chute which we all skied down before waiting in the next slope. There I told Hannah, who is new to skiing that she should "...go first. It's so much better that way." Well, we did provide her with a show.


Hannah happy as pie. Photo: Josh
Skiing down the glacier. Photo: Josh
Chasing the sunshine...and losing. Paul with some crazy light in the background.
Seth Pistol.
Josh skiing down with the headwall behind. Continuing down.

All four of us raced ahead; Paul and Josh in front with myself and Seth just behind. We were all pretty close to each other when we came to a constriction. From the look of it, there was snow on the other side, somewhat molding the two slopes into one. Unfortunately this was just an appearance. I'd like to say there was some other reason for what we were about to do, but I can't give you anything definitive. We just skied off of the lip, with no check on our speed, no look over. Nothing. All I remember seeing is rock and hearing Josh and Paul crashing into them while I was in mid-air. 20-ft or more downslope I landed on steep blue ice and within 10-ft crashed into a boulder. My pack took most of the force of what must have been 20 mph. What I remember most is my head glancing off of the volcanic rock and the pain in my ass. Between those and the cold, dripping ice I was surprised to see the others standing. Josh took at least 20-feet vertical and did the only thing he could, he stuck it. With no helmet there was no choice. The cost was two bruised knees, sprained ankle and thumb, random cuts and bruises, and a quarter inch section of his scalp missing. Both my arms were cheese graded, my head smashed, and worst of all the bruise on my rump. Paul was further right than both of us, and ended up with his share of cuts and bruises, but no debilitating wounds. Hannah put it this way, "That was one of the most horrific things I have ever witnessed."

Now how about the hike out and the remainder of the ski? I was doing my share of whining, but in all actuality, I think that Josh got the worst of it. There was a section of rock to down climb before one last ski down to water. Seth and Hannah were nice enough to help us get our ski gear situated before the hike out, me most of all because I had a difficult time bending over. I took the hike slow and dreaded the fixed line and the ~60-ft of rock. In all actuality it wasn't that bad.

Finally back at our camp, our gear was split amongst the living. Hannah had a first aid kit and helped me inventory my wounds and get some antiseptic on. Since I knew that I would be the slowest, I continued. When the others caught up I told stories to make the time fly by. At least for me. Sorry guys .

Of course, what is an epic without a miserable hike out in the dark that makes you dream of the Twilight Zone, and how your group is the victim of a never-ending trail. Once at the cars, all fanciful imaginings could be forgotten, but the wounds would leave a lasting impression not as easily buried.

For now, I think that I'll get a bowl when I want ice cream rather than eating out of the carton. As for summer, I believe that I'm truly going fishing this time.

Bloody Thumb. Photo: Josh
Bloody arm. Photo: Josh

The launch pad. Photo: Josh

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