Dates: April 15 – 16, 2017
Location: Mt. Baker Backcountry
Partners: None/ET and Liam
Distance: 116 km (1489 m gained) by bike, 15.6 km (1194 gained, 1776 m max elevation) by skis
Time: 6.5 hours bike, 6 hours ski
Resources: Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis
I was unsuccessful in willing the weather to allow a winter repeat of the Alcoholic Traverse and I was similarly unsuccessful in finding a partner to do the Garibaldi Neve traverse over the Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend, so I found myself on Friday wondering what I should do with myself. I shouldn’t have been worried because the stars began to align when ET and LB came over for coffee on Friday morning. I already knew a group of friends renting a house in Glacier, WA who had invited me to crash there and I knew that ET wanted to do a ski day trip so a plan was hatched. I would pack my car with my ski gear, put my lunch in ET’s fridge and then ride my bike to Glacier on Saturday. On Sunday he would drive my car and meet me in Glacier for a ski day trip up Mt. Ann in unadulterated sunshine – a rare commodity this spring.
The ride from Vancouver to Glacier was on the long side but I wasn’t carrying too much since I’d be sleeping inside and I didn’t need to cook. The biggest luxury item was 3/4 of a lemon yogurt cake that I had made to share with the Glacier crew. I’m very pumped on bike touring right now. Last weekend my sister was visiting from Toronto and we rode roughly the Rotary Route on Vancouver Island with Brittany. We had stayed with friends in Victoria (this is off-route) and biked 90 km on Saturday from Victoria to Ladysmith. This had whet my appetite for another tour.
It was exciting to ride over the Port Mann bridge for the first time by bicycle. In this area I had the most instructions from Google but it turns out the signage from Lougheed highway over the bridge and then into Surrey is very good and I didn’t need them after all. It did give me an excuse to try out my new directions system (see photo). I was also pleasantly surprised to have a marked bike lane for almost the entire length of Fraser Highway. Crossing the border was a breeze with the hardest-hitting question being, “Why did you come the hard way if your friends are driving?”.
Coming out of Sumas towards Glacier is flat farmland for a few kilometers before a steep, switchbacking hill. For most of the day I had been riding long, straight roads with light head and cross winds but no real precipitation. Actually, if you like riding a stationary bike consider riding Huntingdon Rd. in the vicinity of Abbotsford Airport. Things took a turn for the worse once I neared the hills and mountains out of Sumas. The rain started just around the base of the hill and the hail started eight miles later at the roundabout at the intersection of the roads to Bellingham and Baker. This is when I started really regretting my optimism in choosing shorts for the ride. I shivered in Starvin’ Sams convenience store drinking a Pepsi before getting the courage to remount and ride to Glacier.
The rain stopped soon after I resumed and the sun even had time to appear by the time I made it to Glacier about a half hour later. After a quick stop at the convenience store for a 6-pack I climbed the last hill to the Snowline neighbourhood where I would spend the night with Christian and friends. It was about 4:00 when I arrived and I figured I would have to wait an hour, no more than two, before they returned from whatever daily adventure they were having. While I read my book on the stoop, a lady called out, “Christian?” from the street. I replied, “No, I’m a friend of his. Just waiting until he gets back.” It turns out this was the owner of the rental property and she offered to let me in. I gladly accepted and had a shower. I thought it would be funny if the group returned and I was in the hot tub so I spent the next two hours (about 1.5 hours longer than was enjoyable) in the hot tub reading my book. I finally gave up on this plan and went inside and watched two periods of a hockey game while drinking tea. It was nearing 8:00 and I had been at the house by myself for four hours and I was getting very sleepy. I decided to go out for a walk to wake up so I donned my shoes and jacket and stepped out. As I reached the end of the driveway there was a car coming down the street so I paused to let it pass. It did, but only because the driver didn’t recognize the turn – it was them!
Everyone was pretty surprised to see me. Apparently my warning email wasn’t received due to a shoddy connection but no problem, we went in and made dinner and drank the 6-pack.
In the morning most people were still in bed when ET and Liam arrived to go skiing. I slipped out and we were up the highway by 8:30 and we were skiing by 9:00. The route was straightforward in blazing sun which melted worries as well as it melted snow off the cliffs. Maybe solar affection was one worry we needed to hold on to…
We stayed sheltered and only skied a pure north aspect in surprisingly good snow conditions. Mt. Ann isn’t especially tall but it is situated between Shuksan and Baker offering unobstructed views of both. We could also pick out Rainier to the south and lots of familiar peaks further north like Rexford, Tommyhoi, and the Canadian/American border peaks.
On the way home I took the easy way and sat in the backseat while ET piloted us back to Vancouver with my skis in the trunk and my bike on the roof.