Page 1










Code Blue


Snow Blind


Snow Missiles

When things go wrong on the mountain A series of mistakes led to a near-fatal disaster When a shortcut turned into a dangerous traverse





Shredding Ready


Avalanche Awareness

Getting prepared for backcountry skiing Don’t go into the backcountry without it





Mountain Man


Mt. Baker High




Flying High


Vertical Ice



A conversation with Duncan Howat One week at Baker equals a season anywhere else Outreach program gets kids on the mountain What’s on your bucket list? Nothing like the experience of ice climbing


Staying Dry


Winter Gear

A primer on managing moisture The latest for adventure seekers


MOUNT BAKER EXPERIENCE PUBLISHERS Patrick Grubb and Louise Mugar, Point Roberts Press, Inc. MANAGING DIRECTOR Kathy McGee ART DIRECTOR Charlie Hagan ADVERTISING DESIGN Charlie Hagan, Ruth Lauman ADVERTISING SALES Molly Ernst, Judy Fjellman, Janet McCall OFFICE MANAGER Amy Weaver CONTRIBUTORS Molly Baker, Pamela Beason, John Brunk, Erik Burge, Mallory Clarke, Gene Davis, Ryan Duclos, Anthony Fiorillo, Kara Furr, Jay Goodrich, Andrew Grubb, Patrick Grubb, Grant Gunderson, Dylan Hallett, Dylan Hart, Kurt Hicks, Patrick Kennedy, Brandy Kiger, Aubrey Laurence, Sam Lozier, Sue Madsen, Jason D. Martin, Joe Meche, Jefferson L. Morriss, David Moskowicz, Louise Mugar ©2012 POINT ROBERTS PRESS 225 Marine Drive, Blaine, WA 98230 TEL: 360/332-1777 EMAIL: WEB: FACEBOOK: PINTEREST: TWITTER:


Feet First


Day of Raptors


Eagle Watch


In the Footsteps of Bears


Watchful Eyes


Dining And Lodging


Winter Events/Activities

Snow-free winter hikes in northwest Washington Cascade foothills offer premier hawk watching Catch a sight of this winter spectacle Tracking wildlife on the Nooksack River Border Patrol in the backcountry




Taylor Lyman skiing early in the season at Mt. Baker Photo: Grant Gunderson

If you can see Mt. Baker, you’re part of the experience. Mount Baker Experience is a quarterly recreation guide for and about the Mt. Baker area, published by Point Roberts Press, Inc. Locally owned, the company also publishes The Northern Light, All Point Bulletin, Pacific Coast Weddings, Waterside and area maps. Vol. XXVII, No. 1. Printed in Canada. SPECIAL PUBLICATION OF POINT ROBERTS PRESS





n When things go wrong on the mountai




ountains beg to be climbed. Their tall, unwavering peaks inspire dreams of conquering towering heights and call with siren-like attraction, daring men and women to risk life and limb to make the summit. Glaciers only serve to increase the attraction – and the risk. The North Cascades are no stranger to risk takers. With its wide swath of 684,000 acres stretching from the Canadian border into the heart of Washington, the mountain range is home to dozens of peaks and more than 300 glaciers. It’s the highest concentration of glacial fields in the lower 48 states and a playground for mountain enthusiasts. When Jefferson Morriss, Keith LeMay and Anthony Fiorillo set out on September 8 to summit Ruth Mountain, a 7,115-foot peak in the North Cascades, they expected that it would be “an easy mountain,” a steady trip up and back and a great way to spend a weekend with the guys. What they didn’t expect is that they would find themselves 30 feet down in the intensely blue cavern of a crevasse and require Whatcom County Search and Rescue (SAR) to come to their aid. The men left the trailhead on Saturday with the prospect of a clear, warm and sunny day, and made their way up through the alpine valleys to the glacial fields. By early evening, they had set up base camp on the saddle of the mountain. They spent the night there, with lightning storms in the distance behind the mountains. They had breakfast and broke camp before dawn on Sunday to make the final trek to the summit, arriving just in time for the sunrise. “It was gorgeous,” said Morriss, who took photos of the morning sky while the others rested. Then, around 10 a.m., they began to find their way back down the mountain.

On the way down, the climbers weren’t surprised to find a crevasse in their path. “We saw it a long way off,” Fiorillo said. “They’re all obvious.” “It was big enough for a car to drive into,” Morriss added. The crack in the glacier posed an interesting scenario for the men. In general, it’s best to give these gaping fissures in the ice field a wide berth, just to ensure safety, but Fiorillo thought it might be a great opportunity to brush up on the crevasse rescue skills he had acquired in mountaineering school. After all, they were already roped in for ice climbing, he was confident in his training, and they had all the necessary gear on hand. It seemed like a good plan. LeMay and Morriss agreed. “He asked me if I wanted to get some training and some pictures,” Morriss said. “I wasn’t going to pass that opportunity up.” They laid pickets into the hard-packed snow, set up their protection like Fiorillo had learned in school and clipped in before they began to lower Morriss into the crevasse. He was barely over the edge when everything went wrong. Before they could react, a picket broke free from its anchor point. Morriss’ weight pulled LeMay and Fiorillo forward, snapping them both through the air. All three were plunged deep into the cavern.

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG. Every year, thousands

of people make their way into the North Cascades to play. Hikers, skiers, mountaineers – they go to find adventure and respite from their day-to-day lives, and most have a safe and happy trip, returning home relaxed and rejuvenated.

continued on next page




The 30-foot fall had knocked Morriss and his friends unconscious. But they were lucky. They had all been wearing helmets, and while LeMay suffered the worst of the injuries – a brain bleed, lacerated liver, seven broken ribs and a collapsed lung – Fiorillo was still mobile and able to make his way along the fissure to where the crevasse narrowed and shimmy up to the surface. Despite a broken collarbone, he then climbed back up the glacier, to find cell service, and called 911. When a call like Fiorillo’s comes in, dispatch directs it to the SAR deputy on duty, who decides which SAR services are best suited for the situation. Team leaders are notified, and they send out texts or voicemail notifications to members. “My phone is on 24/7,” Heincoop said.




It’s not uncommon for things to go awry. Inclement weather sets in fast on the mountain. Team members show up at headquarters and choose the equipment they think they’ll need for the situation. Once the trucks are loaded up, they head to the site and determine the best place to set up base camp. On the way, they go over the details they’ve been given and brainstorm ways to reach victims most efficiently. Given the nature of their predicament, with Morriss and LeMay badly injured at the bottom of the crevasse, the sheriff ’s deputy thought it best to call in Mountain Rescue for the save, since they would need to get on the glacier and would have the technical ice skills required to perform the rescue. After a detailed look at the area and the nature of the men’s injuries, the Mountain Rescue team decided to request a helicopter since it would take hours for the ground team to make the ascent, and Morriss and LeMay wouldn’t be able to walk out. The location dictated that it would probably be the best option to get them out. But, a phone call to longtime helicopter pilot Tony Reece revealed that even that plan wouldn’t work. Conditions

weren’t favorable for the helicopter to lift off. “When we got the call, the weather was so bad we couldn’t get in there,” said Reece, who owns Hi Line Helicopters and has clocked 22,000 hours of flight time in his 31-year career. “There was no visibility and the fog was moving in and out. It was too dangerous.” They decided the men would just have to wait it out until the clouds cleared enough for the helicopter to get through. Fiorillo lowered hats, sleeping bags, food and gloves down to his friends to keep them warm through the wait. Eventually, things began to work in their favor. A group of climbers making a late descent helped pull Morriss and LeMay to safety and stabilized them, speeding up the rescue immensely. A break in the clouds gave Reece the opportunity he needed to fly in, hover with the toes of his skids on the ice and drop in a park ranger. “It helped so much [pulling the climbers to safety] and made it so much quicker,” Reece said. continued on next page


But it’s not uncommon for things to go awry. Inclement weather sets in fast on the mountain. People get lost. Boulders fall while you’re taking a bathroom break. It all happens. “Anytime you’re in the backcountry, there’s the potential for danger,” said Ed Heincoop, Whatcom County Search and Rescue spokesman. And, when the worst does happen, that’s when SAR gets called in. The group responds to everything from bee stings to lost hikers to plane crashes. In his 17 years as a volunteer, Heincoop has seen it all. He has story after story of things going wrong in the backcountry, even when everything is done right. Housed under the umbrella of Whatcom County Search and Rescue Council, the network is comprised of six groups: Summit to Sound, RACES Emergency Communication, Mountain Rescue, Whatcom County 4x4, Whatcom County Dive Rescue and Civil Air Patrol. The 200-member group, which is 100 percent volunteer based, is headquartered just north of Bellingham, and works in conjunction with the Whatcom County Sheriff ’s Office. It partners with parkcontracted helicopters, the Navy base on Whidbey Island and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for helicopter service. “We are really lucky,” Heincoop said. “There are very few teams that have the resources we do.” The teams receive specialty training for their divisions, and many SAR volunteers are cross-trained across disciplines. Members pay for their own equipment, fuel and training, and provide their services to the area free of charge. It’s a lot of money, Heincoop admits, but there are plenty of non-tangibles that keep them in the game. “We do it because it’s fun. It’s a rush. It’s a kick in the ass,” he said.

“I thought it was incredible that they took it upon themselves to pull the guys out of that crevasse.” Two short-haul flights to waiting medivacs finally saw the trio off the mountain and to the hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. The group from Mountain Rescue that had begun the ascent to assist with the rescue continued onward to retrieve the men’s gear that had been left behind at the crevasse. Another brought Fio-

rillo’s car home for him with the recovered packs. “It couldn’t have gone any smoother,” Fiorillo said later. “I’ve seen SAR at work in Colorado, and they do a good job, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything to the extent of what they did here. It was very seamless.” In addition to LeMay’s injuries, which left him in the ICU for several days, and Fiorillo’s collarbone, Morriss suffered lacerations to his

face and a fractured ankle that had to be repaired with surgery.

FUTURE PLANS. Will they climb again? The reaction is mixed. “I think I’ll climb again in the future, and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll look at a crevasse again,” LeMay said. “But I don’t know.” Fiorillo was more optimistic. “If you love something like climbing, not much will stop you,” he said.

then determine whether SAR should get involved, and set any needed rescue mission into motion. Interested in being a part of SAR? Heincoop says volunteers are welcome, and all it takes is showing some interest, attending a few meetings and being willing to learn. For more information, visit X



Morriss was unsure. “Would I go climbing again? Yes. Would I would go willingly into a crevasse? I don’t know.” Heincoop stresses the importance of calling 911 when faced with an emergency or when someone is missing. “Our phone isn’t manned. If you leave a message at our headquarters, it may not get heard for a week or two,” he said. Calling 911 will put you in touch with the sheriff ’s office, which will

The communication rule to live by ION

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any people have theories about what makes skiing, backcountry skiing in particular, a risky endeavor. My mom thinks the act of simply putting on skis catapults you into the danger zone. My boyfriend believes something like a 50-foot cliff might be the tipping point. The danger is ultimately relative, but the lessons we can learn from being in uncertain situations on skis are the same. A friend of mine who works as a ski guide says, “Good judgment comes from surviving bad judgment.” If you’re lucky enough to be granted a learning experience, one key factor always plays a critical role – communication. One experiences has permeated my relationship with skiing and traveling in the backcountry. Fortunatley, everyone survived, and I’d like to hope that some skills to make better decisions were derived. For me, I recognize a lack of communication as the common factor. Often referred to as the human factor, the conversations about safety and our perceived safety are some of the most important skills we can pack into our arsenal of mountain equipment. Two years ago in Argentina I found myself watching a ski partner wave as he skinned away from the group toward the boundaries of the ski area. Busy skiing, we

casually watched him skin out of sight with the intentions of meeting at the car that evening. No details were communicated. By six o’clock that night, he hadn’t showed up. Unfamiliar with the terrain outside the area, we really had no idea of where he was or what kind of situation was possible. Had he been caught in an avalanche? Was he stuck in the backcountry with a broken leg? Or was he at the bar enjoying a steak and glass of Malbec? During the night I arranged a search and rescue team, who met us at the ski area early the next morning. By this point, our worst fears seemed unavoidable. But as we headed out onto the mountain, our friend came strolling into the village from where he had stayed the night before (without a phone number and no way to get down the mountain after a late arrival out of the backcountry, he had stayed with friends) trying to meet us as early as possible to let us know he was OK. Communication can be difficult, especially in foreign countries where there is a language barrier. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important skills a skier can have when planning travel into the backcountry. Lesson learned. X




