Huntoon Point (Dec 14, 2014)

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huntoon_pt_dec_coverConditions: Snowshoe
Gear: Snowshoes (didn't use them), microspikes (came in handy with the ice)
Map: USGS Shuksan Arm
Area: Mt Baker (Artist Point)
Reference: 
Stats: 5.52mi, 1151' gain (round trip)

I wasn't looking for solitude on this trip. But...I'm not going to complain that I found it either!

Weather Sunday was forecasted to be nice. Really nice. I wanted to see snow. Real snow. Not just a little bit...lots of it. And...I wanted big mountain views. Well I got the big mountains...the snow was debatable.

I headed out of town early. I hadn't heard any recent reports of the drive up to Mt Baker so I wanted to take it slow and easy. Well, in hindsight, I could have slept in a little...OK maybe more than a little...

I reached the upper parking area at the ski area and pulled into a spot. It wasn't hard to find one. The ski area was still closed (lack of snow no doubt). I must have been maybe the 4th car in the lot. Right after I arrived, a swarm of cars arrived. Turns out there were two AIARE groups headed up into the hills. They had plans to head up towards Artist Point and Austin Pass. My plan was to head down to Bagley Lakes and follow the trail on the north side of the lakes (it I was lucky and the lakes were frozen over and covered in snow...I'd walk them). I wanted to head up to Herman Saddle and then go up Mazama Dome. I settled my gear and headed down the trail...the ICY trail...to the lakes. Yikes...lots of ice. I mean lots!!! I walked over the bridge at the outlet and the bridge had barely a dusting of snow on it. I was hoping for more snow. Instead what I got was a really, really icy trail. It wasn't bad at first and I walked the trail, avoiding the slick spots, until I reached almost the far side of the upper lake. Barely frozen...the trail hit a patch of ice covered rocks. Much more ice than I'd already seen. The trail was narrow, a slip and a fall meant a 15-20 slide into the lake. Maybe not such a good idea after all...

Well what to do? I figured I'd backtrack a bit, cross over the second bridge I'd seen (also covered with a dusting of snow) between the two lakes, and then make my way up to Artist Point where I could wander around. Around the lakes there was barely any snow...maybe 2-3 inches. I headed uphill looking to connect up with the trails that wander through the area and find the rope line that marks the edge of the ski area. I wasn't seeing anyone except the two AIARE groups that were just a bit higher than me. They were stopping frequently as the instructors talked. I kept wondering back to my AIARE trip to this area in early January. Very different conditions (65mph winds and near blizzard conditions). Today...I was wondering how they would dig snow pits. The snow was barely a few feet deep. There is one thick layer of crusty snow...below that...dirt. I passed the two groups and from the looks of it, I was the first person up to Artist Point for the day. Strange...very strange... I snapped a pano of Artist Point and there is not one single person in the entire pano.

So now what? Well I headed off towards the base of the steep trail up to Table Mtn. I couldn't see any beat in trail to the top. I was still seeing thin snow. Lots of postholes here and here with footprints into dark holes around protruding rocks. The lack of snow was just downright weird. I wandered around the hills and bumps a bit and then decided to head over to Huntoon Point for lunch. Along the way I bumped into a nice guy...works ski patrol for Baker (volunteer). We chatted a bit. I asked about the long term weather forecast. He mentioned the mild El Nino. Yeah...that explains it. Looks like this year is setting up to be a repeat of last winter. Let's just hope 2015 is kinder to mountaineers that it was in 2014.

I plopped my pack down on Huntoon Point and had lunch. Brought my thermos too...warm drinks of a cold day...yum... Chased away a small brigade of pesky camp robbers. Still didn't see too many people out and about. Must be the football game???

I headed back down cutting a couple of the switchbacks in the road.
 
Huntoon Point Slideshow

huntoon_pt_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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