Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

John C. Miles - Koma Kulshan: The Story of Mt Baker

Chapter 3 - Prospectors and Pioneers

p. 54: The author describes the 1886 survey by Banning Austin and five others which discovered Austin Pass. He also describes Austin's 1893 trip to Hannegan Pass and Whatcom Pass. During that year road work was completed to six miles above Nooksack Falls and the trail was improved to within a few miles of Hannegan Pass. The futility of trying to build a road over the proposed route to the Ruby Creek mines was recognized and the project was scrapped. (Compare with the account in roe-1980.)

Chapter 5 - Gold Mines and Foresters

p. 76: In 1894, Bert Huntoon and H.M. Wellman were hired to survey the south fork of the Nooksack River for possible road routes. During a "day off" at Baker Pass they made a side trip to the summit of Mt Baker. After the climb they went down to Baker River, up Swift Creek to Austin Pass, then out via the north fork Nooksack River, completing a circumnavigation of the mountain. They reported that no good route for the proposed road existed.

p. 81: In 1897, Jack Post and two others struck gold near Twin Lakes, below Winchester Mountain. Soon after another strike was made on the north side of Red Mountain (Mt Larrabee). The subsequent gold rush brought hundreds of men to the area, and improvements were made to roads and bridges to accomodate mining equipment. A tent city appeared at Twin Lakes and a small town sprang up at Shuksan where Swamp Creek meets to the Nooksack River descending from Twin Lakes. The camps at Twin Lakes were abandoned by 1916 (p. 144), but the Lone Jack mine continued to produce gold until 1924 (p. 211).

p. 86: The Transfer Act of 1905 moved control of forest reserves from the Department of Interior to the Departement of Agriculture under Gifford Pinchot.

Chapter 6 - Mountaineering Clubs Open Mount Baker

p. 111: The Mt Baker Club was formed in 1911 to promote development of the Mt Baker region. Charles Finley Easton was named historian of the group. He collected material about the mountain in a huge scrapbook which became Exhibit A in the push to make the region a national park.

Chapter 7 - The Marathons

p. 114: The Mt Baker marathons were conceived by the Mt Baker Club to promote tourism and development of the Mt Baker region. The race began from the Chamber of Commerce in downtown Bellingham. Runners had a choice of either a car or train to reach the foot of the mountain and either of two trails to timberline. They raced to the summit and back to Bellingham.

The first race began at 10 p.m. on August 10, 1911. Five of fourteen racers made it to the summit. Harvey Haggard was on his way back from Glacier when his train hit a bull and derailed. He continued by buggy and saddle horse, then by automobile after the horse threw him. He finished second, thirty-two minutes after Joe Galbraith who had taken an automobile and the Deming trail. The winning time was twelve hours and twenty-eight minutes round trip.

The 1912 race was delayed by bad weather, then started at 11 p.m. on July 31. The summit was enveloped in driving mist and racers became dangerously chilled on the mountain. Paul Westerlund fell on steep ice, sustaining internal injuries and a broken rib, but kept going. Racers emerged from the forest splattered head to toe in mud. Harvey Haggard won in a time of nine hours and fifty-one minutes.

The third marathon was run on August 15, 1913. The start was scheduled for 5 a.m. so the race could be run entirely in daylight. Due to bad weather and snow conditions officials on the mountain called for the race to be postponed, but officials in Bellingham started it anyway. Several racers reached the summit to find no judges stationed there and no marked trail. Victor Galbraith fell in a hidden crevasse and was rescued five hours later by a search party. Paul Westerlund won in nine hours and thirty-four minutes, but the race was embroiled in controversy. Organizers concluded that the race was too dangerous and it was not run again.

In 1972, the Ski-to-Sea Race was inaugurated from the Mount Baker Ski Area to Bellingham to revive the spirit of the old Mount Baker marathons.

Chapter 8 - Parks, Roads and Resorts: 1913-1930

p. 136: The idea of a Mt Baker National Park was born during the Mazamas' 1906 outing to the mountain. The Mt Baker Club made detailed proposals in 1915, supported by the information in Charles F. Easton's massive scrapbook. Bills were introduced in Congress early in 1916 but the park was not to be. The First World War diverted attention and the legislation died. Following the war the Mt Baker Club faded as a lobbying organization and evolved into an outing club.

p. 140: The author describes the completion of the road to Heather Meadows in 1926 and the opening of the Mt Baker Lodge in 1927. (Compare with the account in roe-1980.) A member of the Mazama outing in 1929 commented on the change.