D N I L B W O SN mistakes led to A series of ster a is d l a t fa ra e n a K KENNEDY


ive days of cool nights and rain on my metal roof had lulled me to sleep each night with the promise of bottomless powder runs in the alpine. But five days of rain also created a story I didn’t care for once I began analyzing wind, precipitation and temperatures. I stared at weather data from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC), hoping to find something that would put my mind at ease before heading into the backcountry. Despite the avalanche warning signs, my partner Tarek and I decided to ride – cautiously. As we unloaded snowmobiles and snowboards on Forest Road 39 at 1,200 feet, the warning signs of significant new snow suppressed our anticipation for great conditions, yet none of it remained in the trees due to wind. If wind was playing a role at this altitude, we imagined what was likely going on at 5,000 feet. As we began up FR 39 we saw another set of tracks and took some comfort knowing another crew was out there. The first seven miles on Glacier Creek Road was blissful compared to the usual slow drive in trucks. Then we encountered an avalanche covering the road. This was a common spot for slides, yet the sight of it was a sobering reminder of the conditions. The group ahead of us had conveniently dug a path through the slide so we continued on for another eight miles through low-risk avalanche terrain. Gaining elevation, we burned twice the fuel than normal – snow was so deep it billowed over the hoods and sometimes over our heads. Snowmobiles act more like snowplows unless you can maintain a speed of 35 mph. Above that, the sleds plane on the snow surface, agile and playful, but below the surface they choke and sputter, desperate for oxygen. Eventually we arrived at our destination, Grouse Ridge. Grouse is a lesser-known ridge near Heliotrope Ridge and ideal for snowboard runs with snowmobile shuttles back to the top. We could see that the crew ahead of us opted for another location 800 feet higher. After a brief discussion on conditions, we cautiously agreed to climb up to the other crew. We found them at 5,500 feet filming a drop. Tarek and I chatted with them for a bit and decided snowboarding a few laps sounded better than shuttling a jump. We parted ways to investigate lapping a section of trees with accessible pick up and drop locations for snowmobiles. After packing down a track for snowmobile shuttles we left one sled at the bottom and doubled up on the other to the top. On the ridge top there was considerable wind loading into a desirable chute we had both previously ridden on other trips. Wind was howling on the ridge and few words were spoken as we exchanged a mutual look that clearly stated this was not an option today. We decided to ride some lower angle, less wind-loaded, treed terrain also accessible from the ridge. Even though our terrain choice was prudent, the unstable conditions lurked in our minds, killing what would normally be a carefree run. We rode point-to-point, exposing one rider at a time, keeping in visual and verbal contact. After the first nervous run was over, the lower angle terrain provided two more laps in which every turn led to the white room, a quick swipe over goggles, spot the line, take a quick





breath and repeat over and over again. Tarek instantly knew we were in the deposit zone Our decision to ride powder instead of filming and called for me to run, but I couldn’t take my jumps was a popular one, and we soon found we eyes off the rider struggling to stay on top. had company. With the shuttle path well beaten in, we rapidly devoured lower-angle treed terrain. Only the chute remained untouched. Tarek and I were on top setting up for a run when we noticed one of the partly tracked lower-angle trees for another lap. As we unfilm crew considering the chute. The clouds had just lifted, strapped bindings at the bottom of the run we heard some providing visibility to film the line. Motives for footage out- radio chatter and the words “dropping.” Neither of us had weighed caution and the rider dropped into the chute. I held noticed another rider on top also considering the chute. my breath watching the rider’s first couple of turns. Beau- From the bottom of the chute, I looked up and saw his first tiful turns they were, yet it was impossible to enjoy them few turns. On his fourth turn the wind-loaded slab couldn’t when expecting the worse. His third and fourth turns were take the load of a rider laying into a heavy heel slide and fast and nimble, and then he dropped out of sight. A few popped with a sound that none of us will forget. Something moments later we saw him rapidly approaching the valley very large just broke. floor and film crew. It’s only then that I took another breath. Tarek instantly knew we were in the deposit zone and Tarek and I once again exchanged the look and headed to called for me to run, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the rider

struggling to stay on top. I saw him go under and was awed by the size of the avalanche crown; I was instantly on Tarek’s heels moving as fast as possible sinking past my knees in the snow with each frantic step. Everything went white as the avalanche hit the valley floor. A frigid blast of air, snow and tree debris pelted our backs as we blindly ran away from the powder cloud. As the cloud settled, Tarek and I found ourselves only 10 feet clear from being buried by the avalanche. I’ve never considered myself much of a competitive person, but at this moment I ‘heard’ the starting gun and knew this would be the race of our lives. People were yelling for the rider, but there was no way someone goes down in a slide that big and stays on top without an airbag. No one put me in charge, but I started barking orders anyway. We quickly had three teams working, one searching from the bottom up, one searching from the top down and another making a 911 call. A fourth team remained on the sideline in case the search team triggered another slide.

We had wisely left snowmobiles out of the deposit zone giving the top-to-bottom search team the advantage of covering more ground quickly. On the way to the top we passed over avalanche debris that literally filled a valley – if someone were to be buried there they could easily be 30 feet deep with little hope for survival. Within 90 seconds we stood at the top, strapping in and discussing the search plan that broke the path into thirds. Three of us rapidly descended the first 100 feet only to stop in shock for a second to marvel at the avalanche crown that measured 5 to 6 feet deep and propagated 200 yards out of the chute across the mountain side. No wonder the valley was filled. Dropping from the slab, over the crown, onto the avalanche bed surface spoke volumes of why this had popped where it did – it was ice on a 43-degree angle slope. We searched while

snowboarding in our lanes, which enabled rapid straight lane searching versus the typical zigzag back and forth. Tarek and I knew where the guy would likely be due to the tree terrain trap that lies below the chute. We both converged on an avalanche transceiver signal, following the flux line right to it. A quick pinpoint search revealed that he was shallowly buried. I wasn’t waiting for a shovel. I started wildly clawing at the snow and shouting, “We are coming for you!” As shovelers converged, I was very lucky to uncover the snowboarder’s face, but it was blue. Morale

hit bottom and some thought he was dead. I sharply corrected them, saying this is what people look like after being buried in an avalanche. Truth be told, I made that up simply because I wasn’t willing to accept that we didn’t reach him in time. The search felt fast and efficient – it had to be less than 10 minutes. Shovels began excavating as I leaned in searching for a pulse, and while doing so, I could hear his lungs struggling to clear some loose snow. He was breathing! continued on next page

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Someone was going to have to go out and lead search and rescue back to our remote location. search and rescue. I reached them and was happy to see some familiar snowmobiler faces, but I couldn’t understand why they were just sitting there. I soon found myself detained by the sheriff just as they were. SAR was waiting for a rescue toboggan and doctor to arrive on scene. I was needed to lead the team back to Wyatt, and was therefore a critical piece in their Avalanche victim Wyatt Stasinos jumping the rescue plan. I’ve Baker Road Gap – only 11 months out of surgery. never experienced that level of frustration before, and I’m sure it showed on my face as cal attention at Harborview HosI sat there mumbling obsceni- pital in Seattle. Wyatt now sports ties, watching the last bit of light some permanent high-tech titafade. During the hour and a half nium that enabled an incredibly I waited I came to the conclusion quick recovery time. He returned that counting on someone other to the Baker area last season and than your own party for rescue is charged terrain with absolutely no a mistake I will not repeat. Even- indications of a wounded limb. tually the rescue toboggan and Oddly enough, I ended the day doctor arrived and we started the the same way it began – sleepless 15-mile journey back to Wyatt. in front of a computer staring at Twelve miles enroute we ran into NWAC weather data. Rain and Jeff, Tarek and the rest of the film cool nights continued for another crew heading out with Wyatt se- month, but the sound no longer cured to a snowmobile. lulled me to sleep. Mistakes were Thankfully, all snowboarders made, we know that. The avaworth their salt wear belts to keep lanche was completely avoidable those baggy pants up. Jeff had put as almost all avalanche incidents Wyatt’s leg into traction using tri- are. We walked into the day knowpod legs and belts. They then came ing of the instability and picked a up with the idea to extend the poor line. Communication was snowmobile seat using photo bags. inadequate. Desire outweighed The seat extension created a long, caution. Warning signs were igflat, padded platform. Ratchet nored. Some of us had companion straps were used to secure Wyatt rescue training, some didn’t. Havto the snowmobile, and the end ing backcountry gear isn’t a free result was a highly mobile rescue pass to recklessly recreate. Take device with suspension to cushion your pick, they were all factors that the 15-mile ride through technical made the events possible. terrain. We all still ride together in the I don’t think any other technique backcountry, only wiser and gratewould have gotten Wyatt out, and ful to have a second chance. X we all now know to use it in the future should we need to. Drag- Photography and outdoor recreation ging someone through 15 miles of are the driving forces in Patrick Kenrough terrain on a rescue sled just nedy’s life. When not taking photos or isn’t realistic. A train of 11 snow- recreating outdoors you’ll likely find mobiles escorted Wyatt out to the him at Bellingham REI working as the base of FR 39 where an ambulance Outreach Specialist or at Mt. Baker Ski waited. His injuries proved serious Area in the Mountain Education Center. enough to require advanced medi-


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As quickly as morale tanked it was back, but excavating him revealed another problem – his body was wrapped around a tree with his left femur and arm bent in a terrible position. As we were assessing damage, the rider, Wyatt Stasinos, regained consciousness. I don’t know that I’ve met a tougher person in my life, as he certainly handled a broken femur, elbow and face trauma better than I would. His broken femur was trying to punch through the skin, which made evacuation down the 43-degree slope to the valley floor our next delicate obstacle. We wrapped Wyatt in space blankets and came up with the idea of using his snowboard as a backboard. Six of us slowly and cautiously worked him down the slope through trees to the valley floor. While we had been working on the makeshift rescue sled, the 911 team had found higher ground and made a successful call providing latitude and longitude to SAR. Shortly after reaching the valley floor we heard the sweetest sound any of us have ever heard. A Black Hawk from the Whidbey Island naval base was on approach with its rotors thumping in the air someplace above us out of sight in the clouds. Three times the pilot tried to descend into the tight valley but could not with no visibility, wind and heavy snowfall. After the third try, the bird left with the same sound as arrival, but it wasn’t as sweet this time. With a storm growing in intensity and only 45 minutes of light left morale again hit bottom – hard. We had lost communication with SAR. Latitude and longitude would have worked for a heli-evacuation if weather conditions had allowed, but it was proving to be useless information for whatever ground rescue effort that might be happening. Someone was going to have to go out and lead SAR back to our remote location. I gave Wyatt a thermos of hot soup, promised he would not spend the night out there and left the crew to find search and rescue. Thank God for Jeff Hambelton! As I started on the 15-mile journey back to the trucks, I ran into Jeff. He had heard an avalanche around Heliotrope Ridge and went to investigate. He knew our usual stomping grounds and needed no lat/long; good old-fashioned tracking was working well since I ran into him within a few miles heading out. Jeff had extensive Wilderness First Aid training and work experience as a ski patroller and avalanche educator at Mt. Baker. I relayed the situation to Jeff, and he went on to offer medical aid to Wyatt as I continued out to



angerous d d e n r u t t u tc When a shor E



hree of us decided to take a shortcut traverse across an exceedingly steep pocket meadow while we were boot packing to our favorite powder stash up on Church Mountain one frozen, early-spring morning. None of us will ever forget it. The sky was disarmingly clear, the snow pack on the side slope was all kinds of crusty and, thanks to the fact that we were completely hemmed in by four solid walls of well-anchored timber, our avalanche exposure was only semi-sketchy at worst. After post-holing two hours straight uphill through heavy timber (starting out from our cabin near Glacier) there appeared little cause for anyone in our snowboard-encumbered ascent party to consider this sunny little opening in the canopy anything less than a blessing. Unfortunately, the one terrain-induced hazard we neglected to observe was the ice-encrusted profusion of snow-loaded tree branches that were primed and ready to come raining down at even the slightest, hair-trigger touch from the timber wall crowning the meadow above. The first breeze stirred gently and did not linger – just a soft, cool kiss on our hot, sweaty brows. Certainly nothing to worry about. Or so we thought. “Man!” exclaimed our leader, halting abruptly to absorb as much of this seemingly benign atmospheric sensation as she could. “Doesn’t this little riffle feel fantastic?” It was then that first icy snow blob came shooting downhill right behind me, zooming so fast through my peripheral vision that I thought at first it was just a grey jay dive-bombing for crumbs. “Look out!” I shouted to my partners, purely in jest. “We’re being attacked!” And that’s when the next, much bigger icy snow blob the size of a beach ball came spitting out of the forest to score a direct hit, rolling so severely into the exposed mid-section of the six-foot-tall, 250-pound snowboarder directly ahead of me that he crumpled into a free-fall. While this unfortunate fellow went tumbling like a human bowling pin down into the trees far below – he suffered three broken ribs and temporary hearing loss – my remaining partner and I anticipated the coming catastrophe and promptly ratcheted ourselves into evasive action mode.

Setting our sights on the sheltering timber wall 30 feet ahead, we dropped down on all fours and started to crawl for it. But the faster we tried to crawl, the deeper we kept sinking into the snow. Finally, once we’d become mired neck-deep still about 20 feet shy of our safety zone, the strongest load-releasing breeze yet came blowing through the trees, releasing dozens upon dozens of snow projectiles down the hill all around us. There was no escape. “Take off your pack!” my partner screamed, just as the biggest wind-born projectile of all, roughly the size of two to three beach balls combined, came whooshing right between our heads with only inches to spare. Shielding myself with a Burton 165 seemed ridiculous, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. I only managed to yank one arm out of my straps before a rock-hard ice-football smacked so violently into the protruding nose of my board that it flipped the thing over my head and cracked it clean through, edge to edge. All told, that little shortcut we took quickly turned into one of the longest, most excruciating traverses I’ve ever made. Yet, even when you figure in subsequent hospital bills and equipment repairs, the invaluable hazard assessment lessons we learned up there pretty much caused us to break even, I think. Seldom, if ever, do I take shortcuts in the North Cascade backcountry. And my vigilance for detecting potentially dangerous snow blob accumulations, whether they are hiding up in the trees or lurking somewhere down on the ground, remains as constant as the terrain and weather conditions are changing. X Erik Burge has been flirting with disaster ever since his grandfather strapped him into his first pair of skis and sent him hurtling down the only hill in the entire state of North Dakota at the tender age of four. Fortunately, the first time he ventured into the Mt. Baker backcountry was not his last.

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Y D A E R G N I D D SHRE country skiing ck ba r fo ed ar ep pr g in tt Ge




ou’ve seen tracks out on Shuksan Arm or read about backcountry skiing in magazines. The allure of untracked powder is strong, but backcountry skiing can be initially overwhelming. Where do you even start? At a minimum, you’ll need to equip yourself with touring bindings, skis or a splitboard, skins, avalanche safety gear and a backpack to carry it all.


Bindings: Bindings from Dynafit, Marker and Fritschi will help you into the backcountry,

but they each have their trade-offs. As a general rule, the further you want to hike, the lighter and more efficient your bindings should be. All alpine touring bindings work on the same principle: your toe is attached to the ski while the heel swings up, allowing you, with the use of skins, to hike up the mountain. When you reach the top and remove the skins, the heels are locked down for alpine-style downhill turns. Any touring binding can go on any downhill ski, including the ones you already own, though fatter and lighter skis are the best choice for winter touring as they offer a good mix of soft-snow flotation and weight. Skins: Skins, along with bindings, make backcountry skiing possible. They’re sticky on one side and furry on the other. Directional hairs allow the skis to slide easily forward, but grip when the ski is weighted, providing fast and efficient progress uphill. Backpack: For day trips, a 30- to 40-liter backpack should be enough to accommodate all your gear and will be large enough to hold the supplies you’ll need as you start going on fullday adventures. Though not always immediately necessary, ski-specific features such as skicarry attachments, durable fabric (to protect against edges and ice axes) and non-absorbent back panels are nice to have.


Shovel: One of the four avalanche safety essentials (beacon, shovel, probe and brain), a

shovel is a surprisingly important mountain safety tool. It can dig you an emergency shelter, provide a surface to sit on, excavate a friend, dig out a car, open a beer (an advanced technique) and much more. Beginners frequently purchase shovels far larger than needed, so put some thought into this first. The features that make a shovel great for excavating your driveway are not the features to look for in an avalanche rescue shovel. You want one that is small, durable, lightweight and simple. Avalanche debris sets up like concrete, so a smaller blade that allows more of a chopping/ paddling motion is going to be more functional than one that requires prying and scooping. Since your shovel will be riding in your backpack most of the time, focus on lightweight metal offerings. Plastic shovels are not acceptable for backcountry skiing due to their tendency to shatter at inopportune times. Probe: Probes are pretty simple, but still important. After locating a buried avalanche victim with your avalanche beacon, you’ll have to probe down to locate them precisely before digging. Get a lightweight probe that you can operate with gloves on that’s at least 260cm and ideally 300cm long. Trying to save weight by buying a shorter probe is a false economy; there are much better places to shave ounces off your load. Beacons: Beacons are getting better all the time, and they are all quite functional, though they all do have their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re buying one for the first time, get a three-antenna digital beacon from a reputable manufacturer and make sure you know how to use it. It’s worth spending some time trying out different models at a knowledgeable shop.


