Artist Point

I joined Gwen and Janet for a trip north. My first visit to Artist Point was on a Mountaineer snowshoe trip many years ago. I did not return until a snowshoe trip to Mazama Dome in 2007. In 2010 we camped at Huntoon Point in February. I have still never been to the end of the road at Heather Meadows in the summer. With mostly clear weather forecast it was worth the long drive north for another visit. I was out the door at 6:30 am. We cruised down the Mt. Baker Highway (542) and climbed up to the ski area at Heather Meadows. By 9:20 am we were in the 4200' parking lot. The much less crowded than expected parking lot. Great views north to snow capped peaks and ridges. Blue sky overhead. The temperature was already near 30 degrees. By 9:50 we were packed up and heading out.

The route follows the summer road part of the way and goes more or less straight up in other places. It is groomed for skiers so snowshoers stay at the far right side. There was a snowshoe trench off to the right of the groomed road as well. This is a short trip to some of the most spectacular views and terrain in the state. Less than two miles places you at Artist Point with snowcapped peaks all around. The views are terrific at the parking lot and just get better as you ascend. Clouds were supposed to drift in later and we began to see the first ones. Below us, Bagley Lakes were buried deeply under snow. A lone fresh track headed beyond the lakes and up to Herman Saddle. Table Mountain was in front of us as we headed towards it.

The steepest section was right before Austin Pass. At the top the groomed track gave way to a snowshoe trench. No problem with navigation this day. The track was easy walking. Outside of it I sand almost knee deep in soft snow. The route rose gently before several switchbacks climbed up a steeper slope. We now had groups in front and behind us. One group was already coming down. This was my first trip with now MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes and tracking was fine. When the grade eased we had an easier time on the rest of the way up to Artist Point. Though it was now about 32 degrees a little breeze made it much colder. It blew much of the day though never hard.

Soon enough we were on the crest of Kulshan Ridge at Artist Point. There is a parking lot with a bathroom here though I have never seen it. It's somewhere underneath about 15 feet of snow right now. We debated which way to go and decided to head right towards Table Mountain. By now the clouds were enveloping the top of Table. It did not look like there would be any views from the top. I soon recalled many ups and downs along the ridge. We were far from alone as groups were heading in and out. Lots of snowshoers and skiers. One last little climb and we reached the top of a bump right before the slope steepens considerable heading for the top of Table Mountain. On my last visit we attempted to climb up but the snow conditions were not the best. I did recall that it is very steep near the top.

It was now 11:15 and time for a food break. An obvious track switchbacked up to a bench on Table. That is where I stopped in 2010. It was not clear if there were any tracks higher up. We debated some more and decided to leave Table Mountain for another time. As we started down several skiers went by on the track up Table. As we headed back to Artist Point looks back showed them rapidly reaching the bench. Skis came off and they headed up with boots. A little later we saw the first one reach the top. They carried skis on their packs for the descent.

We continued along the ridge heading for Huntoon Point. In 2010 we camped right below the point.We had a beautiful sunset and sunrise on that trip. The canine population was well represented. I bet we saw more than two dozen dogs all along the way. They all seemed to love the snow. The clouds grew thick then it lightened over and over. The conditions provided very interesting lighting. Take a photo and 30 seconds later the lighting changed enough to suggest taking another. This was not conducive to making forward progress. One of the great things about a 4.5 mile hike is speed is far from necessary. This day was much more about enjoying high mountain scenery and recording it.

Surprisingly, as we neared the top of Huntoon Point Janet was suddenly cutting fresh trail. Nobody had been to the top since the recent snow. Tracks all around but not to the very top. It is a gentle climb to the top. It was time to finish lunch and enjoy the views. Mt. Shuksan was hiding most all day behind a thin coat of clouds. Peak a boo views would close as fast as they opened. Never long enough to even get a photo. With the clouds brightly lit snow was next to dark graying snow. Very nice contrasts.  Even here at the far point of our trip we were not much more than two miles from the car. We continued to take our time heading back. Snowshoe and ski tracks seemed to be going everywhere now. We followed one route that brought back to the top of the one steep section.

That section was a little slicker than in the morning. Many folks had pounded it down all day. The snow was very soft and much of the way we just went straight down the slope. Steep but not hard at all. Then it was back to Austin Pass and the groomed track back to the car. We were back by 3:00 pm. Now Shuksan deigned to show itself in all its wintry splendor.  The lot was now much closer to being full. All that remained was the long drive home.

The north side of Mt. Baker is a long way from Seattle. The drive is worth it on a half way clear spring day like this. Such great scenery and views with such relatively little effort. Yes, it is crowded but its easy to see why they all come. A very fine day in the mountain with great company. Makes me start thinking about another backpacking trip to spend a night high on the ridge. I have not managed to get in many snowshoe trips this winter but this one was a definite highlight of the snowy season.

Nearly Empty Lot
View From Lot
Parking Lot Views
Cascade Peaks
Table Mountain
Groomed Track
Lots Of Folks
Bagley Lakes
Clouds Over Table Mt.
Steep Section
Peaks Above Route
Off The Grooming
Mt. Larrabee
Conga Line
Steep Spot
Gwen Is Next
North Cascades
Clouds & Snow
Hiking Higher
Kulshan Ridge
Drifting Clouds
More Folks Coming
Snow Meets Sky
Table Ahead
Cloudy Table
Icy Trees
Billowing Clouds
Heading Back
Packed Trench
Low Clouds
Lone Shoer
Nice Lighting
Table Mt. Summit
Light & Shadows
Huntoon Ahead
Snowy Trees
Table Out Of Clouds
All Of Table Mt.
Table To Mt. Herman
Heading Down
White On White
Snow Dunes?
Mt. Shuksan
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014