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Mountain Madness Climber

Kicking off Avalanche Season with So Much Snow!

Moun­tain Madness’s avalanche edu­ca­tion sea­son starts off with a bang and more than 100 inch­es of fresh in just 6 days in the Mount Bak­er back­coun­try!!! Yep, that’s well over 8 feet of the white stuff. Read below for more details from MM guide Dal­las Glass.

Using our online resources to make obser­va­tions always goes bet­ter with some cof­fee and good food.
The class takes a moment to look at weath­er data in a local café. Dal­las Glass photo

I had been watch­ing the weath­er pat­terns for sev­er­al weeks and as my AIARE Lev­el 1 course in Bellingham/​Baker drew near I couldn’t believe the series of storms lined up to hit Wash­ing­ton. Sure enough, one right after anoth­er the storms dropped unre­al amounts of snow at Mt Bak­er ski area and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. Now, Bak­er has a rep­u­ta­tion for snow and lots of it, but even the locals seemed to be amazed by the seem­ing­ly unend­ing series of storms. As we met for our first class­room ses­sion at Bellingham’s back­coun­try retail store Back­coun­try Essen­tials, you could feel the excite­ment amongst the stu­dents and the instruc­tors. Because real­ly, why do we take an avalanche class? We take it because we love to play in the moun­tains, and we all knew that the moun­tains were get­ting thick blan­kets of the white stuff at that very moment. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the Mt Bak­er road, hwy 542 was cur­rent­ly closed, and all that new snow was locked behind a DOT clo­sure. Fri­day evening just pri­or to our sec­ond class­room ses­sion at Back­coun­try Essen­tials, I final­ly got con­fir­ma­tion; the road would be open on Sat­ur­day morning!!!

Sat­ur­day in the Bak­er back­coun­try was sur­re­al. My 300cm avalanche probe could bare­ly find the bot­tom of this week’s new snow. Despite feel­ing the draw of the fresh deep snow, our class opt­ed for a short tour, some com­pan­ion res­cue prac­tice, and snow obser­va­tions. Often times I like to talk about the height of snow over the ground, but even after dig­ging a 5 foot deep snow­pit and sink­ing my avalanche probe deep down below the bot­tom of the pit, I still couldn’t find the ground. What’s the height of snow in the Bak­er back­coun­try? Near­ly bottomless! 

You must go up to come down… mak­ing on the fly obser­va­tions on the skin track. Dal­las Glass photo

Armed with great obser­va­tions and some good vis­i­bil­i­ty, the group set out on Sun­day with a more ambi­tious tour plan. We aimed to con­tin­ue to make some on-the-fly” obser­va­tions and of course, find the goods. I think we def­i­nite­ly did both. Drop­ping into some boot-top deep fluff in the upper swift creek drainage put huge smiles on all faces. I think I can speak for the whole group when I say the only dis­ap­point­ment on Sunday’s tour was we all want­ed a sec­ond, third, and maybe fourth lap in Swift Creek. How­ev­er, we turned our skis back towards the trail­head and man­aged to squeeze in a few more pow­der shots before get­ting back to the cars. 

It was a great class! With awe­some stu­dents! And an amaz­ing amount of snow! I think we all learned that we can uti­lize the same skills to avoid avalanche prob­lems and find the best safest snow to play in. 

Enjoy­ing the ben­e­fits of a well planned tour and good obser­va­tions, the stu­dents throw a lit­tle pow­der around. Dal­las Glass photo