Clothing: Proper layering for mid-winter touring in western Washington is one of the more challenging things to master, and my own clothing system is always changing. The main thing to focus on is staying dry, so choose clothing that will wick and vent moisture. Realize that when hiking uphill in humid weather (normal mid-winter conditions), you will be generating a huge amount of body heat. Don’t be afraid to hike in just a base layer if that’s what’s most comfortable. Know that in certain conditions, all the outdoor clothing in the world won’t keep you dry – the only solution is more dry clothing in your backpack. Water: In cold weather, it’s harder to notice when you’re getting dehydrated, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated in the winter as the summer as dehydration will lead to poor circulation (cold toes and fingers) and muscle cramps. Water bottles have the advantage of



not freezing, but Camelbak-style bladders are easier and more convenient to use. If you’re not careful, the hose will freeze, though you can avoid this by blowing air back through the hose. On long day trips and overnighters, it’s often easier and lighter to bring along a camp stove, such as the MSR Reactor, to melt snow as you go, rather than carrying water for your trip the entire way. Food: The longer your trip, the more important your choice of food becomes. You’ll want healthy, calorie-dense, easy-to-digest foods to keep you going. Energy bars fit the bill, but sandwiches supplemented with candy bars work equally well.


Backcountry skiing is amazingly rewarding but does carry some risk. Like most hazards encountered in life, it’s possible to mitigate the dangers of backcountry skiing through preparedness and careful planning. More than the gear you carry in your backpack, your safety and comfort in the backcountry will depend on the knowledge and careful planning you carry in your head. Hiking uphill all day through deep snow in cold weather can be rather tiring. Tired minds are more prone to bad decisions, so it’s important to match your fitness to your skiing goals both for safety and enjoyment reasons. If you’re just starting out, choose smaller, simpler objectives near the resort until you get all your gear and group dynamics figured out. If you want to train for your backcountry skiing, the best place to start is to work on your cardio endurance; mountain biking and trail running are two popular off-season activities. Regardless of how strong a skier you are, if you can’t hike to the top of your run, you won’t be able to ski it. At a minimum, you should be able to ski any conditions you find at a ski resort. You’ll encounter a variety of snow conditions in the backcountry that rarely occur in a resort, and a strong skiing ability will go a long way to helping you through them. A big part of the appeal of backcountry skiing is the complexity involved. Early on it’s easy, and correct, to minimize the complexity of your trips, but as you advance as a skier, taking on more complex goals adds to the fun and the challenge. The first and most important thing to have in your mental filing cabinet is a working knowledge of snow safety and the forces and processes responsible for creating avalanches. Taking an Avalanche Level 1 class is a great place to start, but it won’t give you everything – it’s important to find competent partners who can let you in on their decision-making process. It is critical to remember that even though your friend is a great skier, it doesn’t mean they are a great avalanche forecaster. Choose your partners carefully, and be sure to question their reasoning. It’ll serve as a check against poor decision-making and help you understand how they assess risks. Remember, don’t just rely on someone else to make a decision for you – you have to think for yourself. For more information on avalanche courses, check out the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, the American Alpine Institute or the Mt. Baker Ski Area. The second, and most frequently underemphasized knowledge to have, is first aid. If the unfortunate happens and your partner breaks his leg or stops breathing after being buried in an avalanche, it’s important to know what to do.


The logistics involved with a backcountry ski trip seem to get exponentially more difficult the longer the trip is, so when starting out it’s important to keep things simple. The fewer details there are, the harder it is to forget something or make a serious mistake. When planning your trip, gather information from as many resources as possible. Check your route on a map, get a good understanding of where the hazardous terrain is, how steep it is, and how you plan to approach it and exit from it. Check guidebooks and search online for current conditions reports, and make sure everyone in your group understands the plan and is comfortable with it. Finally, make sure to check the current Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center’s (NWAC) avalanche and weather forecasts. They’ll give you the best idea of what’s going on in the snow, what the weather is going to be, and which way the avalanche danger is trending. X Sam Lozier is an avid skier, hiker, climber, photographer, and writer.

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t’s pretty simple, actually. There’s only one thing you need to know about avalanches and this is it – you don’t ever, ever want to be caught in one. Your chances of surviving one are somewhere between slim and, as my father used to say, a snowball’s chance in hell. When we visualize an avalanche, we often picture featherlight powder sloughing off a slope and flowing downhill in a pillowy rush. Sure, sometimes there are avalanches like these, but even a seemingly insignificant slide is more than enough to bury you in a gully or push you into a stand of trees where you’ll be Oster-ized. Here’s a sobering thought: Avalanches are rated on a five-point scale, D1 to D5. Only D1 is considered too small to injure or bury someone. D2 to D5? Think last will and testament. Not convinced? A cubic yard of Baker crud can weigh close to a ton – how do you think you’d feel after a spin cycle down the hill with three or four hundred of those? Better? Or worse? None of this is news to those who follow the news – every year we read about skiers, snowboarders or snowmobilers killed while venturing outside of ski areas. Why do they risk it? If you asked the outdoor enthusiasts taking the

Level 1 Avalanche course from the American Alpine Institute (AAI) last season, you’d get a variety of answers. Mostly college students, their answers ranged from “can’t afford tickets,” “dude, it’s the pow,” “no crowds,” to “the challenge.” All good reasons but there is one more that has to be seen to be believed – the ineffable beauty of snowy peaks under cerulean skies will fill your soul to completeness, and you will never be the same again. (OK, just kidding about the ineffable cerulean stuff.)


How do you avoid becoming a statistic? Prove that you’re smarter than you look – take an avalanche awareness course. AAI has gained worldwide fame for its expertise on all aspects of mountain adventuring but Mt. Baker Ski Area and others also offer avalanche awareness courses. In AAI’s avalanche training (AIARE Level 1), participants will learn how to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain, observe and analyze snow conditions

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over time, conduct field tests and observations, and plan and prepare for travel in avalanche terrain. AAI instructor Richard Riquelme, probably the coolest Chilean souvenir ever to land on American shores, starts his class by asking students to line up alphabetically by name. The only catch is, you aren’t allowed to speak. Try it sometime with a group of strangers. His point? The need, ability and importance of communicating in avalanche terrain. In fact, human factors are usually more important than the physical environment when it comes to safely traversing the backcountry. AAI courses combine classroom instruction with two days in the backcountry. The course uses material developed by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and aims to provide the stu-

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MAN Ski Area general manager MOUNTAh DuIN ncan Howat, Mt. Baker BY PAT GRUBB

A conversation wit


f you spend any time at all at Mt. Baker, you’ll soon run across Duncan Howat, the ski area’s general manager. You may see him in the lodge, on the slopes conferring with patrollers or checking out the operations on his snowmobile. Born in Seattle and raised on a farm in Yakima, Howat is 68, married to his wife Gail for 37 years and has two daughters, Gwyn and Amy, both of whom also work at the ski area. In early November, we interviewed him at his office in Bellingham. think I’d be any good compared to waterskiing, but they bought me a pair of boots and I went out and got a pair of wood skis. I went up to the White Pass ski area one day, put on the skis and went over

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to the rope tow and made one run straight down the hill. It was one of those things when you get lucky and say to yourself, “‘This is what I want to do.’ Right there. Right then.” MBE: How did you get into the ski business? DH: While I was in school I got a job at White Pass. When school was out, I worked full-time. I learned a lot about lift maintenance, snowcats, all that. MBE: When did you go to work for Mt. Baker? DH: Vietnam came along, and we decided to get married. I went into the reserves, Bill Clinton and me. Once I got out, Gail wanted to go to school in Bellingham. I wanted to do some more school too, and I thought maybe there’s something open at Baker. So we came up here. At the time the company was in disarray. They really didn’t have a manager and the ski patrol sort of ran the area but the company needed to renegotiate their permit because their previous permit with the Forest Service was up. There were groups that were trying

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to take it away and so I was hired right then. To be 24 years old and to be a ski area manager, that was something.


MBE: When did you start skiing? Duncan Howat: I was 20 or 21 and going to a community college in Yakima. I had always been into waterskiing, but my parents had built a cabin in the mountains. I didn’t

MBE: Who owns the ski area? DH: There are 250 stockholders, but six old-time Bellingham families hold the majority of stock. MBE: The ski area is different from most others. Can you describe the company’s philosophy? DH: We’ve always pushed the fact that we’re on the edge of the wilderness, that we’re surrounded by wilderness and a national park. Our whole thing is to keep the experience as real as possible by not advertising, not making it like Disneyland and to point out that there are dangers in the mountains. What I’ve found over the years is that more and more people are seeking a real experience, not something that’s phony, something that’s catered so you don’t have to think for yourself. I think that’s been paying off pretty well. We’re an area that’s fairly remote in the corner of the state. The population is growing in Whatcom and Skagit counties and the lower mainland, so business has been good. MBE: What about the Canadian business? DH: It’s getting better. At one time, our business was 47 percent Canadian, but then it dropped. Lately it’s been climbing and is probably in the 20-percent range now. If they have a low snow year in the lower mainland, then we’ll have a pretty darn good year. There were a couple of days this year where the parking lots were full and the cars were around the loop at Heather Meadows. MBE: How’s the ski area fared compared to other resorts in the economic downturn? DH: I’ve always been fiscally conservative, not borrowing a ton of money from the banks, and we try to pay for things as we go. Back in the ’70s and ’80s lots of resorts

DUNCAN HOWAT expanded under the theory that if you build it, they will come. That all came to a screeching halt – interest rates went sky high and big operators bought out a lot of ski areas. MBE: What are you most proud of in terms of the ski area and what you’ve achieved? DH: I’d say retaining local ownership is one. I’d add doing the expansion and creating the ski area with the crew, paying as we go and remaining economically sound, providing good value for people with a good experience. The lodges are pretty nice, too. The White Salmon and now the new Raven Hut Lodge provide a great experience for people. Another big thing – at the ski patrol refresher a few weeks ago, a woman from the national ski patrol association came up and gave me an honorary number, which is kind of like an honorary degree. They’ve only given out 74 of them since its inception 75 years ago. They’ve given one to Gerald Ford, Orrin Hatch. So that was kind of a neat deal. MBE: Any chance the ski area could ever expand? DH: Given our master plan and the terrain around us, it’s pretty tightly locked up. There is some recreation land surrounding us, but not a lot.

There’s a little bit on Mt. Herman but that creates some problems on its own. You could theoretically go up to the top of Hemispheres but I don’t think most people would want that because they like it as a hike. It’s more of a fine-tuning of what we have. MBE: What sort of things might you be planning for the future? DH: Within our boundaries, we might be looking at adding a chair or two. Possibly extending the parking lot where the backcountry people are parking and taking up spaces from the paying customers. MBE: Where could new chairs go? DH: You could put one at the top of the Chair 3 area and run all the way down to the sewage treatment plant. There’s a chair that could go where you get off at Chair 7 and would go all the way to the top of Chair 8. At one time, we laid out a chair at Austin called the Up and Up that went up over the backside. MBE: How many people work at the ski area when you’re fully operational? DH: About 275, not counting the volunteer patrol or the ski school instructors. MBE: Many ski areas have gotten into mountain biking in a big way in the summer. Any chance of that happening at Baker? DH: No. First off, we don’t have detachable chairlifts and you need those to load a bike and go up the hill. Secondarily, our terrain is so severe and steep and rocky that it doesn’t lend itself to that kind of activity.


MBE: How does a ski area determine what they’re going to charge for a ticket or a season’s pass? DH: For a season’s pass, we take the daily lift price and see how many times someone has to go to reach a break-even point. Then we kind of think about whether people can really ski that much or go that often. Then we factor the mid-week

and the convenience issues, and we arrive at a figure. Some ski areas sell passes for the next season in the spring and price it down low so theoretically they have the use of that money during the summer. They’re kind of selling themselves short because when they open, they’re charging $60 for a lift ticket but they’ve stuffed the area with $200 pass holders who are basically skiing free. Beyond that, you have to look at your daily lift prices and see what it’s going to take during an average season to cover your costs and have a little bit left over for a profit or to replace snowcats, buy parts, maintain your utilities, your water plant, your diesels for the lift. Those things all wear out. MBE: What is the split between daily pass and season pass holders on an average day? DH: I’d say on any given weekend, probably at least a third are season pass holders. MBE: Skiing is inherently a risky sport and going out of bounds makes it more so. The ski area has had to go out and rescue people after avalanches. How do you deal with that? DH: First off, you have to think that in these situations it’s not your emergency, it’s their emergency. That’s what I tell our people. Then we have to determine if it’s safe for the rescuers to go there. And in those out-of-bounds areas, it may not be, and we won’t send anyone out there. It’s a little hard on the crew if someone’s buried and they end up deceased. That’s just human nature – it’s hard. You kind of rationalize it by thinking these people are doing what they wanted to do and took their own risks – like someone driving fast on the Mt. Baker Highway. Those are the activities people are electing to do and while you don’t like to see it happen, people need to make their own decisions and be responsible for them. MBE: How do you keep in shape?