"How strange it must have seemed to the Mount Baker veterans! A spendid inn stands there in the meadows where they had camped in such solitude ten years before. Roads wind through the shallow glacial valley with cabins popping out on every bend. A mile beyond the inn, in the very eye of the pass, cars were parked that day by the scores; the air reeked with their fumes."

p. 148: Guides at the Mt Baker Lodge included head guide Bill Cochran, who preferred climbs of Mt Baker, and Ben Thompson, who specialized in Mt Shuksan climbs. Clarence "Happy" Fisher had the longest career as a guide in the area. Thompson was among the first to ski in the Heather Meadows area.

p. 149: Photo of Ben Thompson (from cfe-scrapbook).

p. 151: Before the 1912 marathon the Mt Baker Club constructed a shelter cabin at Mazama Park on the SW side of the mountain. In 1925 the Kulshan Cabin was dedicated, ten miles up the trail from Glacier, just below timberline below Heliotrope Ridge. Sapped by the cost and effort of constructing the cabin the club reorganized and incorporated in 1928, declaring itself an outing club. Will Pratt of the original 1911 group, along with Hap Fisher and Dr. Spearin, were among the leaders.

Chapter 9 - Hard Times and Skiers: 1930-1950

p. 153: On August 5, 1931, the Mt Baker Lodge burned to the ground. The Emergency Conservation Work Act, which authorized the Civilian Conservation Corps, was enacted on March 21, 1933.

p. 155: In the winter of 1930-31 parties were vying for the first ski ascent of Mt Baker and several attempts were made. (Perhaps they didn't know about the May 1930 ascent by Loners and Sperlin.) Skiing at Heather Meadows was hard work. The Highway Department made no effort to keep the road open beyond Excelsior, seven miles east of Glacier. From there it was 11 miles to Verona Cabin and another four miles to Heather Meadows.

p. 155b: Photo: "Skier near Mount Baker Lodge, late 1920s." Based on other photos that I've seen of her, this appears to be a photo of Milana Jank, sports director at the lodge in the early 1930s.

p. 156: The breakthrough for skiers came in the winter of 1934-35 when "The Call of the Wild" was filmed at Heather Meadows. Highway crews kept the road open most of the winter and the lodge remained open. This was the first full season of winter sports at Heather Meadows. The highway was cleared throughout the winter for the rest of the decade, until World War II made gasoline too scarce to run the plows.

p. 157: Description of the ski escalator in 1935-36. (Compare with the account in heller-1980.)

p. 158: Photo of spring skiing near Mt Baker Lodge in the late 1920s.

p. 160: During the 1930s the CCC improved and extended the road toward Hannegan Pass and built a road from Shuksan to within two miles of Twin Lakes. They built a warming hut for skiers at Austin Pass and several lookouts atop peaks around the Mt Baker region.

p. 166: During World War II the ski area was closed. The Bagley rope tow was restarted in the spring of 1946. There was still no road up Glacier Creek in 1946. By 1948 the area was opened to logging and a road was extended to within two miles of Kulshan Cabin. The original cabin had fallen into disrepair during the 1940s and was replaced in 1951.

Chapter 11 - Accidents and Rescues

p. 181: On July 22, 1939 six climbers in a party of twenty-five from the Western Washington College in Bellingham were killed in an avalanche on the Roman Wall. The author includes photos of the site and a description of the tragedy.

Chapter 12 - The Land of Many Uses

p. 194: This chapter describes proposals for a national park at Mt Baker and elsewhere in the North Cascades from the 1910s through the creation of the North Cascades National Park in 1968. Mt Shuksan was included in the park but Mt Baker was not. Debate over the status of Mt Baker continued. This book was published before the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984 was resolved.

Chapter 13 - Present and Future

p. 211: A road was built up the middle fork Nooksack River, toward the Deming Trail, in the mid-1960s and logging has been extensive since then. Around 1959 a private utility company built a hydroelectric dam on the upper Baker River, covering old Baker Lake. Roads were constructed to Baker Hot Springs, up Shuksan Creek, and up Sulphur Creek to Schrieber's Meadows.

p. 212: In 1984 the Kulshan Cabin was still standing.

Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page

Copyright © 2002 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Fri, Feb 01, 2013 8:40:39 PM