When it rains it pours but when it snows it dumps. First the rain drives people away but for those willing to stay around get to see that when it snows it dumps. This is what draws folks in to shredding the Mount Baker Backcountry. Sometimes prime conditions show up on weekdays, providing deep snow, gray bird visibility, and mild crowds. Other times the best opportunity maybe on the weekend when there is time off work or friends are available to rip. When it’s prime, the low hanging fruit of the Table Mountain Zone is irresistible and the feeding frenzy of a weekend back country pow day ensues. In order to make the most of your time this is where not to go on a weekend in the Baker Backcountry.
The first place not to go on a weekend in the Baker Backcountry is the short vertical, easy to access Swift Creek Zone. The headwater of the North Fork of Swift Creek is a good place to learn skinning technique, practice companion rescue, or try out a new touring partner with low commitment. There are many mellow slopes but also steep avalanche paths with consequential terrain traps. So, if you’re looking for long runs, avoiding crowds of avalanche courses, or just want to sample what Baker has, then avoid this area on the weekend. Blueberry Chute, Blueberry Cornice, Blueberry is the mystic zone that forms the ridge running from Martha’s Ladder to Table Mountain. For several years I asked friends, family, visitors, and loc dawgs
“what does Blueberry mean to you?” And if I could summarize the responses it goes something like, “that bowl, that chute, that cornice” while pointing in the direction of Artist Point. So, for the sake of this description I’ll refer to Blueberry Chute as the relatively moderate bowl on the skiers right end of the giant cornice along the ridge below Artist Point. Vague enough… Consequently, this is a go-to line for anyone from Heather Meadows or the ski area looking to get low investment turns. Subsequently, on a pow day there is a lot of traffic and you can expect to have people dropping in on top of you. This slope has been the scene of many avalanche burials over the years and during poor avalanche conditions this slope has run the entire 750 vertical feet to the lake. When the ski area is tracked, and you want some freshies don’t go to the chop and bumps you are likely to find on a weekend in Blueberry Chute.
So, you did it anyway and dropped down Blueberry or better yet you rode down Dog Chute to the lake and found yourself looking up at Table Mountain. The power of big terrain soars overhead as you get tunnel vision staring at the beautiful Newts Chute, Newts Apron, and Little AK. A quick transition and now you’re skinning back up. Meanwhile rippers are dropping 40 mph big mountain turns, spraying snow into the air, as they careen towards you. For a moment the thoughts, “I hope this doesn’t slide on me” or “please don’t hit me” pass through your mind. Instead of skinning out and around near the
ski area boundary you decided to zig zag a zipper skin line back up underneath these big lines. If pow days, steep terrain, and fun with friends is your bag then this is another place not to go on a week end in the Baker Backcountry. A great tour is heading out to Herman Saddle or Iceberg Lakes. Often times there is a track dropping out of the parking lot towards lower Bagley Lake. This area is a hive of activity, but be diligent, you are traveling underneath overhead hazard. You start to see the flying bodies of the bros and brahs that chuck their carcasses into the air off big booters below Grandmas House. Sledding kids shoot out of the trees with beanies over their eyes as they slide into their run out on the lake. And finally, the big avalanche paths of Mount Herman that crash down the Boulder Field, into the gulley, and onto the lakes creating dangerous terrain traps are places not to go on a weekend in the Baker Backcountry.
There are numerous reasons to venture into the Mount Baker Backcountry. From big lines, to booters, to snowshoeing and sled riding this winter time playground is fun for all. There are guide books, online forums, and local knowledge that can tell you where to go. But on your next weekend off, during the next powder frenzy, when the low hanging fruit looks ripe hopefully where not to go on a weekend in the Baker Backcountry will help make your next visit a little less rotten.