What do you do in the summer? DH: Well, I used to row but lately I’ve gotten into what’s called surf sea paddling. There’s a big community of guys in Bellingham who do it, and it’s really a great workout. We go out into the bay and surf the waves back or go over to Hawaii or Columbia Gorge. MBE: How much skiing do you do these days? DH: Not a lot. I used to ski and snowboard quite a bit but I had a hip replaced a year ago and a knee replaced just before that, but now I’m back really strong so I’ll probably get out there more this season. MBE: What happens at the ski area during the summer? DH: It could be new construction like the Raven Lodge. This summer it’s been a real monumental project installing new software in all the sales areas. It’s been a real push. MBE: Global warming – what is the ski area doing to reduce its impact? DH: We’re doing 100 percent recycling in our food service. We’re using compostable plates, cups and washable china. Any new engine we replace will be what’s called a Tier 4 engine, which is extremely fuel efficient with very low emissions. They’re expensive but we’re going on it really strong. Another thing is carpooling; we’re bringing our crew from town in vans. MBE: What’s involved in getting ready for the season? DH: We just finished all our state inspections; we’re bringing in the dry goods for the food service, the fuel for the chairlifts. Then interviewing and hiring the crews and training will begin in a couple of weeks. MBE: What’s the best thing about your job? DH: I think about that from time to time. Here I am, 40 years into it at the same place. I just feel lucky. Many times it’s challenging and it feels like the stress will do me in. Working with my family and the crew of employees we have is terrific. I also like to see people having a good time. Or, when you come up with ideas, you like to implement them and see them work. I was really pleased with how the Raven Lodge was received.

end of the day and says someone’s lost. Now we have to put together a search. Those are the kind of things. MBE: Is this going to be the best season ever? DH: I couldn’t say that. The last

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One week at Baker equals a season anywhere else


orway. Chile. British Columbia. Argentina. Utah. Colorado. Montana. Wyoming. California. Idaho. These are just some of the ski destinations that filled my schedule last season. My ski area Rolodex boasts some of the best. Heli-touring lodges deep in the Canadian wilderness, mountainous fjords far above the Arctic Circle, and Patagonian skies opening with snowfall to cover the rocky and rugged Andes – these are the memories I’ve filed away. They will always be there. Until I get a day of skiing at Mt. Baker in this season. Then these places, the skiing, the mountains, they evaporate. And only one place exists in my fanatical ski-motivated mind – Mt. Baker. Every fall, amidst trip planning, when the weeks away from home begin to concretely add up, I am forced to remind myself of what I will miss at Mt. Baker – ideal snow, world-class terrain, great touring partners and a no-frills atmosphere. Is it possible to be homesick while traveling the world to ski? If you live at Mt. Baker, than the answer is absolutely yes. Take snowfall. Mt. Baker holds the world record for snowfall in one year. During the ’98-’99 winter a total of 1,140 inches fell on the perfect, steep slopes of the ski area. That’s 95 feet. I wasn’t living in Washington that year, but I’ve found that you don’t need 1,140 inches to exceed expectations in the Cascades. Even just a little layer of white frosting cakes the peaks with enough fun and diversion from the world beyond these mountains to satisfy the skier and snowboarder soul. Even the threat of an average 2012-2013 season

due to El Niño weather patterns, I am sure the skiing will still be better than most places in the world. This area is blessed by Ullr. And even if the snow comes in average quantities (which is above average for most other ski locations in the world), the people satisfy my need for community and they do this with an unparalleled quirkiness tricky to find, at least in this concentration. Tree house dwelling ski bums, longtime locals, and the influx of college students from Western Washington University create a hodge-podge of personalities with one simple goal: to enjoy the fruitful offerings of Koma Kulshan and the surrounding mountains. A 50-year-old lawyer’s passion is the same as that of a 23-year-old college graduate’s. They are skiers and snowboarders that subscribe to the mountain and its powers to find sanity, excitement or a reason to tolerate all the rain in Bellingham. They’re all a part of the Mt. Baker tribe. A relatively predictable snowpack, potential glances of Mt. Shuksan and its hanging glacier in between storms, the annual Banked Slalom, après in the Tap Room followed by dinner at Milano’s, unexplored mountains just beyond your gaping eyes – the list of Mt. Baker’s attributes is endless. All I need is one week there this year because one week at Mt. Baker is equal to an entire season somewhere else. X


Program gets kids on the mountain




nowboard Outreach Society (SOS) began in 1993 in Colorado and is now active in more than 40 resorts, three countries and will serve 5,000+ youth in 2013. The Mt. Baker Snowboard Outreach Society program has been in place for three seasons and will serve 30 locals this winter. Youth ages 10 to 17 spend five weekend days starting in late February on the mountain. The major obstacles preventing these kids from snowboarding – transportation, clothing, snowboards, lift tickets and guidance – are provided through the program. A typical day starts with a snowboarding lesson from the Mt. Baker Area ski school followed by an afternoon session of freeriding with a volunteer Sherpa. The Sherpas continue teaching throughout the day and act as a resort guide keeping kids together. A certain level of immaturity is required of volunteer Sherpa; they need to be as good packing snowballs as teaching the basics of riding. The SOS experience isn’t just about snowboarding – the core values of courage, discipline, integrity,



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wisdom and compassion are instilled at every opportunity. Courage is a value every youth can connect with and therefore comes first. A winter mountain environment is intimidating when you’ve never experienced it before. Simply getting on and off a chairlift for the first time is an experience halfway between terrifying and awesome. Overcoming something you’re afraid of empowers kids and teaches the value of courage. Discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion typically take a little longer, but by week four, kids are heckling each other if they seem to lack one of them. Dylan Rees worked with SOS for six years and has been coordinating the Mt. Baker SOS program for the past three seasons. Rees has been recreating on snow since he was six years old, started teaching snowboarding at 17 and now has 13 years under his belt as a snowboard instructor. He credits his snowboard teaching background for much of his progression in life on and off the snow. In the years he has worked with SOS, his feeling of personal progression has multiplied by working with youth who’ve never experienced something so fundamental in his own life. Rees’ ever-grateful personality credits the success of Mt. Baker SOS to the support of donors, volunteers and Mt. Baker Ski Area. “Jake Bobst and Hilary Mosich in education and rentals at Mt. Baker have been enthusiastic supporters of the program for the past three seasons,” Rees said. “Without that support the program wouldn’t happen.” SOS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit capable of accepting cash and gear donations through SOS specializes in underserved youth and partnered with The Lummi Youth Recreation Academy and ReBound in 2012. Anyone interested in volunteering with Mt. Baker SOS must commit to all five weekend days and meet certain eligibility requirements. If you are interested in volunteering or having your group involved with Mt. Baker SOS, contact Rees at The 2012 season of the SOS Baker program saw something very promising – 2010 program participants had returned as volunteers. Youth who had the experience three years ago were volunteer Sherpas passing on the experience to a new round of kids. SOS is onto something that resonates with youth when they are willing to come back as volunteers. With a constant flow of volunteers and community supporters, SOS is a sustainable program that provides tremendous opportunities to local youths. X

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ognizing and anticipating the human factors, creating terrain options and planning for emergency responses. Of these, the human factors are perhaps the most insidious dangers of all. A review of avalanches in the U.S. during the 1990s showed that terrain, weather and snowpack conditions contributed to fatal avalanche accidents, but human factors were the primary cause. Such factors include social pressure, overconfidence or low selfconfidence, closed-mindedness, shortcutting and impaired objectivity. You see your buddies traversing across a slope so it must be OK? That’s social pressure. A phenomenon known as ‘risky shift’ occurs when a group accepts a higher level of risk than what each individual might choose alone. Interestingly, young men will tend to accept higher risks if there are women in the group. Low self-confidence will lead someone to mistrust their instincts and to accept a decision they intuitively feel is wrong. Additionally, such people may be hesitant to question someone with greater experience even if they have information that the leader does not.

Your chances of surviving an avalanche are somewhere between slim and a snowball’s chance in hell. transceivers and probes. Once someone is buried, time becomes critical. A 2011 Canadian study showed survival times are much shorter than what had previously been thought. If the victim hasn’t suffered trauma, they have only a 78 percent chance of surviving burial for 10 minutes or less. Only 40 percent survive at 15 minutes and it drops fast after that. In moist maritime snow conditions (remind you of anywhere?), survival times are even lower. A sobering thought: Riquelme told class members that it was very likely that they would be the most knowledgeable person in whatever

group that was headed into the backcountry. Knowing that, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for the backcountry, you take the courses, or make sure you know the competency of everyone in your group. To learn more about the American Alpine Institute (AAI), visit or call 360/ 671-1505. Mt. Baker Ski Area offers two courses in their mountain education center beginning in December. Go to or call 360/734-6771. X


The backcountry days are where you put all your newfound knowledge to work. You’ll conduct a snow profile, test the stability of the snowpack and compare local conditions to avalanche bulletins. Finally, you’ll learn how to conduct a search using avalanche



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FLYING HIGH What’s on your bucket list? North Cascades Heli-Skiing should be. BY PAT GRUBB



p north in the middle of Washington in the Methow Valley sits the little town of Mazama, population 230. You get there on Highway 20 but only from the south; the northern end closes every year after the snow begins to fall. And fall it does. Which is why every winter those looking for a premiere ski experience make the trek to Mazama to hop aboard a helicopter to some of the best skiing and riding that can be found anywhere. North Cascades Heli-Ski has been taking riders into the heart of the American Alps since 1988. Their permit area spreads over 300,000 incredible acres of mountain runs towering between 7,000 to 9,000 feet high. Piloting the copter is Seamus O’Daimhin, who has over 14,000 hours of flight time and drops off powder hounds onto mountains they had only dreamt about. The company offers various downhill programs for one or three days or exclusive charters. They also offer heli-assisted backcountry touring, again, one or three days. The operation guarantees that skiers will get seven runs each day; depending upon conditions, you’ll get at least 12,000 vertical feet – and sometimes more – which will have you looking for a place to lie down at the end of the day.

Trips run from January 19 through March 24. Typically, reservations are made in groups of four riders although they can sometimes accommodate less. A three-day downhill trip costs $2,907 per person; a one-day is $1,060. A three-day touring program is $1,077 per person or $430 for one-day outings. They also offer three- or four-day backcountry yurt programs for $1,050 and $1,157, respectively. The yurt trips fill up fast; about half the scheduled trips are already booked for 2013. Who should go on one of these trips? You should be, at a minimum, an advanced intermediate or better skier who is comfortable skiing blue and black runs under all conditions in a resort. You should also be as fit as possible – seven runs and 12,000 feet of vertical every day for three days requires a lot of stamina. Remember, you’ll be going out with just three other skiers and a guide – you won’t want to be the slowest one in the group. Company owner Paul Butler says, “The thing that separates us from other ski areas is we operate between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. When it’s raining somewhere else, it’s snowing here.” For more information, call 800/494-HELI (4354) or visit them at X

Wes Lemire

Shawn Freyer


Ricardo Broberg gets a view with the ride | ALL PHOTOS BY BRAD WALTON | BRADWALTONPHOTO.COM Ricardo Broberg gets a view with the ride | ALL PHOTOS BY BRAD WALTON | BRADWALTONPHOTO.COM

Owen Dudley drops into the Mt. Baker backcountry PHOTO BY JAY GOODRICH | JAYGOODRICH.COM

Zack Giffin, Paul Kimbraugh, Matt Steinman ski touring out the Shuskan Arm PHOTO BY GRANT GUNDERSON | GRANTGUNDERSON.COM

Mattias Evangelista PHOTO BY DYLAN HALLETT

Charlie Griffith

Skier on Mt. Herman




STAYING DR Y A primer o n managing




WHETHER YOU’RE WINTER HIKING, SKIING OR SNOWSHOEING, MANAGING MOISTURE IS AS MUCH ABOUT COMFORT AS IT IS ABOUT SAFETY recipitation, wind and cold are your external threats and sweat is your enemy from within. Having the right clothing can make the difference between comfort and catastrophe. The human body needs to stay within a narrow temperature range – roughly between 95 and 105 degrees – or it will succumb to hypothermia or hyperthermia. The body self regulates for the most part, but when you’re active in extreme environments it needs help. In humid climates such as the Pacific Northwest, sweat doesn’t evaporate well, so its cooling effect is diminished. And once physical exertion is stopped, it doesn’t take long for the cold and humid air to chill your body.

COTTON. First and foremost, it’s best to leave all cotton clothing at home, including the ubiquitous, Pacific Northwest hoodie. Cotton holds moisture, it’s heavy, it takes a long time to dry, it has no insulating properties when it’s wet and it increases the likelihood of chafing and blistering. BASE AND MID-LAYER FABRICS. When choosing base and mid-layer fabrics

(including pants, socks and underwear), stick to synthetic fabrics or Merino wool. Synthetics, such as polyester, polypropylene, nylon or poly blends (including name brands such as Patagonia’s Capilene or Invista’s Lycra or Thermolite) tend to be lighter and less expensive than Merino wool, but Merino wool is warmer and less clammy when damp. Different breeds of sheep produce different wool fibers. Old-school wool was made from thick fibers, making it feel itchy and scratchy against the skin. Now you can find active-wear companies like SmartWool, Ibex and Icebreaker that use fine-fiber wool shorn from Merino sheep. Fibers from this type of wool are roughly a quarter the thickness of human hair, and they have kinks and bends that create millions of heat-storing air pockets that keep you warm – even when the wool is wet. The fibers also absorb sweat vapor on the inside and release it on the outside. Regardless of the fabric you choose, keep in mind that different fibers move, or wick, sweat away from your body at different rates, so it’s important to combine the appropriate layers. “It’s best to have a synthetic or wool base layer next to your skin,” said Krystol Ithomitis of Bellingham’s Sportsman Chalet. “And then, in between that and your hardshell, you want additional layers to be the same material as your base layer – such as a mid- or heavy-weight Merino wool layer over a lightweight Merino wool shirt – so that moisture moves away from your body at the same rate.”

FLEECE. Generally speaking, there are two types of fleece – open-weave fleece, which allows air to flow through it, and bonded fleece, which has wind-block or hard-faced material incorporated into it. An open-weave fleece jacket makes a great insulation layer because it provides a lot of warmth, it allows moisture to escape, is lightweight and has some insulating properties even when it’s a little damp. When an open-weave fleece jacket is worn underneath a windproof and waterproof hardshell jacket, it makes a highly effective jacket combination to fend off the cold, wind and rain. INSULATED JACKET: DOWN OR SYNTHETIC? There are many variables to consider when choosing between a down or synthetic jacket. Down insulation is typically warmer, lighter and more packable than synthetic insulation, but it’s also more expensive, it takes longer to dry and it loses its insulating properties when it gets wet. You probably won’t use a down or synthetic sweater or jacket on a day outing, but it’s a good idea to carry one. If something goes wrong (i.e., you sprain an ankle, get caught in a storm, become lost or slip into an icy creek), you may be immobile for a while, and having the extra insulation could save your life. Just be sure to keep your jacket in a waterproof bag so that it stays dry.

