MOUNT BAKER Coleman Deming
October 28, 2006

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

~Robert Louis Stevenson from Windy nights

Photos and story by Jason Hummel

Mount baker is a mountain I love to climb, and while the Coleman Demming isn't my favorite route, it definitely strikes a fine pose. From the North Ridge to the Roman Wall are glaciers, seracs and cliffs dominating the landscape. Its a beautiful side of the mountain.

I woke up early, too early. At 1:30am I gathered my gear and piled it into the car. I hate this part, but I push through because I know that there will be just rewards, eventually. At Sky's house I met him and Hannah. After they piled their gear in my car, Sky jumped in the driver's seat and headed for Dave's house where we met him and Phil.

From there, it was off to the trailhead. I had high hopes for great weather, but as we arrived fog appeared to be hanging around. We expected it to burn off.

Phil below the glacier. Phil, Dave and Sky climbing the glacier.

Another thing I love about Baker, is just about any time of the year you can ski there. And not just any skiing, but good skiing. Sky had grand plans to repeat a previous october's excellence and ski the Park Headwall. During that trip they had 2 feet of powder. We hadn't really had two feet of snow this season, so I had doubts, but I kept those to myself. Guessing is for fools. Going and seeing is what we're all about.

Just over three miles of hiking brings you to the glacier. Hannah was tired, and decided to take my keys and go rest. She had climbed all the previous day with Sky. Everyone else geared up for glacier travel. I left my pons off expecting the snow to be soft enough to climb. High hopes for that powder Sky was dreaming about. Hard snow quelled that right quick, but sun lead us to believe we'd have corn instead.

The glaciers are really broken up. The snow of the past few days had covered much of what Sky and Dave found a week previous. It's amazing what a little snow can do. We found nice buffer powder about an inch thick halfway up the Demming. Looking higher up I couldn't help but wonder, "Will higher be better?"

At a schrund, Phil and Dave didn't feel comfortable with the conditions. Sky and I thought they were perfectly fine, but you don't fight with a man's decision. You only provide info and leave the rest to their judgment. After a few minutes, we asked if they wouldn't mind waiting for us. They had no problem with that.

Phil and Dave roped up. I love the light on the crevasses.
Sky above a schrund we crossed. The same schrund with just the mountain.

Sky and I were having fun. One thing I know we both like, is skiing and climbing in the mountains without people. Even an easy route like the CD can be fun when you aren't following a cow path.

At the saddle the wind struck up a conversation. It wasn't whispering either. I think Sky and I could hear loud and clear that it wasn't wanting for us to continue. We're two stubborn chaps, though. We muffled our ears with hood and hat, and put our heads to the grinding stone.

After a short rest in a quiet nook, not quite big enough for the both of us, we again set off. Sky couldn't believe how much the glaciers had changed. They did look very different than I remembered. These warm years are changing our mountains and I wondered if the next year we'd even be able to ski this route without shenanigans. The schrund where Dave and Phil had stopped was hardly passable, with only a small bridge across. Who knows, I could just be over thinking, and anyhow, what's wrong with shenanigans?

Sky on the ridge where the wind started to honk.
Our little nook.

The wind was still treatin' us with a full helping. After we were off the ridge, we fought our way further up. We'd set our goal at the top of the Roman Wall. Neither of us were interested in skiing across the summit cap and then fighting the wind back across, especially without goggles. Although, at that point we were having a hard enough time making the top of the wall. While I unlaced Sky's axe, he used it to drag himself up and I used my whippets. Two steps, maybe ten before we'd each hunker down. This was turning out to be a great fight, and since I hadn't been out for several weeks, I was enjoying the energy waster. Sky, on the other hand, I don't think that dude ever gets tired. Maybe I was imagining it, but he did seem to be faltering a bit by the time we reached our goal. Hell, we could've climbed the mountain twice for the effort we just put in. One for the price of two. Awesome!

Coleman Pinnicle.

My skis were off my pack and on my feet in a matter of seconds. Sky was a bit behind, so I skied down with my back to the wind. When it lessened I'd make a quick turn and rush as far right as I could. I waited for sky where the snow got good. Here I took a photo. It was a good day for them, but it wasn't making it easy. I could barely hold onto the camera without nearly blowing over.

After some photos we finally escaped the wind below the notch, but not without a victim. My nice Marmot gloves now had the distinction of being singular rather than plural; my nice marmot glove. Fortunately since Sky's frostbite incident, he always had extras.

The skiing was great for the next few thousand feet and we made the best of it by flying down that buffer powder.

Our first turns in the wind.  
Some good snow. I lost my glove for this photo.
I like this shot in this color but this was fun too, in black and white.
My favorite picture of the day.
One of those crevasses in the above picture.
The Demming Glacier.

With that finished, the corn snow we expected wasn't to be. An ice skating rink awaited. We could see that Phil and Dave had cramponed down, which was smart. I'm not that smart. I'm stubborn, and like Sky said, "This is good edging practice." It took all our skill to ski this stuff. It was treacherous and any mistake would be costly since a crevasse wasn't choosy about its meal. I was surprised how an easy route like this, one that I'd take a beginner skier on, could be that way. I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess. Really, it goes to show you that you never know what your gonna get. It's a good idea to always be on your toes.

The last section was more forgiving and more enjoyable. We found our shoes at the end of the snow, and after changing we hiked the last few miles out. At the end Dave and Phil were waiting. We told them of our fun, which made them happy to have turned around. Sky and I, on the other hand, we were glad we had continued. It was a great day this beautiful side of the mountain. And while we didn't get everything we wanted, we got more than we expected, and always more than we deserve.

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