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