COMP - Fresh Tracks for all!! Mt Baker, Oct 15 2011
Our first "fresh" turns of 2011 ~
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Autopilot. A blur, painted in familiarity, scrambles along my car windows, could it be that we have come this way before? If I didn’t know better I would say I drive this road daily. Having frequented Baker a half-dozen times in as many weeks certainly adds an air of disinterest to the drive, which now passes in the blink of an eye. I feel almost as if I had nodded off in the driver’s seat, following the turns of the highway, eyes closed, as if led by some strange cosmic energy, the spirit of the mountain drawing me near. The smell of coffee wrestles me from the road-coma and I pull off for an extra-large dose of life, convince a border guard it *IS* possible to go skiing today (sometimes this takes a lot of work), and sink once more into the zombie-like state created by frequenting such a highway. “Turns……Tuuurrrns.” the eerie zombie-mantra plays in my head.We arrive at the Heliotrope Ridge trail parking lot and park right behind Andy and Andrew, who are in the process of gearing up. I’m surprised to see them in the parking lot, as they had left Vancouver at least 30 minutes before us. A few quick minutes later and we are all packed up and stepping onto the trail. There are five of us today, Grace Wong is skiing for the first time, Jes Jelinek recently underwent back surgery and is out for some air (and to help Grace), Andy Jackson is testing out a new set-up (Scarpa Skookums, Dynafit TLT SPD, Volkl Gotama, you dirty LUSH), Andrew Leduc and myself. We stick together, mostly, as we climb steadily through the forest, the rapid change of seasons evident all around us. The air is cold, frost is present on the ground in many places, and as we gain elevation we find more and more patches of thick ice along the trail. We emerged from the forest into bluebird conditions with a smattering of snow thrown over the landscape, thickening to a few inches near the glacier. So much of the landscape has been filled in with snow since our last visit, I would estimate a decent snow cover exists as low as 5800ft.
Reaching the glacier there is an obvious skin track to the right, where a small congregation is swapping from trail footwear to ski boots, joining them we converse and joke as we revel in the fresh powder that lay all about. Andy and Andrew set off up the glacier and I wait for Grace and Jes to catch up. I help Grace swap into ski gear and immediately realize I have left her skins in the trunk of my car, genius! I guess we can learn to skin another day. Once Grace and Jes are set I head up the glacier to get some turns in, moving quick as I can trying not to miss the first run.
I manage to “catch” A&A who are breaking for lunch, it’s not nearly food time for me so I hand off the stove, grab the GoPro and continue on my way, trying to pass everyone I can see in the skin track. I reach the top of the feature in no time, the altimeter says 7196ft, making it around 1400ft of good snow to ski. I quickly stash my skins in my pack and chose a fresh line down the center of the face, the snow is delightful, light, fluffy, cold. It seems strange how long into the day these winter conditions held, it was still hovering around -2 degrees Celsius at the warmest of times. I make a wonderous mess of things as I drop in, fine powder sprays off my tails as I butcher my turns leaving behind me a twisted tale etched in the snow. I’m looking forward to riding a more aggressive, harder charging ski after being on the K2 Kung Fujas since spring, a fan of higher speeds and longer turns, it shows in my skiing.
Finally, at around 3pm Andy, Andrew and myself gathered on the ridge-top for one last trip down, taking turns jumping off the largest, most prominent feature to start the run. The snow was still immaculate as we charged down the slopes, though untouched patches had become harder to find. Arriving at the base of the skin track we swapped out our gear and said our goodbyes, eager to beat the rush across the border. The day couldn’t have been better, both the presence and quantity of fresh powder were surprising to everyone, and a very welcome change after skiing throughout the summer on all manner of mank, ice and rock.