HARDSHELL JACKETS. A good hardshell jacket features water repellency and breathability. In other words, it keeps precipitation out, it allows sweat vapor to escape, and it dries quickly. It’s best to spend the extra money on a membrane-backed jacket rather than one that has been treated with a microporous coating. Membranes are typically laminated in between a face fabric and a liner. These types of jackets cost more, but they last longer, are more durable and more breathable than jackets with coatings that will inevitably wear off. All of the major brands claim to have breathability, water repellency and wind-blocking features, and there are many different membrane brand names on the market, such as GoreTex, eVent, Polartec, Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q Elite, The North Face’s HyVent, Columbia’s Omni-Heat, and so on. Adding to the confusion, some brands even have multiple styles, names and fabric/insulation combinations. Rather than trying to compare the seemingly subtle differences between the top brands, focus on finding a jacket that matches your activity (high-intensity activities may require a shell that moves vapor faster than others, for example), has the features you need (i.e., pockets, pit vents, helmet-compatible hood, etc.) and fits correctly – keeping in mind that you may need a larger size to accommodate insulating layers. In addition to the specific features needed for your activity, Ithomitis recommends investing in a waterproof, membranebacked jacket with taped seams, waterproof zippers and a hood. A high-quality hardshell jacket will be more comfortable, more effective at managing moisture and lasts much longer than a cheap jacket, and it just might become the most important piece of clothing you carry. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. So now you’re all geared up with new clothing and

you’re ready to give it all a test run. Not so fast. It’s best to start out underdressed and slightly chilled because once you begin your activity you’ll probably warm up quickly. When you generate enough heat to start sweating, either shed a layer or slow your pace. If you become chilled, add a layer. And when you stop to take a break, immediately add a warm layer to keep yourself from getting cold and to preserve the warmth you have already generated. Then, right before you start moving again, remove the warm layer and place it back inside your pack. Continually add or remove layers as needed, and try to stay ahead of your body’s temperature changes. The outdoor-clothing market can be confusing because there are so many different fabric types, stitchings, seams, blends and brands. But if you do your research, consult with experts such as Ithomitis, and invest in the proper gear for your activity, you will enjoy many dry and safe days in the wet and wild Pacific Northwest. X AUBREY LAURENCE


Aubrey Laurence spends as much time in the mountains as possible. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and two cats.







This is a really neat little ski, says John from the Glacier Ski Shop. Good in powder, through the trees or doing a billy goat line, easy skiing. The topskin is plastic made from bio beans and has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any topsheet. Features magne-traction edges that are serrated to provide incredible holding power. $744.

John at the Glacier Ski Shop is big on these: they’re highly adjustable with five lean angles, an excellent walk mode with full ankle flex, heatmoldable liner and custom footbed; a great downhill boot that can go out of bounds just as well. These boots combine high performance with plenty of comfort. $600.



SMITH I/O RECON GOGGLES Noel at Sportsman Chalet figures you’ll be the most dialed-in rider on the slopes with these goggles. A head’s up display giving you your speed, altitude, distance, location and more is seemingly projected inches in front of you. It will even keep track of your buddies. $650.


HELLY HANSEN MEN’S ODIN HOODED BELAY JACKET This is just the jacket if you’re hanging around the ice cliff waiting for your chance at the face. Helmet-compatible, 100 g Primaloft One insulation. Highly compressible, it comes with a stuff sack. $280.


ARBOR ABACUS This split-board is best for directional, free-style riding, says Heather at Fairhaven Bike & Ski. It features Karakoram clips and won Backcountry editors’ award. Arbor designs its products using alternative materials and made using sustainable practices. $699.




MSR SURELOCK TR-3 POLES Super-light, these three section poles feature a trigger release for speedy one-hand adjustment. Nice and compact for throwing in your backpack. Lightweight aluminum make these poles easy to carry and easy to use. $149.


LIB-TECH ATTACK BANANA This free-style board has elliptical camber to help distribute tip and tail pressure. You’ll be able to absorb big landings that would have buckled your knees before. Shorter contact length makes the Banana shine on hardpack and powder. $579.


MSR LIGHTNING ASCENTS User reviews on the web consistently give these snowshoes an excellent rating. They are especially prized for their holding ability on the steeps due to their non-tubular construction and aggressive crampons. Ergo Televators can be engaged with a pole flick making ascents like climbing stairs. Accepts tails. $269.


DYNAFIT ONEPX According to Thierry at Fairhaven Bike & Ski, these 3-buckle ski touring boots are a warmer and beefier version of Dynafit’s TLT-5 model. For touring, the cuff rotates 60 degrees. Featuring a custom moldable liner, the women’s version comes with a scalloped back shell. $639.

HELLY HANSEN WOMEN’S H2 FLOW JACKET This lightweight, mid-layer combines a fleece interior with polyester shell. Front zippers allow for increased airflow and control. $180.



BE LOCAL, BUY LOCAL. We’ve listed the manufacturer’s websites for more information, but we encourage you to support your local retailers. These winter items can be found at American Alpine Institute, Backcountry Essentials, Fairhaven Bike & Ski, Glacier Ski Shop, Hidden Wave Boardshop, Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop, Mountain Equipment Co-op, REI, Sportsman Chalet, Yeager’s Sporting Goods and other quality retailers in Washington and British Columbia.




VERTICAL ICE Nothing like the experience of ice climbing BY JASON D. MARTIN


wing. Thunk. My ice axe bit deeply into the vertical blue ice. Swing. Thunk. The pick of my second ice tool hit home, sinking deeply into the frozen wall. I worked my feet up the ice, kicking the sharp front-points of my crampons in until they found purchase. And then I stood still and took in my surroundings. The sky was that perfect crisp blue that only seems to exist on clear days in a Washington winter. Jagged mountains encrusted in snow stood out on the horizon. Skiers slid by on a cat track hundreds of feet below. It was a perfect day to be ice climbing on Mt. Baker Ski Area’s Pan Dome Falls. There is nothing like the experience of ice climbing. There are no other sports out there where you lash razor sharp spikes to your feet and carry two tools that look more like something William Wallace in “Braveheart” might carry than a modern mountain climber. There are no other sports where you bash a vertical ice wall into submission, while working your way incrementally up it. And there are certainly no other sports out there where you do all that while exposed to both freezing weather and extreme heights. No, there is definitely nothing like ice climbing. And that’s why it’s cool. Modern ice climbing was born out of the need for climbers to get up progressively steeper mountain routes. In the beginning, climbers wore crampons, metal spikes affixed to their boots, with 10 vertical spikes and carried long wooden mountaineering axes. The 10-point crampons allowed the mountaineer to move freely up semi-steep icy terrain, while the long mountain axe allowed them to keep their balance and cut steps in the snow. Early mountaineers employed a special crampon position, dubbed the French Technique, to move up steep slopes. In this technique, the climber rotated his foot outward, paralleling the slope with his boot or even pointing his toes downhill in order to force all 10 of his crampon points to bite. Security came from getting all 10 points into the ice, which meant that as the terrain became serious, the climber literally had to walk uphill backward in order to be safe. Clearly, this method had its limits. In 1932, the European climber Laurent Grivel made a major modification to the historic crampon. He added two sharp horizontal spikes to the front, thus introducing front-points, a major revolution that allowed climbers to



ascend significantly steeper terrain by kicking their toes in and standing up on them. Seven years later Otto Trott, a German immigrant, introduced these new 12-point crampons to the Pacific Northwest. The use of front-points in the Cascades led to a number of steep first ascents throughout the range, including new lines on Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. In 1966, Yvon Chouinard began experimenting with new shorter ice axes with upswept reverse-curve picks. With new modified ice tools in hand, he started an ice climbing revolution. Chouinard refined old techniques and developed new ones. He taught classes and inspired young climbers, including Dunham Gooding, an aspiring mountain guide who would go on to found the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham. Today, Chouinard is best known for his company, Patagonia. But his innovations in ice climbing equipment and techniques, combined with the innovations made in the 1930s lead to a change in perception. Anybody could climb steep or vertical ice. All they needed were the right tools. In Washington state, we have three types of ice climbing. The first is steep spring and summer alpine ice routes. These are often made up of a combination of frozen snow, exposed glacier and water ice. The second are winter alpine ice routes on steep mountain faces. Commonly, these snow and ice lines form from the winter’s normal freeze thaw cycles. And the third are what most people think of when they think of ice climbing: waterfall ice routes, or frozen waterfalls. “But … but, there is no ice climbing in Washington!” For years this was the automatic response given when northwest climbers were asked about potential ice routes in the Cascades or in the Washington desert. For many it was probably easier to deny the existence of climbable ice than to commit to the often grueling approaches through deep snow and avalanche terrain required to reach a winter ice route. Many thought that a trip up to Canada, where the waterfall ice is less fickle and the approaches are more manageable, might be a better option than hunting the elusive beast that is Washington ice. And for many, maybe it was.



A little over a decade ago, Alex Krawarik and I set out to write a guidebook on ice climbing in Washington. Our efforts led to a number of incredible ice climbing adventures throughout the state and eventually to the publication of our book, “Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide” (Mountaineers Books). After the book was published in 2003, climbers all over the state began to look at our warm maritime mountains in a different light. They made their way up new ice routes both in the Cascades and in the cold desert east of the mountains. The book was the impetus for a renaissance of ice climbing and new route development throughout the state. But even after the book came out, there were still doubters out there. They claimed that nothing in the book ever “came in.” That’s climber-speak for when a waterfall freezes to a point where it’s in condition for climbing. These individuals claimed that while some of the routes freeze occasionally, Washington still wasn’t really an ice climber-friendly state. In some regards these doubters were right. Washington is a warm state and many of the waterfall routes with easy roadside access don’t come in every year. Some are so fickle that they only come in once every decade or so. Warm temperatures through the winter often result in waterfall ice climbs that require a lot more finesse and expertise than similar climbs in Canada. Climbers must choose their pick placements more carefully here, as the ice is variable and soft. This makes it difficult for novice climbers to learn the craft without a professional instructor.

With a little effort, it is always possible to find ice. Roadside ice is less reliable and often less stable, but occasionally it comes in ‘fat’ providing a solid winter of good climbing. When the temperatures are warm and the roadside ice is poor, mountain ice often goes through a freeze-thaw cycle, which creates excellent alpine ice conditions. Ice climbing is not a sport for the meek, but it is also not exclusive. If you think you can handle the cold, the heights and the physical endurance required to climb a route, then you’re halfway there. The next step is to head to the mountains, strap on some crampons and start swinging your tools!

GETTING STARTED. Ice climbing can be a dangerous sport. Unlike rock, ice is not static. It is a constantly changing medium. Ice on every waterfall climb falls down at some point throughout the season and alpine ice climbs constantly shed large chunks of ice. Aspiring ice climbers should seek professional instruction. The American Alpine Institute (AAI, offers private waterfall ice climbing lessons and guided ascents throughout the winter in the Cascades, in California’s Eastern Sierra and in Ouray, Colorado. AAI provides alpine ice climbing courses throughout the spring and summer on Mt. Baker and throughout the Cascades. EQUIPMENT. If you’re already a rock climber or a mountaineer, then you probably have a lot of the basics. Ice climbers will need harnesses, dynamic climbing ropes, carabiners, slings and belay devices. If you’re new to all types of climbing and you elect to take a class, most of this will be provided to you. If you’re a skier or a mountaineer, then you probably have the requisite clothing. If not, you’ll need multiple warm base and intermediate layers, shell clothing and a warm down jacket. The down jacket is often referred to as a belay jacket because while you’ll get warm climbing, you’ll spend a lot of time standing still belaying a climber in the winter shade.


ICE TOOLS. There are many styles and brands. Some tools are designed for alpine ice, whereas others are designed for waterfall ice, and yet others are designed for mixed rock and ice climbing. A single tool can cost anywhere from $120 to $300. Before investing, take a class where people have lots of different tools available. Play with them all and see which one(s) you like the best. BOOTS. Mountaineering boots with a full-shank will suffice for beginner climbers. CRAMPONS.

Beginner climbers will want a good allaround steel crampon that can be used for general mountaineering as well as ice climbing. All-around crampons have horizontal front-points, which tend to work better on alpine ice climbs where sometimes you’re on ice and sometimes you’re on snow. Advanced waterfall ice climbers may choose vertical front-points because they are more aggressive on steep climbs. Mixed climbers might prefer monopoints. These crampons have a single point, which can be used for difficult rock climbing moves. Most crampons run from $100 to $200.

waterfall ice grading system


Ice climbing without a helmet is suicide. Ice chunks constantly shed from both waterfall and alpine ice climbs. A standard rock-climbing helmet is acceptable. These range from $50 to $100.


These are specialized anchors that can be screwed into the ice in order to provide intermediate protection or an anchor. Beginners generally don’t need these, but intermediates and advanced level climbers will need a number of these. Ice screws cost $40 to $70. X

Jason D. Martin is an AMGA Certified Rock Guide and the Operations Director at the American Alpine Institute. In addition to working as a mountain guide, Martin is a freelance writer and co-authored “Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide.”

WI 1 – Low-angle ice that does not require an ice tool. WI 2 – Easy ice climbing up to 60 degrees that may be climbed with one ice tool. WI 3 – 60 to 70 degrees two-tool ice climbing with good rests. WI 4 – Near vertical steps up to 30 feet of sustained climbing, strenuous moves required to place intermediate protection.

WI 5 – Near vertical or vertical steps up to 60 feet of sustained climbing, strenuous moves required to place intermediate protection, few good rests.

WI 6 – Vertical climbing with no rests for the entire pitch (60 to 200 feet), requires a high level of technique and excellent fitness.



FEET FIRST Snow-free winter hikes




any day hikers are leery of snow-covered trails, and come winter they put their passion into hibernation. It’s understandable because snow completely changes the game. It limits trailhead access, creates routefinding challenges, requires extra gear, makes hiking more tiresome and produces dangerous situations, such as slick surfaces, deep snow and avalanches. But there’s no need for hikers to hang up their backpacks for the season. There are many wonderful hikes in northwest Washington that stay snow-free most of the year, and when they do receive snow, it tends to melt off fast. Below are five winter hikes to keep your passion alive through the season:

ALGER ALP. Unofficially named Alger Alp and also known as “Little Baldy,” this little mountain can be seen from I-5 in between exits 240 and 242. In conjunction with Squires Lake Park on its north side, this is a great area for hiking, trail running and bird watching. There are two routes to the summit – one from the north through the Squires Lake Park off Old Hwy 99 and one from the south from Alger-Cain Lake Road (which is Lake Samish Road west of 99). The Pacific Northwest Trail runs along a good portion of both routes. Depending on the route you take, you could easily do four miles round trip and gain at least 1,000 feet of elevation, so it makes for a good, quick-fix hike just 15 minutes south of Bellingham. And at just 1,315 feet high, Alger Alp is low enough to stay snow-free for most of the year. The south route follows the defunct Logging Road 1000 to the summit. The north route passes the northwest tip of Squires Lake, heads south on the Squires Lake Loop Trail, takes a right onto the narrow South Ridge Trail, and then turns into Logging Road 1340 and then 1300. When it links up to Road 1000, it follows it around the north side of the mountain. At the end of the road, a trail leads to an open area on the summit. Ignore the din of I-5 far below and cast your eyes toward the islands and the Olympics to the southwest. Directions: For the south route, take Exit 240 to Lake Samish Road, then head east through Alger. Past Highway 99, the trailhead (gated Road 1000) is on the left, just past Corbell Lane and before the bridge over Silver Creek. Park on the shoulder on either side of the road, but do not block the gate. For the north route, take Exit 242, go east on Old Highway 99, which will then turn toward the south. In less than a mile, the Squires Lake parking area will be on your left (east) side of the highway.

