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Excelsior Mtn 5712 (USGS Mt. Baker)



Mountaineeers Winter Scramble:Mike Torok (leader), group of 14.



A Christmas-card picture-perfect day: snowy trees, blue skies, fluffy clouds, bright sun, and an open ridge crest to see it all.This is the kind of day I always hope for on winter outings Ė the first day when the clouds clear off after a snowy storm.I only find these conditions once every few years, but we all sure enjoyed it today.



This trip originally didnít seem very promising.It was scheduled for Barometer Mtn., but Mike diverted it to Excelsior because of heavy snow and considerable avalanche danger.I hadnít been out into the mountains since November, so I wanted to get out even if conditions werenít great.At least I would get good exercise, good company, and a refreshing change of environment.I ended up getting all of those plus great scenery.I had brought my digital camera along for the first time, and I reveled in the opportunity to take scores of pictures without having to worry about film or processing costs.



The Excelsior Pass trail had ideal snow conditions - a party yesterday had packed down a snowshoe trail and then half a foot of new snow had fallen overnight.The previous packing kept us from sinking in, while the fresh snow provided traction going up and cushioning going down.When I got off the packed path one time to run ahead and take a picture of the group, I was sinking in up to my thighs.


In the trees down low, we could see more and more blue sky above and sun shining between the trunks.As we higher up the trail, valley clouds also climbed higher up the ridge, so that most of the surrounding peaks were hidden, but we always had some openings for views.When the ridge crest first came into sight, it was obscured by grey fog that gradually cleared away.



As the clouded black-and-white scene cleared into color, I could see whole upper basin and ridge covered with snowy trees Ė photo heaven.Mike and I kept lagging behind the group as we took pictures.



From the basin onward, we were mostly in open meadows bordered by lines of snowy trees.The party followed easy terrain left to Excelsior Pass, and then up the ridge eastward to the summit.The summit provided clear views of Excelsior Ridge and some of the surrounding peaks.(The only flaw today was that snowmobilers had also followed the ridge, leaving their tracks far inside the wilderness area.)


To the east, Peak 5930 was glowing in the sun.Mike had hoped to do 5930 as a bonus side trip, but there wasnít enough time or party energy to fit it in today.However, the terrain in that direction looked like excellent ridgetop travel for a loop trip east to Welcome Pass and down the Welcome Pass trail.


As usual, I was so busy taking pictures that I didnít have time to eat my lunch.We dropped down to the pass, where I quickly had my summit soup, and headed back down the trail.Even on the way down, there were more photo rewards.Where the sun had melted snow off the trees, it left icicles hanging from the tip of each branch.



9 miles round trip.

TH 1827, Excelsor Mtn 5712, net gain 3885, metered gain 4070.

TH to summit 3:45, time on summit 0:45, summit to TH 3:00, total time 7:30.

Drive time from Lynnwood to Excelsior TH 2:10



Related Trips:

Excelsior Mtn, 3/6/93 - my first trip to Excelsior - fewer views, but great scalloped cornices on the ridge.

Barometer Mtn & Mazama Dome,  2/23/02 - the destination originally intended for this trip.

Welcome Pass, 2/15/04 - the next pass east on Excelsior ridge, another Barometer substitute.


Pictures & Maps:

Mke on the Trail Amid Sunlit Trees

Snowshoeing up the first open meadow

Excelsior Ridge Emerging from the Fog

Trees Framing the Emerging Ridge

Break below the basin, with Church Mtn behind

Heading for the Pass

Beautiful Snowy Trees

More Beautiful Snowy Trees

Matt's Picture of Mike in the Basin

Mike's Picture of Matt in the Basin

Ascending from Shadow to Sunlight

Frosted Trees Near the Pass

Mt. Baker Summit

Little Frosted Trees at the Pass

Going to the Summit

Mt. Shuksan

Matt & Shuksan

Mike & Bonus 5930

Matt & Bonus 5930

The Party on the Summit

Descending from the Summit

Basin North of Summit (marred by snowmobile tracks)

Rim of Basin North of Summit

The Whole Party in the Basin with the Summit Behind

Snowy Hill & Trees

Tree Icicles


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