Mt. Baker - Easton Glacier

June 7-8, 2003

Dave Svilar, Matt Elley, Jeramy Sutliff

"Just send the invitations."  "You don't need a special pen."  "We can't invite everyone."  These were the almost incoherent mumblings of Matt as we headed up the trail towards the Easton Glacier and Mt. Baker.  I never realized what effect getting married could have on a friend.  Just the look in Matt's eyes told me he needed more than just a little counseling from his groomsmen (Dave and Jeramy).  What Matt needed was some time in the mountains - preferably clear skies, deep crevasses, a snowboard, and a lot of snow between the summit and the cars.

Jeramy knows about as much as I do about relationships and marriage, so we didn't provide much help for Matt and his wedding frustrations.  What we did provide was a distraction from the hassles of wedding planning in the form of mountain companions.  Not long after Matt got a few gulps of fresh air the wedding seemed to be out of his mind and we concentrated on more important things like finding the way to camp.  Matt and I had climbed this route a few years prior, but it didn't take long to get off the beaten track.  We knew we weren't totally off though, as we found telltale signs of snowmobilers from the winter - beer cans. 

We reached a knoll at the base of the glacier that was completely devoid of tracks and people.  A mile to our left we could see a small colony of tents and to our right another colony of tents.  All parties had the same plan - climb the Easton Glacier - but somehow we were completely alone.  I took a hike with my snowboard and Matt built a small kicker near camp.  The sun setting to the west towards the Twin Sisters and the Puget Sound was spectacular.  Matt and Jeramy were still playing with the video feature on Jeramy's new digital camera when I hit the sack at dark.

Knarly kicker dude.  Matt does a 180 near camp.  Twin Sisters on the horizon.

 

What is Matt doing to Jeramy?  You'd never guess.

We woke early, but not too early (~4:30 a.m.).  We wanted good cramponing for the ascent, but didn't want to wait too long on top for snow conditions to soften.  We charged up the mountain at a good clip.  Amazingly the route we had chosen couldn't have been more simple or direct yet we didn't pass another group until we were close to the summit.  We encountered long trains of slow moving Mazama and Mountaineers groups who seemed surprised to see snowboards on our backs.  We paused for a long rest at the Schurman crater and continued the final steep section to the summit. 

Matt and I wore our soft snowboard boots equipped with lightweight Stubai crampons, while Jeramy wore climbing boots and carried his ski boots, which were like carrying a sack of bricks to the summit.  The snowboard boots worked well, but my right crampon did start to come loose near the summit.  Soft snowboard boots/lightweight crampons work well for moderate snow, but aren't advisable it for anything steep.

 

Dave, Matt, Jeramy taking a break near the crater.

 

Dave sits on a rock overlooking the crater.

We made the summit in good time and I'm sure Matt and Jeramy were feeling like we had just charged up the mountain.  There was no reason to hurry once on top as temperatures were comfortable and we had some time before the snow on the upper part of the mountain softened.  After making the hike across the football field-like summit we decided to finally head down whether the snow was soft or not.  Riding off the summit (10,800') we encountered by far the most difficult skiing as it was somewhat steep and somewhat icy.

We made the bumpy traverse back under the crater and to the Easton staying close and warning each other of crevasses.  We negotiated around several mostly covered crevasses and then hit a wide open stretch of perfect corn.  The riding was epic.  We ripped down the mountain making effortless turns while passing other groups roped together in teams.  The epic conditions came to an end about 1,500' above camp as the snow turned to mush.  Even with less than perfect conditions it beat walking.  Matt and Jeramy took videos with the digital camera until reaching camp (~5,500'). 

Matt rides off the summit.  Deming Glacier below.

 

Jeremy skis above the Black Buttes.

 

Dave appears to emerge from a crevasse on his snowboard.

Descending from camp was a little more difficult than gliding down the Easton, but we were still able to knock off a good chunk on our boards.  When everything was totaled up at the end of the trip I estimated that we got more than 6,000' vertical on our boards.  Where else can you do that in June in the lower 48 states?  Not many.  Driving back to Camano Island Matt seemed emotionally ready to face another week of stuffing envelopes.

-written July 2003

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