HORSESHOE BEND. On cold and rainy days, few consider heading up into the hills, but that’s exactly why you should. The Horseshoe Bend trail is a great destination on days like this because most of the trail is protected from the wind and rain by a dense canopy of cedars, hemlocks and Douglas firs. It’s also a low-elevation trail that tends to be snow-free most of the year. Sure, it may lack sweeping vistas and mountain views, but it still has a lot to offer. 28


Beginning right off Highway 542, the trail travels through a moss-covered forest as it contours the raging, boulderstrewn North Fork Nooksack River. Along the way, there are many great whitewater views and idyllic picnic spots. The trail ends at a precipice high above the Horseshoe Bend. This is a relatively easy hike, though it does have many ups and downs, including a few sections that will get your heart pounding. If you hike the trail all the way to the end and back, you will travel almost 2.5 miles and gain more than 400 feet of elevation. Some guidebooks only give it 200 or 300 feet, but they don’t seem to account for all the dips and rises, out and back.

Directions: Drive east on Highway 542. Two miles beyond the Glacier Public Service Center, park on the right side of the road, just past the bridge and across the street from the Douglas Fir Campground.

DECEPTION PASS STATE PARK TRAILS. It may not feature long trails in remote forests or sweeping alpine views, but Deception Pass State Park does have 38 miles of short, interconnecting trails and loops that offer plenty of eye candy. The best part is that you can tailor a hike to your time or energy constraints, whether you just want a short stroll along a beach or a long, circuitous route. On the north side of the bridge on Fidalgo Island, consider exploring the Bowman Bay area, which offers quiet beaches, rocky cliffs, old forests, grassy knolls and hidden coves, plus panoramic views of Deception Pass, the Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands. If you combine hikes to Rosario Head, Lighthouse Point and Lottie Point, you will hike at least five miles and gain about 400 feet of elevation, as there are many ups and downs on these trails. There are also many spur trails to explore, though some of them are overgrown, slick and dangerous where they cross above cliffs (especially on the north side of Lighthouse Point), so proceed with caution. Directions: Deception Pass State Park is located off Highway 20 between Anacortes and Oak Harbor. To get to Bowman Bay from Anacortes, go south on Highway 20, turn right onto Rosario Road and take an immediate left onto the park road to Bowman Bay, making another left to the boat launch and day-use area. A Discovery Pass is required.


Instead of doing the ever-popular Oyster Dome hike, go farther and higher to the lesser-known North Butte, which has similarly inspiring views, plus a great view of Mt. Baker on clear days. It even features a very short scramble right at the top. There are many ways to gain this sub-summit of Blanchard Mountain’s highpoint (which is covered with trees, has no views and requires a bushwhacking session), and many loop hikes are possible. Most pass by Lily Lake. From the west, you can hike to North Butte from Chuckanut Drive; from the south, you can hike it from Samish Overlook or the junction of roads B-2000 and B-1000; from

the east, you can gain it from the Alternate Incline Trail after hiking up the gated road; and from the north you can reach it from the British Army Trail. The Chuckanut Recreation Area map ( details your many options, which are only limited by your creativity and energy.

Directions: For the south-side routes, take Exit 240 from I-5 south, turn right (north) onto Lake Samish Road, left onto Barrel Springs Road, and then right onto the Blanchard Mountain gravel road B-1000. For the hike from Chuckanut Drive, take Chuckanut Drive (11) about 10 miles south of Fairhaven, just past the Oyster Bar, and park on the right (west) side of the road. A Discover Pass is required.

MOUNT CONSTITUTION. Out of the 700 islands that make up the San Juan Islands archipelago, Orcas Island is the tallest, with Mount Constitution prominently rising 2,409 feet straight out of the sea. The mountain is within Moran State Park, which has 5,252 acres, five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails that are typically free of snow most of the year. There are many routes you can take to Mount Constitution’s summit, including a road. But to experience the mountain best, do the 6.7-mile-loop hike starting at the parking area for Mountain Lake Campground. Taken counterclockwise, this route gains about 1,500 feet in total, as it contours the west shore of Mountain Lake, gradually ascends north through a lush-green forest, and then steeply ascends west before wrapping around the north side of the mountain to the summit. You will encounter many side trails on this loop, some of which make worthy extensions on their own, so be sure to bring a map. No summit visit is complete without climbing to the top of the stone tower, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a clear day, you’ll have commanding, 360-degree views of northwest Washington from Mt. Baker to Mt. Rainier, Vancouver and lower British Columbia, the San Juan Islands, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. To complete the loop, head south from the summit on the Little Summit Trail, which skirts above cliffs (hike cautiously if the trail is wet or icy) and gently undulates along the long summit ridge before descending steeply down the mountain’s southeastern shoulder. This trail connects back to Mountain Lake, just north of where you parked. Directions: Take the Washington state ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island. Turn left after disembarking the ferry and take Orcas Road to the town of Eastsound. Drive through Eastsound and then take a right onto Olga Road to Moran State Park, and then left onto Mount Constitution Road. After about a mile, turn right and park in the Mountain Lake parking area. A Discover Pass is required. In the winter the park is open 8 a.m. to dusk. For more information and to download a trail map of the park, visit parks/?selectedpark=Moran.X Aubrey Laurence spends as much time in the mountains as possible. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and two cats.




In preparation for winter outings, consider adding the following 10 items to your Ten Essentials. It’s actually a good idea to carry many of these items in your pack year round.

1. 2. 3. 4.

Dry bag: Waterproof backpack cover or a waterproof bag lining the inside of your backpack Happy feet: Extra pair of synthetic or wool socks in case your feet get wet and moleskin to prevent and/or treat blisters. Eye protection: Ski goggles for blowing snow in high-wind situations Gastric support: Upset stomach relief/antacid tablets, toilet paper and plastic pack-out bags


No slip: Traction for your boots (when snow or ice is present)


Fluid balance: Electrolytes, especially if you tend to sweat heavily

7. 8. 9.


Forrest Burki boardsliding an icy spine in the Mt. Baker backcountry

Warm jacket: Down or synthetic insulating jacket for breaks, emergencies or just hanging out at camp


Safety items: Whistle, signaling mirror, personal location beacon or SPOT personal tracker Antihistamines: Anaphylactic shock is a sudden, life-threatening, multi-system allergic reaction that causes about 1,500 deaths per year. Food allergens, insect stings, iodine, peanuts and medications are just a few instigators. The reaction may be fatal if emergency treatment, including epinephrine injections, is not given immediately. Antihistamines (i.e. Benadryl) may control the symptoms until you can get proper medical attention.

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Common sense: Carry all the appropriate gear you will need and know how to use it, and don’t travel beyond your abilities.

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The Plunge: 11AM

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*Due to health concerns including, but not limited to; hypothermia, the Chamber of Commerce strongly recommends that participants do not remain in the water after the initial plunge. There are NO awards for length of time in the water. Swim at your own risk. The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and affiliates are not responsible for any adverse health effects wholly or in part due to the Polar Bear Plunge. By simply taking part in the event, participants agree to these statements.




k watching aw h r ie em pr rs fe of ls il h ot Cascade fo BY JOE MECHE BY SUE MADSEN | PHOTOS

And it gets cold. Because hawk watching is a game of patience that requires staying still, one needs to dress warmly. My winter birding outfit consists of fleece-lined pants, an Eddie Bauer polar parka, fur-lined hat and two sets of wool gloves. Binoculars are also obligatory, and a spotting scope is useful. However, if you don’t have a scope but encounter others who do, don’t hesitate to stop and ask what they have their eyes on; birders love to share their finds and often reward curious on-lookers a glimpse through their high powered optics. Every birder has their favorite viewing area – mine is the “West 90,” or Samish Wildlife unit according to its official WDFW designation, a gravel parking lot situated at a 90-degree bend in Samish Island Road. I like to visit in the late afternoon an hour or so before sunset to check out the aerial combat between the short-eared owls and harriers. Great sites north of the border include the Boundary Bay Dike, where snowy owls can be found most winters near the end of 72nd and 64th streets, and the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The 850-acre Reifel refuge includes several miles of walking trails, restrooms and a gift shop. It also hosts a handful of rare overwintering Sandhill Cranes and seldom seen night herons. X



lpenglow lights up Mt. Baker at my back, but this evening my attention is focused to the west, over the field of green-gold stubble that was a cornfield back in July. I set up the spotting scope and scan the horizon, lingering on the tall shapes topping the line of pilings along the distant edge of Samish Bay. Cormorants, eagles and red tail hawks soak up the last rays of the wintry sunset, feathers fluffed against the cold. Then I hear it – a whispery “chjew, chjew, chjew” off to my left. I swing around to catch the fluttery wing beats of a short-eared owl winging in circles around the low-flying northern harrier that has intruded into its airspace. Many locals don’t realize that the low, flat, deltas laid down by rivers as they exit the Cascade foothills and spill into Puget Sound represent one of the premier hawk watching venues in the nation. Skagit Flats west of Conway, Samish Flats at the south end of Chuckanut Drive, Lummi Flats west of Ferndale and Boundary Bay along the south edge of the Fraser delta just north of the border all offer prime viewing sites. These estuary areas, with their open agricultural fields and relatively mild climate (relative to many of the hawks summer homes in the subarctic that is), provide ideal conditions for overwintering birds of prey. As a beginning birder, my introduction to the area came by taking a course on raptors taught by Bud Anderson, lead researcher for the Falcon Research Group (FRG). Anderson offers month-long classes in raptor identification and ecology each winter at the Padilla Bay Reserve or through the Whatcom Museum. The highlight of the class is a field trip to the flats. One memorable year I got to help Bud briefly trap a red tail to check it for long bill syndrome. The FRG has been conducting an annual winter hawk census on the Skagit Flats since 1985. While the flats support a resident population of red tails, a handful of harriers (sometimes known as marsh hawks) and kestrels, birds begin concentrating there in late November as winter closes in at their summer breeding grounds. Short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks and the occasional gyrfalcon and snowy owl migrate down from the arctic and subarctic tundra areas they call home in warmer months. Snowy owls are generally not common, although at least one or two are sighted each year just north of the border in Boundary Bay. However, about every 10 years or so an “irruption” of snowy owls occurs, sending dozens of the majestic birds south to our area. Last year was such an irruption year, and delighted birders regularly spotted almost two dozen birds at Boundary Bay, and several more at Sandy Point in Whatcom County and near Stanwood in Snohomish County. The winter raptor population reaches its peak in mid-February when bald eagles who have been gorging on salmon along the rivers that feed each delta move downstream to the open fields. Results posted on the FRG website ( indicate that Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier and Rough-legged Hawk comprise about 85 to 95 percent of the winter raptors on the Skagit Flats. Other species seen include Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Snowy Owl, Common Barn Owl, Gyrfalcon, Prairie Falcon, Great Horned Owl, Golden Eagle, Great Grey Owl, and Barred owl. Winter hawk watching is not for sissies. My pal Jody and I once watched in fascinated horror as a peregrine falcon stooped on a snow goose, only to be chased off of the feathery feast by a hungry bald eagle who took possession of the kill.



Sue Madsen is a fluid geomorphologist who likes to climb, ski, backpack, sea kayak and scuba drive.


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Boundary Bay Dike

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From Vancouver, take Highway 99 and follow signs to Highway 17 and Tsawwassen. Exit from Highway 17 on to Ladner Trunk Road, or Highway 10, by turning left at the first light. From the south take Highway 99 and exit on to Highway 10 heading east. Access Boundary Bay by driving south on 64th or 72nd streets from Highway 10 or by taking 104th Street from Hornby Drive, which runs east as a “frontage road” from the junction of Highway 10 and 99. The Boundary Bay Dyke can be walked from 64th Street east to Mud Bay Park in Surrey, beyond 120th.

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From Interstate 5, go west on Highway 20 to the Bayview-Edison Road. Turn right (north) and follow Bayview-Edison Road through Bayview, past the state park and down onto the Samish Flats until the road ends at a “T” intersection. Turn right onto Samish Island Road and proceed until the 90-degree turn to the north. The parking area is straight ahead at the corner. Discover Pass required.

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undreds of eagles from Alaska and northern Canada migrate to the Skagit River each winter to prey on the salmon spawning in the river. Catching a sight of this spectacle is a winter-must. The best eagle-watching season is from late November to late January, with numbers usually peaking from the last week in December through mid-January. There are several ways to observe the hundreds of eagles that take their perch along the river, from both water and land. A popular yearly tradition for kayakers, canoeists and rafters is the Skagit River Eagle Float – whether on your own or with a commercial rafting trip, this is an intimate way of appreciating the beauty of both the river and the eagles.

If you’d rather stay on dry land, there are many pullouts along Highway 20 in the Bald Eagle Natural Area, 2,450 acres along the upper Skagit River at the confluence with the Sauk River, east of Concrete. A great place to make a stop is Howard Miller Steelhead County Park in Rockport, home to the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center (, open Saturday and Sunday in December and January. The center is a great resource for information on eagles and viewing sights – they also offer guided walks. Also view eagles on the North Fork of the Nooksack River; visit Deming Homestead Eagle Park, at 3373 Mt. Baker Highway.



