February 25, 2016
Mount Baker Highway, WA
Despite its geological insignificance, Huntoon Point (the highest point along Kulshan Ridge) offers one of the highest view-to-effort ratio. The winding Mt. Baker Highway brings tourists to the Artist Point in summer time and one can easily ascend this peak in less than half an hour round trip, and yet, it is one of the best viewpoints of the nearby giants – the striking Mt. Shuksan and the volcanic Mt. Baker. In winter one has to park a few miles down by Mt. Baker ski resort, but the groomed ski runs still offer some quick access.
My plan was to take advantage of the incredible weather in this past Thursday, but the problem was, I had to work in the afternoon/evening and my legs were damn sore after the 1-day single push on Wedge’s NE Arete a mere day ago. By the time I woke up in the morning I felt tired even just walking downstairs, but again, given the forecast I just had to push a bit. I figured it was snowshoeing that tired my legs out so had I gone on skis this time I could use some different muscle groups, so off towards Mt. Baker highway I went.
It was my first time driving up Mt. Baker highway passing the Skyline Divide turn-off, and I have to say I’m impressed by the maintenance and engineering design of it. The surface was a bit damp, but free of snow cover so the road didn’t impose too much of a problem. If you think Duffey Lake Road is winding and steep then try this one and I’m sure you’ll love it… It literally winds 1/3 of the way up Mt. Baker and by the time I parked at the parking lot I already had some great views towards the north. The initial bits were confusing but by following the most obvious set of tracks I was able to keep my orientation correct. In short time I merged into the groomed ski runs following others’ tracks.
A “blue run” was easily ascended and I soon arrived at Austin Pass on the shoulder of Panorama Dome. From here I rejoined the set of ski/snowshoe tracks and the next while was some easy skinning towards the ridge by Artist Point. By the time I reached the ridge the view had mostly opened up.
At this point I had quite a few thoughts going on. I could see literally a ton of tracks on the nearby Table Mountain all over the place so it’s very tempting to bag that one as it’s a much more satisfying objective, but like I mentioned earlier I had to get back home by lunch time for my afternoon work.. Not liking to take a chance on that I resumed my ascent to the lowly Huntoon Point which was an easy skinning plod.
After soaking in all of the views I had to make my way down. The snow on the north slopes was in a great shape for skiing and I enjoyed some nice turns, but too bad the run was too short and I had to put my skins back on for the uphill plod towards Austin Pass.
Now I realized I still had some time to kill and the named Panorama Dome was “right there”, so why not….