Mount Baker, Elevation 10,778ft

Coleman Headwall, 50 degrees

June 15, 2002

1 day

Ben, Troy, Charlie

The Coleman Headwall. Our ski descent is in red.


One minute I'd look up and say no problem. The next minute I'd look up and say no way. The plan was to climb the Coleman/Deming and ski the Coleman Headwall. For one reason or another, we ended up bailing. Chased down the standard route with our tails between our legs. This was the story of my first two trips up Baker this year. The third was far from guaranteed.

Charlie had flown in from Colorado the previous week. Our main goals were grounded after wasting three days on Adams. He had never skied in the North Cascades so I figured Baker would be a good place to begin. Unfortunately, his ski vacation was coming to an end so we only had one weekend to work with. Our chances of skiing the Coleman Headwall were getting thinner by the day so we decided to do a one-day trip that Saturday. Charlie was stuck in Seattle without a rig so Troy agreed to join us until…

Friday night I got a call from Troy. It was 11pm and he was bailing. He said he didn't want to wake up at 3am and wasn't interested in skiing the Coleman Headwall. I told him it would be worth it and that he could ski whatever he wanted. He thought otherwise. After several minutes of wasted sleep I told him fine, that I'd go by myself. He seemed concerned, both for myself going solo and Charlie going without. "Ok, I'll see you at 6am."

They showed up at my place in Bellingham a bit early. We switched Fords and continued the drive. Troy had never been to this side of Baker so I felt a little odd leading two newbies. For me, it was all too familiar. I pointed out the previous road closures and we ended up blocked by snow about a quarter-mile shy of the trailhead. Troy wanted me to bust further but Charlie and I were content to park with the rest of the intelligent. There weren't as many cars as I had expected, still more than I would have liked. Low clouds blocked our views so we packed and headed up the trail with greater anticipation. Troy forgot to bring tennis shoes so he ended up wearing his T-Race. We kept a steady pace through the trees and emerged from the clouds in no time. The bootpack veered near the creeks so we ended up climbing some 5th class bushes.


Charlie and Troy among the bushes.


The first views of the day came just above treeline. Charlie and Troy were impressed with the Coleman Headwall. It took some convincing but they eventually saw my line. Still, we had our doubts.

We stopped at the edge of the Coleman Glacier. I switched from tennis shoes to ski boots and we continued the slog.


Troy and Charlie at the edge of the Coleman Glacier.


Charlie and Troy continue the slog.


I carried a rope but the cowpath looked safe so it stayed in my pack. Several inches of new snow had softened, which made for easy going. Charlie ended up wearing tennis shoes all the way to the saddle. We passed a few roped teams on their way down. I wondered how they could stand not having skis. They had a few wonders themselves like where we were going, where we were from and why weren't roped up. Here, there, because… I wasn't in the mood for questions. There was plenty of unanswered between ourselves.

Charlie switched to boots above the saddle. The wind picked up so we put on some clothes. Troy pulled a pair of gloves from his pack that Charlie liked. I said I had a pair just like that at home. Turns out they were mine.


Troy above the saddle -- our second rest.


Nice gloves.


We continued up the Roman Headwall on some leftover steps. I cursed their size and location but for the most part, it was better than making my own. We reached the summit around 2:30pm -- 6.5 hours from the truck. The views were compelling. I pointed out what little I knew and we made some plans for next season.


Charlie and Troy near the top of the Roman Headwall.


Charlie and Troy on the summit looking southwest towards the crater.


Troy was anxious to get going so we wasted little time putting on our harnesses and skis. No problem, I had seen my share of the summit a few weeks back (see Coleman/Deming Spring 02). I noticed the shelter that the Hummels and I dug was still there. We had a bite to eat and drink and were on our way by 3pm.