For north of the border, catch the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival ( or visit the Squamish River area in Brackendale, B.C. ( X



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S P E T S T O O F E H IN T OF BEARS k River ac ks oo N e th on e if dl il w Tracking





e park at a slight widening of the narrow Forest Service road. The bit of wetland we glimpsed at through the forest is calling us. My naturalist buddy Chris and I are off for a day of wildlife tracking on the Nooksack River. We close the truck door quietly and the soft duff under our feet muffles our steps. We are careful to avoid stepping on the breakable twigs and branches strewn on the forest floor as we make our way down a steep forested grade. Everything around us is mottled from the sun shining through the trees, and the cool air is reviving. We are here to snoop into the lives of wild animals, to find out who is living where and who is passing through. The marks that animals leave behind on the landscape tell stories. Chris and I want to know what they did last night. Who were they with? What did they eat, and where did they sleep? Patterns of life for secretive wild animals can’t always be discovered in books and research articles, but reliably, there is information written on the ground and on the plant life around them. We arrive where the forest ends at the edge of an immense pond. I kneel down to run my fingers across a blunt, six-inch stump of a sapling. Just as we suspected – beavers built this place. We can see the marks left by their teeth in the wood. The pond must have a beaver dam at the downhill end. Wetlands are great places to track: soft, wet mud displays clear tracks, small animal habitat is plentiful, and predators come to where they can easily find prey. I whisper to Chris, “light-barked trees,” and point north. Black bears like to



claw them because the marks are visible for a long way off. I’ve seen bear markings on light colored trees in and around wetlands often enough that now I expect them. When I’m lucky. We make our way along the edge of the pond toward the alders I had spotted. Part way there, we stop at the muddy edge to look for tracks. Beautiful little Stellar’s Jay tracks are almost dead center in a patch of mud. Chris notices where the bird’s beak had broke the surface. On closer inspection, he sees tiny insect tracks that end at the hole. It makes me laugh. Another story. I knew Stellar’s Jays ate seeds and acorns, small rodents and even nestlings; now I know they eat bugs! My chuckle sets off the birds nearby. They are making alarm calls to tell the neighborhood that trespassers are present. So much for sneaking around unnoticed. Bird language is a fundamental tool for trackers. Yes, it can backfire and help wildlife avoid you, but we humans can learn to read and use it to help us know where the interesting predators are at that moment. If I’m attentive, I can sometimes hear the birds telling me a worrisome animal is nearby and where it is moving. I can follow the birds’ lead and find the tracks of an animal who is just too stealthy and smart to let me see it, such as a bobcat or a cougar. Giving up on quiet, we chat as we clamber over downed trees, pass Devil’s Club, and through blueberry bushes. Blueberry bushes are slow going due to the snacking factor. Eventually we reach the alders and there we find a beautiful display of bear claw marks. Each claw mark is about half an inch apart. They are lower on the tree than I’m used to seeing. In fact, some must have been made by the bear while standing on all fours or sitting. I crouch down to bear-sitting height. There is something awe inspiring about knowing you are in the exact spot once occupied by a creature who can draw on tree bark as easily as I draw on paper. We bushwhack to a second tree and discover more claw marks; this time six feet above the ground. The width of the paws that made these is impressive and the marks are over an inch apart. We can also see where the bear stood on his hind legs and hugged the tree. He stretched his massive limbs up and around, and then dragged his claws down and toward his body. There are bite marks on the tree and dark hairs caught in the rough wood. We can see where the bear climbed 15 feet up the tree. We admire this artwork, touching the marks and guessing this bear made this visit over a year ago. There is a sense of dangerous intimacy in knowing something even this insignificant about a wild creature. These

marks are often communication. Was he announcing to the world he was here and not to be messed with? Was he advertising himself as a worthy mate? I stand with my hands as close as I can manage to where his claws were. I try to imagine what being that bear would be like: mostly solitary, not worried about much. Reluctantly, I pull my imagination away, and we walk on. Later, we pass the truffle digs of flying squirrels, and pop out of the brush into a small clearing bordered by a huge

He stretched his massive limbs up and around, and then dragged his claws down and toward his body.

downed cedar trunk. Before it sagged in decay, it must have been hip high lying there on its side. Part way along its length, it has been smashed open making a low spot, easier to cross than the rest of the log. We can see where deer and elk hooves had further worn the log in that same spot. I was curious about what had opened the log up in the first place, so I began lifting the barked edges looking for clues. Chris dug into the rotted wood itself and came up with a termite larvae just as I uncovered three deep short gouges in the bark. Mystery solved. The termites invaded the dead tree and once they were numerous enough to be worth the effort, a black bear looking for a snack sunk its claws into a chunk of bark to pull the tree open. This particular infestation was probably worth a few return visits for a bear who didn’t mind a bit of sawdust in his or her diet. We follow the elk over the cedar and keep going. At last, we find a wide opening in the trees and have a breathtaking view of the pond, a swamp overflowing with green plant life, and in front of all that, riches: a wide expanse of dried mud with grass tufts punching up through it, suggesting it might hold human weight. Mud, in this western Washington land of duff and leaf litter, is tracker’s gold. Clear mink tracks border the shore. We can see where the mink slowed down to investigate something, probably an attractive smell. A coyote trotted through last night looking for the cross trails of small animals worth hunting, probably the snowshoe hare whose tracks we also see. Three otters left the shore earlier this morning and loped straight out across the mud; one darted under a fallen log and two bounded over it. Their trails disappear into the distance before they reached the pond, running over mud so thin, I dared not follow them. continued on next page

and over again. I trail along the log, looking for where the creature leapt on or off. Finally, I come to it. Gorgeous bear tracks, shining in the mud, wend away from me. A sheen of water in each track tells me the animal was here very recently. Tired, I sit on the log and watch the bear

in my mind’s eye. She jumps down from the log and slowly meanders into the woods. It’s been a day of inspirational bears. X A Pacific Northwest native, Mallory Clarke is a wildlife tracker and a big fan of rivers. She teaches high school and likes playing in the Puget Sound rain.


While leaning on the fallen log, I notice large hand-sized impressions on the moss all along its surface. I press my hand into the same moss and it jumps right back. Whatever made this regular pattern of impressions, did so by walking this log often, putting feet in exactly the same places over

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360-599-2200 34


year ago, as I was eating lunch with about 25 other hikers scattered around Winchester Lookout, a huge black helicopter came roaring out of the northwest. Rotors thundering, it circled the lookout, close enough that I could see several uniformed men inside. They appeared to be carefully scrutinizing all the hikers on the mountaintop. Clearly this was Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in the stereotypical Black Hawk helicopter. Anyone who has hiked to Winchester Lookout knows that it’s a destination, not a waypoint on the route anywhere. So what the heck were the guys in the helicopter looking for? Did they really think that some drug smuggler was going to hike up a mountain and sit down for lunch? That seemed pretty improbable to me. So I recently asked a CBP representative, and got the following response: Winchester Lookout is located in an area where many of the trails can be accessed from the U.S./Canada border. Air assets of the Office of Air and Marine (OAM), a component of Customs and Border Protection, routinely conduct patrols along the border in an attempt to distinguish legitimate traffic from illicit traffic. The presence of OAM assets in this area ensures that possible illicit activity does not occur or operate in the area. In addition, OAM assets provide rescue support and air support to area law enforcement agencies. As far as I know, nobody had called for a rescue, so I’ll presume that the helicopter guys just wanted everyone in the area to know they were keeping a close eye on us. Or maybe the experienced Border Patrol guys were taking some newbies on a tour of our spectacular North Cascades scenery. When Canyon Creek Road was open, I often saw green and white Border Patrol vehicles in the parking lot at Damfino Lakes trailhead. This year I’ve spotted Border Patrol vehicles on the Twin Lakes Road and in the parking lot for Wildcat Cove in Larrabee State Park. So naturally I had to ask about those places, too. The answer: In the last couple of years, the Border Patrol has been able to expand out into areas in which historically the public has not seen a large Border Patrol presence. The primary mission of the Border Patrol is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the U.S. The

Border Patrol continues its traditional mission of detecting, apprehending and deterring smugglers of humans, drugs and other contraband. The presence of Border Patrol in these areas helps to ensure that smuggling organizations cannot move operations and operate in other areas within our primary area of responsibility. Yikes! I’ve always been paranoid about careless hunters while out hiking, and watchful of big powerboats while kayaking, and now I have to watch out for terrorists, terrorist weapons and drug smugglers in the backcountry? Really? I asked myself if perhaps the CBP wasn’t being a bit overenthusiastic, so I started doing some Internet research on incidents in the wilderness. I quickly turned up an old article that mentioned an aspiring terrorist was picked up several times trying to cross the border via the backcountry and then later was found making bombs in New York. The article also mentioned a North Cascades Park ranger intercepting an inept kayaker with 22 kilos of B.C. Bud in his boat on Ross Lake, and an incident in which Canadian smugglers were using helicopters to drop bags of marijuana with avalanche transceivers for later pickup on the U.S.

Did they really think that some drug smuggler was going to hike up a mountain and sit down for lunch?

side. I found a couple more articles about smuggler meet-ups on logging roads. So I guess we all have more than careless hunters and power boaters to watch for while we’re “out there.” If you happen to see anything suspicious – or find some interesting parcels while practicing with an avalanche beacon – the CBP asks that you call local authorities at 911 or the Border Patrol at 800/5561345. X Pamela Beason is an avid hiker, kayaker and author of the Summer Westin wilderness mystery series. Visit her at


he Blue T Lodge, the new lodge behind Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza and Bar, is open, just in time for the 2012-13 ski season. The lodge is the latest endeavor for the Cook family, who also own Chair 9. Blue T Lodge was built by Peter Cook and is run by his sister Amber Hein, daughter of Kirby and Connie Cook.

Amber moved to Glacier from Portland with her husband Jason and three-year-old daughter Mila to manage its operations. Both Amber and Jason worked at Chair 9 while waiting for the Blue T Lodge to become a reality. The two-story lodge has four rooms with two queen-sized beds and two rooms, one of which is

ADA-compliant, with one queensized bed. Each room has a full bathroom and a stunning view of Church Mountain. Plans include a hot tub and a community meeting space that holds up to 20 people. Blue T Lodge is located at 10459 Mt. Baker Highway, Glacier. For more info, visit or call 360/599-9944. X

GREAT READS Mountain Travel & Rescue by National Ski Patrol

Written by experts, this manual is designed to help snowsport enthusiasts succeed in mountain environments, in the backcountry, and in any season.

If Snow is Your Calling, Follow it! Dine. Play. Stay.

North Cascades Crest by James Martin

Martin offers an intimate portrait of the North Cascades through stunning photographs, first-hand accounts, and careful observation.

Anything Worth Doing by Jo Deurbrouck

This true story of two fearless adventurers and their 900-mile trip down the Salmon, Snake and Columbia Rivers, along with other thrilling adventures.

Cairns: Messengers in Stone by David B. Williams

Williams explores these worldwide markers – where they come from, what they mean, why they’re used, how to make them, and more.


WE NEED VACATION HOMES! Glacier and Maple Falls homeowners: are you looking for ways to off-set the debt service on your 2nd home? Consider placing your vacation property in the Mt. Baker Lodging vacation rental program. Mt. Baker Lodging offers a full-service “turn-key” program that combines extensive marketing with reservation procurement and professional housekeeping services, providing you with hassle-free rental income that assists in reducing the debt service associated with owning and maintaining a second home. Our Clients enjoy peace-of-mind while working with the Mt. Baker area’s oldest, largest and most established vacation rental agency. Mt. Baker Lodging provides friendly and knowledgeable personnel in a fully staffed local area office, utilizing a direct hands-on approach to managing the properties that we represent. Our Clients also have the flexibility of utilizing their homes for personal use between rental occasions. It’s a win/win!

The Last Voyageur by Vince Welch

This biography of Amos Burg reveals the inner life of one of the most accomplished adventurers of his day.

Contact us today to learn more about this exciting opportunity! Call 360-599-2453 x113

Mt. Baker Lodging, Inc. 7463 Mt. Baker Highway Maple Falls WA 98266-2002


Support your local bookseller WINTER 2013 | MOUNT BAKER EXPERIENCE




BEST WESTERN PLUS LAKEWAY INN 714 Lakeway Drive 360/671-1011 Bellingham’s premier full-service hotel with 132 spacious guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, lobby café, indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, and 11,000 square feet of meeting space for weddings, banquets and corporate events.

BLUE T LODGE 10459 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-9944 Located behind Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza and Bar, this six-room inn is ideal for families or groups. Clean rooms have queen-sized beds, a full bathroom and views of Church Mountain as well as access to a meeting space.

MOONDANCE INN 4737 Cable Street 360/647-2997 A picturesque setting with stunning mountain and lake views, MoonDance offers a delightfully memorable, affordable B&B experience! Start your day with a delicious breakfast and breathtaking views before starting your adventure. Come enjoy the charming and cozy inn.

GLACIER GUEST SUITES 8040 Mt. Baker Highway (Mile post 27.5) 360/599-2927 The guests say it best: “Amazing place.” “Absolutely loved the Mt. Baker view.” “A perfect finish to our honeymoon.” “Can’t wait to return next winter.” Visit their website for lodging descriptions and photos. Call for reservations. THE INN AT MOUNT BAKER 8174 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-1776 The Inn at Mount Baker, located just west of Glacier, is an excellent

choice for accommodations. A stay includes gourmet Europeanstyle breakfast, featherbeds and breathtaking views of Mt. Baker and the Nooksack Valley. THE LOGS AT CANYON CREEK 7577 Canyon View Drive 360/599-2711 The Logs is located in Glacier Springs, near Canyon Creek and the North Fork of the Nooksack River. Stay in the rustic twobedroom log cabins. The homes are widely spaced along the creek, allowing for private space and relaxation. MT. BAKER VACATION RENTALS 360/671-5383 Providing fully furnished cabins and condos in the Glacier/Mt. Baker foothills area. Base camp for your Mt. Baker experience. Reservations 24/7. MT. BAKER VIEW GUEST HOUSE 6920 Central Avenue 360/599-2155 Three units available. The Guest House in downtown Glacier

sleeps six, hot tub and games. Cascade Retreat in Snowline sleeps 15, sauna and hot tub. Peaceful Mountain Retreat Center on Silver Lake Road sleeps 20, sauna, hot tub and yoga studio. WINTER CREEK BED & BREAKFAST 9253 Cornell Creek Road 360/599-2526 Hidden below the impressive glaciers of Mt. Baker and at the doorstep of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Winter Creek B&B is the perfect place to stay while visiting the Pacific Northwest mountains.

MAPLE FALLS BAKER ACCOMMODATIONS 7425 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2999 or 888/695-7533 Baker Accommodations offers cabins and condos in the resort developments of Snowater, Snowline and Mt. Baker Rim, conveniently located just east of Glacier.

MT. BAKER LODGING 7463 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2453 or 800/709-7669 Mt. Baker Lodging offers cabins, condos, chalets and executive rental home accommodations. A number of selected units are pet friendly. Walk-in reservations and one-night stays available.

SUMAS B&B BORDER INN 1212 Cleveland Avenue 360/988-5800 Located on the Canadian border, the B&B Border Inn offers 20 rooms with standard or deluxe option. Deluxe units include microwave and refrigerator, and for those seeking a longer stay, B&B Border Inn offers great monthly rates.

WHERE TO EAT ACME ACME DINER 2045 Valley Highway (Hwy 9) 360/595-0150 This 50s-style diner’s friendly staff is ready to serve you great homecooked food; fresh ground hamburgers, hand-cut french fries, pizza, espresso, homemade desserts and Acme ice cream. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  BLUE MOUNTAIN GRILL 974 Valley Highway (Hwy 9) 360/595-2200 Fresh, homemade fare, including baked bread and desserts made


daily, steaks, burgers and daily specials. Open for lunch and dinner everyday, and breakfast on weekends.

