Koma Kulshan (10,781′)

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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.

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Steaming, sulfurous fumaroles, just here to remind you Mt. Baker last erupted in 1880.

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Mt. Shuksan (center) and the northwest corner of the North Cascades.

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On the Easton, immediately after breaking out above the clouds.

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Glacier porn.

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Erik demonstrates whippet use #29.

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