Table Mountain

May 12, 2007

At this time of the year you can only drive until the ski resort but from there you can snowshoe or cross country along the slopes.

From the resort you can go uphill on a gentle hill from where you can have views of Bagley Lakes Basin and Table mountain. The tiny dots on the lower picture are cross country skiers.

Bagley Lakes Basin - Table Mountain on the middle

This is one of the snowiest places in the world: in 1999, Mount Baker Ski Area, located on a subsidiary peak, set the world record for snowfall in a single season. (1,140 inches / 95 feet / 2,896 cm).

Two of the most rewarding hikes in the Mount Baker area originate not in the Heather Meadows/Artist Point area, but off side roads 1 mile east of the town of Glacier. These are the Heliotrope Ridge Trail (off Forest Service Rd. 39) and the Skyline Divide Trail (off Forest Service Rd. 37). Both of these trails climb up through meadows with excellent views of Mount Baker, and, from the Heliotrope Ridge Trail, there are also impressive glacier views. Also near Glacier, at milepost 41, is a short trail that leads to 100-foot Nooksack Falls.

The 1,000-acre Mount Baker Ski Resort contains plenty of ungroomable terrain, a natural playground for snowboarders and adventurous skiers. It's become something of a Mecca to the booming board culture. Young snowboard pilgrims aim to descend these slopes at least once in their lifetimes—many get here and never leave. During the annual Legendary Banked Slalom in late January, snowboarders achieve blinding speeds as they run the gated halfpipe, a winding narrow creekbed under 20 feet of snow.

Mount Baker Ski Resort

This area is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. All of the known historic eruptions in the contiguous United States have been from Cascade volcanoes.

Mount Baker is the third highest mountain in the state of Washington, after Rainier and Mount Adams. It gets a lot of precipitation, and has twelve glaciers. The summit crater is completely filled with ice, providing a large summit plateau. Baker has steamed since the 1800's and has erupted several times in the last century..

Mount Baker (3286 m - 10781 ft)

Eventually you will reach the plateau. Most climbers visit the area as a ski trip in May or June. For the ones going to Mount Baker, in winter months, the slope is very icy and requires crampons and ice axe. Lower down, there are crevasses which danger is reduced during the early season thanks to the huge snowfall this mountain receives.

In the past a steep trail descended to the snowfields and hikers could continue to the Chain Lakes Trail for a loop, but the route was considered too dangerous for hikers and is closed.

Do not attempt to climb down onto the snowfield, even if you find the abandoned trail -- only experienced climbers with ice axes, crampons and route-finding skills should consider it.

Mount Shuksan is, at 9,127 feet, one of the highest non-volcanic peaks in the Cascades. Its name is a Skagit Indian word meaning "roaring mountain," from the noise of its waterfalls and many landslides.

Mount Shuksan (2782 m - 9127 ft)

Table Mountain is not a summit in the traditional sense. This summit is composed of ancient lava flows with rolling ups and downs.

It is also possible to visit the chairlifts. One drawback to the ski area's low elevation is that the freezing level can yo-yo, and marginally cold days can turn snow to rain without notice. Ski patrollers keep a few sets of dry clothes in their hut for themselves.

In an era when smaller ski hills and non-destination resort ski areas are disappearing, Mt. Baker's success is an exception. Location, location and location—Baker draws skiers and snowboarders from both Vancouver, British Columbia, one hour north and Seattle, two-and-a-half hours south—has a lot to do with it, but the main ingredients are its deep snow and its "non-corporate" style of management. It's just funky.

More of Table Mountain

Mount Baker had several previous names: La Gran Montana del Carmelo (The Great Mountain of the Carmelite) was the name given it by the first Europeans to visit the area. However, the Indians were there first, and the Nooksak had already named it Quck-Sam-ik (White Rock Mountain). To the Lummi Indians, it was Komo Kulshan (Shot at the Point), referring to an Indian legend. The name Baker comes from the third lieutenant on Captain Vancouver's ship.

To make the legend short, Komo Kulshan was a tall and handsome native with two wives, as was the custom of his tribe. Her names were Clear Sky and Fair Maiden. One day Clear Sky asked Kulshan if he loves her? Kulshan said yes but he was not persistent and Clear Sky left hoping Komo will ask her to come back, but he did not. In one point she stopped and start to look towards her home and she stretched herself a lot and became much taller, today Clear Sky is better known as Mount Rainier.

Later on, Fair Maiden wanted to visit her mother, then Komo called all the animals with claws and created Nooksack River so her wife can use a canoe because it was not trail.

On her journey she stopped for a long time and the wind created whirpools that were sucking people, so the Charger asked to lay down and she became Spieden Island. When her child was born he became Sentinel Island.

Kulshan and his children were trying to see the women and became high mountains. One is Shuksan. some people say the others are Twin Sisters, a little west and south of Kulshan.

01 48.8615122810007 -121.682712882757 Elev:1282m
02 48.8480854779482 -121.695031933487 Elev:1574m
03 48.8532377500087 -121.677184011787

Roundtrip to viewpoint: 7.5 km (10 miles)

Driving distance from Vancouver: 148 kms (93 miles)