BELLINGHAM CHUCKANUT BREWERY & KITCHEN 601 W. Holly Street 360/752-3377 Enjoy world class European style, award-winning lagers and ales, and a local-centric menu of fresh American cuisine including woodstone pizzas, burgers, salads and more. All ages welcome every day starting at 11:30 a.m.


EMERALD CITY SMOOTHIE 1058 Lakeway Drive 360/647-2357 Get fit, make the healthy choice! Tasty smoothies and nutritional products for all your health needs. Lose weight, get healthy, find meal replacements and weight gainers. We have you covered. Come check out the variety of products. GIUSEPPE’S AL-PORTO 21 Bellwether Way 360/714-8412 Delicious, fresh, homemade Italian cuisine. Squalicum Harbor view. Accommodates dietary restrictions. Open every day for lunch at 11:30 a.m., happy hour

and early dinner specials 3 to 6 p.m., full dinner menu at 5 p.m. THE GRACE CAFE 1065 E. Sunset Drive 360/650-9298 The perfect stop for your morning coffee and pastry or afternoon snack. Muffins, cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled scones, handmade pies, or for something more substantial, try a breakfast bagel or deli sandwich. Dine in or drive thru. JUST PHILLY Inside Rome Grocery Store 2908 Mt. Baker Highway 360/592-0900 Tasty food, great service and a lo-

cal, friendly atmosphere make Just Philly the perfect stop for your next delicious meal. Missing your East Coast roots? Try the Philly cheesesteak! OBOE CAFÉ 714 Lakeway Drive 360/671-1011 Bellingham’s hidden gem located inside Best Western Plus Lakeway Inn. Home to Bellingham’s best breakfast for the Crab Benedict. Northwest specialties for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expansive wine selection and water wall seating.

POPPES 360 NEIGHBORHOOD PUB 714 Lakeway Drive 360/671-1011 Home to Northwest’s Best Cocktail. Enjoy Northwest fare for dinner, appetizers and dessert. Happy Hour every day; 12 taps, specialty martinis, nightly entertainment. Year-round covered and heated patio with three fire pits. WESTSIDE PIZZA 4260 Cordata Parkway, Suite 107 360/756-5055 Pizza made with only the best ingredients available, and dough made fresh every day. The perfect place to stop after a long, hungry day of adventuring.

DEMING IL CAFFE RIFUGIO 5415 Mt. Baker Highway 360/592-2888 Gourmet menu with wine and beer at reasonable prices. They are gearing up for a great winter season to serve hungry mountaineers. All-you-can-eat pasta on Thursdays, live music Fridays. Visit the Deming Homestead Eagle Park next door. Open for lunch and dinner, breakfast on the weekends. WiFi. New drive-thru. THE NORTH FORK BREWERY AND BEER SHRINE 6186 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2337 Whether you want to get married (yes, this restaurant is also a wedding chapel), enjoy a handcrafted Scotch ale with a slice of spicy pizza, the North Fork Brewery is your destination. At this lively brewery, you’re sure to have a great time. Open for dinner, lunch on weekends.

EVERSON CAFE 544 302 E. Main Street 360/966-7822 The Hogan family restaurant serves fantastic fare from juicy burgers to quality steaks. Open every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., 3 p.m. on Sunday. Breakfast served all day. Dessert by Lynden Dutch Bakery. GOOD TO GO MEAT PIES 128 W. Main Street 360/966-2400 Old-fashioned style meat pies (pasties) baked fresh daily – soups and sweets too! Locally-sourced

ingredients from Farmer Bens, Field of Greens, Appel Farm, Cloud Mountain Farm and Fairhaven Flour Mill. Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dine in or to go. HERB NIEMANN’S STEAK HOUSE RESTAURANT 203 W. Main Street 360/966-2855 Nestled in the middle of Everson, they have been serving a mouthwatering array of steaks, Bavarian specialties, seafood and desserts to customers since 1993. Offers atmospheres for adults and families alike, including parties up to 50.

FERNDALE LUMMI GATEWAY CENTER CAFE 4920 Rural Avenue (I-5, Exit 260) 360/306-8554 Experience the hospitality of the Lummi people. The center offers the highest quality local seafood, authentic Native American artwork, and a delicious lunch menu featuring daily specials.

GLACIER CHAIR 9 WOODSTONE PIZZA AND BAR 10459 Mt Baker Highway 360/599-2511 The perfect place to enjoy a great family meal or a brew after a day on the mountain. Bands play

weekends, and the space offers plenty of dancing room. Try the “Canuck’s Deluxe” pizza, a staff favorite. Open for lunch and dinner. GRAHAM’S RESTAURANT 9989 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-3663 A great stop for lunch, dinner, happy hour and weekend breakfasts; seasonal menu and local standard favorites. Try Chef Casey Georgeson’s (formerly of Prospect Street Cafe) fresh daily specials. GRAHAM’S STORE 9989 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2665 Conveniently located in the same building as Graham’s Restaurant, this store contains everything from bagel sandwiches and ice cream to movie rentals, beer, wine and an ATM, as well as handmade hats and a selection of books. MILANO’S RESTAURANT 9990 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2863 Known for their mouth-watering fresh pasta, super fresh seafood, and homemade sauces, food at Milano’s is an authentic “taste of Italy.” The casual atmosphere is perfect for lunch and dinner, and breakfast on the weekends. WAKE ’N BAKERY 6903 Bourne Street 360/599-1658 A favorite for those heading up and down the mountain, whether for an early-morning latte and

breakfast burrito, delicious quiches and sandwich wraps or chocolate dipped macaroons. House-made food available 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.-ish.

KENDALL PARADISE MARKET 6476 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-9108 Affordable, fresh Subway sandwiches. Simply choose the sandwich your taste buds have a hankerin’ for, then build it just the way you like with your favorite freshly baked bread, crisp veggies and sauces. We’ll even toast it to hot and tasty perfection if that suits your fancy.

MAPLE FALLS CAFE 542 7466 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-1347 Experience one of their signature hash-and-eggs breakfasts with an espresso, or a glass of wine or beer with a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, veggie panini or pulled reuben. Great people, great atmosphere, great food! MAPLE FUELS Corner of Mt. Baker Highway and Silver Lake Road 360/599-2222 Fondly known to locals as the “Fuelie,” the deli offers a huge selection of fresh sandwiches, made with local Claus meats. Fuel up on gas, grab a coffee or pick up some

groceries – and wash your clothes at the laundromat while you’re at it. WiFi. SLIDE MOUNTAIN BAR AND GRILL 7141 Mt. Baker Highway 360/656-5833 Located in the heart of Maple Falls, Slide Mountain features an affordable menu using top quality ingredients and a full-service bar. Nightly themes, sports TV, live music and WiFi. Open for dinner, breakfast, and lunch on the weekends. TWIN SISTERS 7461 Mt. Baker Highway 360/599-2594 Family dining serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Cozy fireplace. Full service bar. Pizza, seafood and steaks. Saturday night entertainment hosted by Jenn and Ryan.

VAN ZANDT EVERYBODY’S STORE 5465 Potter Road, off Highway 9 360/592-2297 This delightful, eclectic store features a wide array of gourmet meats, specialty cheeses and fine wines, many of which are made locally. Also check out their great selection of clothing, books and artwork.




EVENTS around the mt. baker region NOVEMBER BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL WORLD TOUR: November 27, 7:30 p.m., Mount Baker Theater, Bellingham. Full of amazing big-screen stories. Journey to exotic locations, paddle the wildest waters, and climb the highest peaks. NATURE OF WRITING SERIES: November 30, 7 p.m., Village Books, Fairhaven. Nick O’Connell’s The Storms of Denali. Free.

DECEMBER COAST SALISH WINTER FESTIVAL:  December 1, 8 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Arts festival featuring Ernestine Genshaw, cedar baskets, wool mittens, hats, demos and storytelling. Local, wild fish for sale, and seafood restaurant. Lummi Gateway Center, 4920 Rural Avenue, exit 260 off I-5, Ferndale. Info: 306-8554, NATURE OF WRITING SERIES: December 7, Village Books, Fairhaven. The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion with Robert Michael Pyle. Free. ALLIED ARTS OPENING AND ART WALK: December 7 to 29, 6 p.m.,

1200 Meador Ave, Haskell Business Center, Bellingham. Downtown Art Walk Friday, December 7 opens the December Juried Artist Series show. 7TH ANNUAL DECEPTION PASS DASH: Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9, Deception Pass State Park. Two-day paddling festival with a six-mile race through the challenging waters of Deception Pass on Sunday. 25TH ANNUAL JINGLE BELL RUN/WALK: Saturday, December 8, 8:30 a.m., Bellingham High School. This festive 1 or 5K run/ walk raises money to fund arthritis research. bellinghamjbrw. NATURE OF WRITING SERIES: December 11, Village Books, Fairhaven. David Williams’ Cairns: Messengers in Stone. Free. SKI/SNOWBOARDING WAXING BASICS: December 11, 6 to 7 p.m., Bellingham REI. Taking care of your skis or board will help you have a great time on the slopes. A REI technician will examine how waxes work as well as base preparation: structure, repair, and stone grinding. Free. bellingham.html. AVALANCHE AWARENESS CLASS:

December 12, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Bellingham REI. Join the American Alpine Institute for a workshop designed for the winter backcountry traveler. Free. Info: stores/bellingham.html. THRILLER CROSS: December 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Civic Fields Complex, Bellingham. A costumed cyclocross race. WINTER CAMPING BASICS CLASS: December 18, 6 to 7:15 p.m., Bellingham REI. Teaching the basics of camping in the snow. Free. html. REI USED GEAR SALE: December 28 to 30, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Great deals on gently used, not so gently used, damaged packaging, and a few new items at 30 to 60% off.

Rates from $79-$145 per night

“Peaceful serenity” “Breathtaking views” “Amazing place” “Comfortable beds!”


BIRCH BAY POLAR BEAR SWIM: January 1 in Birch Bay. Hundreds of participants plunge into the icy waters of Birch Bay in an annual ritual celebrating the start of a new year. Participate or observe. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

TUBBS ROMP TO STOMP: February 2, Stevens Pass Nordic Center. Snowshoe course, fun atmosphere and free demo snowshoes. Benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. tubbsromptostomp. com.

CHILLER CROSS: January 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Cornwall Park, Bellingham. Cyclocross in January! Hardly for the faint of heart.

LEGENDARY BANKED SLALOM: February 8 to 10, Mt. Baker Ski Area. Amateurs and professionals compete in this world-class event.

SKAGIT EAGLE FESTIVAL: Every Saturday and Sunday in January. Free tours, walks and educational programs to learn about bald eagles and the Skagit River ecosystem. Arts and crafts, wine tasting, river rafting, music, dance and more.

45TH ANNUAL BIRCH BAY MARATHON: Sunday, February 17, Birch Bay State Park. This Boston qualifier race runs a full-marathon and a half-marathon. Most of the course lies on the waterfront, with expansive views over the water towards the mountains of Canada.

Cozy Log Cabins

Now Serving Breakfas & Lunch t All Day

Fireplaces Kitchens eek Stay 2 nights, Mid W l the 3rd is FREE Specia *excluding holidays



Behind Milano’s Restaurant • Open everyday at 7:30 am

7577 Canyon View Dr. (Glacier Springs) Glacier, WA



360-599-2927 • 360-300-7341 •


Est. 1990 360/599-2863

Open 7 days a week


9990 Mt. Baker Highway

Glacier, Wa.

HOT SHOTS  BIG SCOOPS Espresso • Ice Cream • Groceries

Bagel Sandwiches • Videos • Local Crafts & More

Glacier, WA • 599-2665



New Office in Maple Falls at 7425 Mt. Baker Hwy. 1.888.695.7533

• Fresh Pasta Dinners All Day • Daily Specials • Espresso • Catering • Soups & Salads • Homemade Desserts • Wide Selection of Beer & Wines




Visit us online to find more events in your area!

NOW OPEN 360/599-9944


Alpine, Tele & Snowboard Waxes

Book now for the winter ski season.

Tunes, Repairs & Binding Mounts


s 25 Year e c n ie r e Exp

Great Food, Live Music

Warm Wood-Burning Stove


Serving food 7 days a week • Mon.-Fri. 2pm till close • Sat. & Sun. from 8am till close. 9989 Mt Baker Hwy. Glacier, WA • 360-599-3663 • A 1968 Airstream trailer that has been artistically and meticulously redesigned to be a


9996 Forest St. • Glacier, WA

Designer Haircuts • Color • Perms Up-Do Styling • Waxing

9970 Mt. Baker Hwy. Glacier, WA

Next door to Glacier Ski Shop JAMIE CLAS



Joelle - 360.599.2443


Located behind Milano’s Restaurant


OPEN: Thurs. - Fri. Noon - 6 • Sat. 10 - 6



360-599-2008 888-466-7392


Mt. Baker Vacation Rentals “Base camp for your Mt. Baker memories!” Fully equipped lodge style homes, cabins and condos. Only 25 minutes to the ski area. • Hot tubs • Most are pet friendly BELLINGHAM l GLACIER

(360) 671-5383 •

Walk-in reservations and 1 night stays available!

Panoramic Views of the Nooksack River and Mt. Baker


Gourmet breakfast Hot Tub Heli Pad Lap Pool Adult only facility Registered Massage Therapist by appt. •

8174 Mt. Baker Hwy 360/599-1776 between Maple Falls & Glacier, mile post 28

ade Homem ts Desser


Woodstone Pizza & Bar • Family Dining

Nov. 23 - Mar. 31 • Sun. - Thurs., 9am - 5pm • Fri. & Sat., 9am - 9pm

Winter Creek Bed & Breakfast

9253 Cornell Creek Rd, Glacier WA (360)599-2526


HAPPY HOUR - Mon. thru Thurs., 11am to 4pm NEW MENU BLUE T LODGE NOW OPEN shuffle board, pool tables, ping pong, darts & foosball


Full Breakfast Cooked to Order

Private room available for parties and events

10459 Mt. Baker Hwy., Glacier 360/599-2511


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Upstairs GAME ROOM — with FREE WiFi! Mention ad #1350 for a special check-in gift!

For Horses and Humans 877/567-5526

Check Facebook for schedule


Scott Peterson Glacier, WA

Mt. Baker View Guesthouse View • 2 Bedrooms

Full Kitchen • Hot Tub • Sleeps 6

Cascade Retreat Spacious • Hot tub • Sauna Full kitchen • Sleeps 15

Reservations 360-599-2155



Mount Baker Experience | Winter 2013  

Mount Baker Experience is a quartlery outdoor recreation magazine focusing on Mt. Baker and the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Baker Experience | Winter 2013  

Mount Baker Experience is a quartlery outdoor recreation magazine focusing on Mt. Baker and the Pacific Northwest.