Monday, July 2, 2012

Mt Wheatley and remembering Mt Baker

Last year I spent an amazing day skiing at Mt Baker. A hardcore hill located in the Pacific North West of the US. The terrain was insane, pillow lines and some of the steepest tree runs I’ve encountered. The mountains surrounding the resort were breathtaking.

Mt Baker; Steepest, craziest tree lines I’ve ever seen and Mt Shuksan

After exploring the resort for a bit I noticed a few people heading out touring and snowshoeing and decided to check out some of the side country. I skinned up a well worn track to some nice terrain. I had found the very popular Bagely Lake and Table Mountain ski tour. While the terrain around Table Mountain was great, 400m vertical at 45-50deg, what I really appreciated about the tour was the access, and the scenery of the approach. The trail head is at the Mt Baker ski resort upper carpark and follows a creek and series of lakes to get to the steep slopes around the lake.

The start of the trail

Approaching Table Mountain, approx 1,700m

Some of the terrain accessible from the tour

Plenty of people (and four legged friends) out enjoying the mountains

You definitely can’t do this in Australia, snowshoe dog walk

Now I don’t know why, but for some reason the Rock Creek and Mt Wheatley ski tour from Perisher Valley always remind me of that day out touring in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Maybe it is because you can put your skins on at the car and head off from Perisher Village or perhaps it is the low angle approach and the building excitement as the skiable terrain draws near.

Rock Creek trail head

Sometimes Perisher does a fair impression of some of the snowier resorts of the world

Snowy Village 8

That low angle approach that reminds me so much of the Table Mountain ski tour

Off through the village

Skin track stoke

Burnt snow gums

Mt Wheatley stands at close to 1,900m. However, owing to the geological age of our mountain ranges, like many of the hills of Australia it is more of a lump than what you would think of as a mountain. Nonetheless, the south-east face offers nearly a 100m of vertical at 35-40deg and the numerous boulders and sometimes steeper pitches make for some great skiing.

Getting ready to drop in

I spent some time lapping the face and enjoying the powder, incredibly dry by Australian standards. The low light, snow flurries and my crappy point and shoot camera made for some challenging photographic conditions.

Top turns

Lower section, still scrubby

Even lower section

Mt Wheatley powder

It was my first powder day of the season and I was pretty stoked.

First oz pow turns 2012, yew!

As the day drew to a close, I skied back to Mt Perisher and took a few rides on the chairlift. Surprisingly, for a Sunday in the middle of school holidays, there was still plenty of powder around in-bounds.

What wasn’t so cool was the hectic traffic back down the mountain to Jindabyne. A drive that normally takes me 20min took over an hour. There was all sorts of shenanigans going on; cars stopped in the middle of the road, cars off the road and some getting to know each other very closely.

Hectic traffic

Not sure how these guys ended up facing the wrong way off the side

Not to worry, it was a great way to spend an otherwise very lazy Sunday, skiing powder and reminiscing those big mountains on the other side of the world.


  1. Looks like a blast.

    I saw the same carnage on the way down. We mustn't have been too far apart.

  2. Hey thanks TPhat, looking good for this weekend as well. Might have to stay back for a beer to avoid the traffic!