Koma Kulshan (10,781′)
I’m currently in San Francisco as a visiting researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, a position that gives me a month and a half at one of my favorite institutions in a vibrant city, but sadly cut spring and summer skiing in the Pacific Northwest short. A few weeks ago, in anticipation of the move and a premature end to the season, I took a Thursday off to climb and ski Koma Kulshan (Mt. Baker; 10,781’) with Erik, via the Easton Glacier.
The Easton Glacier route, though heavily crevassed, is a popular ski — popular enough that I joked with Erik that I was surely the only skier in the Northwest to have knocked out both the Enchantment and Chiwaukum traverses in a day, but not this relatively straightforward objective on one of our sentinel stratovolcanoes. Regardless, it’s a truly classic line: 7,700’ of more or less uninterrupted descent from the summit, with superlative views of the North Cascades and Puget Sound.
Leaving Seattle at 4AM, we were skinning by 6:30, on the summit 5 hours and 40 minutes later, and back to the car for beers and potato chips in 7:45 elapsed or so. The snow on the relatively steep Roman Wall was just about perfect corn; below 7K things got mushy, as only to be expected on route spanning such a large elevational gradient. The most notable aspect of the conditions we encountered was a thick cloud band that had us skiing by braille from 4500′ to 6500′ and made for surreal views up high.
Back under grey skies in Seattle for a formal dinner that evening, it was hard not to feel a little smug.
Steaming, sulfurous fumaroles, just here to remind you Mt. Baker last erupted in 1880.
Mt. Shuksan (center) and the northwest corner of the North Cascades.
On the Easton, immediately after breaking out above the clouds.
Erik demonstrates whippet use #29.