May-June: North Cascades and Mt Baker Ski Mountaineering

May-June: North Cascades and Mt Baker Ski Mountaineering

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1 to 5 days

Ratio 4:1 to 1:1


The North and Central Cascades are a ski mountaineers paradise, with a special emphasis on wilderness and remoteness. Roads and chairlifts access less than 1% of the terrain. But that missing access makes the earned elevation and skiing all the sweeter. 

All the suggested itineraries here require an overnight pack and at least solid intermediate ski skills. Intermediate is defined as being able to ski any blue run in any condition, groomed or ungroomed, bumped or powder. Dates vary and depend on road access, and road access often depends on snow melting or the government road crews opening the roads.

Interested in something you don't see here? Contact me and let's make it happen!


Eldorado Peak. Rising over 6600' in just 4 miles, the Queen of the Cascade River is a great introduction to ski mountaineering, requiring technical mountaineering and solid ski skills. A fun two-day ascent with a camp on the Roush divide or a big one-day bullet.

Sahale Peak. As soon as the Cascade River Road melts out to 2000' elevation, Boston Basin is in reach. Like Eldorado, Sahale Peak is a great introduction to ski mountaineering with descents down the Quien Sabe glacier. Advanced skiers may also be able to ski the West Face if conditions are just right. Another two-day objective or big one-day bullet.

North Cascades Hut Skiing. Hut skiing often brings to mind French or Swiss "cabane" with quilts and catered meals. That's not what's happening here in the North Cascades! Several retired fire lookouts near Mt Baker and Marblemount have been maintained by local clubs, letting us leave the tents at home, load up a little heavier the menu,  and are perfectly positioned for a base-camp ski session. To really enjoy all that this position will offer, I recommend at least three days.

Mt Baker. Arguably one of the best ski mountaineering objectives in the state, a ski tour of Mt Baker via Heliotrope Ridge and the Colman Glacier can be done in a one-day bullet, a two-day overnight, or spend a second night out and include a bit of crevasse rescue practice before heading back. Advanced skiers may also consider the Coleman Headwall, the North Ridge, or Colfax Peak's South Couloir.

The Watson Traverse. This two-day ski traverse travels from Heliotrope Ridge, up and over the summit, then down the Park Glacier headwall along the Ptarmigan Arm to the Mt Baker Ski Area. After climbing more than 10,000' and 17 miles, you can't help but admire the first team to make this crossing, lead by Dwight Watson in 1939. The first day is typically spent staging a car at the ski area, then returning to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead and reaching the Colman Glacier for our night out before finishing the tour the next day.

Mt Baker Circumnavigation. With relatively little information found, I skied a circumnavigation route around Mt Baker in 2011 that I haven't matched yet. In five days, friends and I skied four 3000' descents: the South Couloir on Colfax Peak on Day 2, the Boulder Glacier from Sherman Peak and the crater on Day 3, the summit and Park Headwall on Day 4, and finally the long fun crossing of the Roosevelt and Colman Glacier back to Heliotrope ridge on Day 5. Because of its high elevation, this tour stays in condition into June.

Mt Shuksan White Salmon Glacier. Quite possibly my favorite two day tour in the Cascades. Starting and finishing at the Mt Baker Ski Area, the tour traverses out to the NW Face of Mt Shuksan, and climbs up the White Salmon Glacier to a high camp on Winnie's Slide. In the morning we climb up and across the Curtis Glacier, to the Sulphide, and then climb up the summit pyramid. Our descent is over 6000' to the valley floor, before an easy climb back up to the ski area finishes the day.

Mt Shuksan North Face or Northwest Couloir. These descents feature slopes greater than 45°, so absolutely perfect snow conditions need to exist and our skiing skills have to be solid. Both of these descents are for expert skiers only. Two days.

The Forbidden Tour. A classic four-day ski tour circling around Forbidden Peak before descending the Forbidden Glacier to Moraine Lake, then climbing up to Klawatti Col before descending the McAlister Glacier, tagging Eldorado Peak, then descending back to the car.

The Isolation Traverse. This point-to-point traverse from the Cascade River and Eldorado Peak to Pyramid Peak and Diablo Lake in four days. A great follow up to the Forbidden Tour - or you can link the Forbidden into the Isolation for an amazing 7 day adventure.

The Pickets Traverse. This is the wildest, most remote 7-day alpine ski tour in the Pacific Northwest, if not the country. This tour requires patience for the right conditions, experience, and skill.