Snow Camping at Artist Point
TOTAL DISTANCE/ASCENT: 4 MILES AND 1,000 FT
REQUIRED PERMIT: NONE
DOG FRIENDLY: YES
LOCATION: MT. BAKER WILDERNESS
RECREATION PASS: NONE
LNT Considerations: Bring a blue bag for all human waste in the winter. You can pick this up at REI or ranger stations
Ever since my first snow camping trip at Mt. Rainier, I had the goal to snow camp at Artist Point. My first time to this area was over a year ago and I fell in love with the winter wonderland. With big looming views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker, what’s not to love? I even went back for another snowshoe trip in my last post. The next time I came back I vowed to stayed the night and this time I finally did.
I was originally supposed to snow camp at Mt. Rainier this particular weekend, but with the government shutdown that was not an option. About 20 of us went for plan B and chose to go to Artist Point for the night. We kept an eye on the weather and avalanche conditions all week with fingers and toes crossed. It was up until the night before where the avalanche forecast changed from “considerable” to “moderate” and with sunshine in the forecast, the trip was a go!
Saturday morning we got to the parking lot around 10:00 and were one of the last cars to get a spot. There is a specific area cars staying the night need to park in. That area was full so they let us park somewhere else. Make sure to talk to the parking lot attendants on the best place to park. New this year is a $10 fee to park over night as well. You can do this in the main office and they will give you a permit to put in your car.
We got the parking spot and met up with all the other women joining. We did introductions and then hit the trail by 10:30. Most of our group went up in snowshoes and a few skinned up in skis. We all had very heavy overnight packs that made the steep uphill sections more challenging. I made it to Artist Point in an hour and scoped out a spot for the night. We found a spot on a hill that would have a great view of Baker and Shuksan so we claimed it. Nikki started working on digging out a pit for our tent while I was given the task of making spiked apple cider slushies (made from snow). Turned out quite tasty actually. It was the middle of the day and the sun was shining, all the mountains were out (and people, it was quite busy there).
We all set up our tents and camp and then it was lunch and fun time. Doris brought a sled to carry some of her stuff in and now it was time to use it for recreation. We all took our turns sledding down a small hill and mostly wiping out. I can now say I have sled with Mt. Shuksan in the background.
After sledding fun, Teresa went into some crevasse rescue practice. It was so fun to see it in person and in practice vs just reading about it in books. Can’t wait to learn more skills this coming season.
It was time to wander for sunset with sunset creeping up early. Sunset was around 4:30 this January day. Amanda and I set out to hike up to Huntoon Point- it’s a walk up the ridge from Artist Point. It’s not very far and you are distracted by the great views the entire time. I’m so glad we went up there to explore. I also scouted campsites for future snow camping adventures around this area.
We made it back to camp before dark and got ready for dinner. I got on all of my warmer layers and joined the group for dinner. Someone had dug us a “living room” we call it in the snow. A giant circle we could all sit around and cook dinner on. We enjoyed our warm food and conversations as the stars began to appear. This was the only time I was cold on this trip was sitting around at dinner. Around 6:30, Doris and I went to go set up our cameras for night photography. I switched lenses, took out the tripod and hoped to capture some mountain magic.
I took night photos for about an hour. It’s one of my favorite parts of backpacking now. Each time I go out there is something I can improve upon.
We were in the tent by 8:00 PM and fell asleep shortly after. Again my Klymit 0 degree bag did wonders and kept me so toasty, too toasty at some points during the nights. I still plan on writing a separate blog post on my winter camping gear, so keep an eye out for that soon!
I set the alarm for 7:00 to be up for sunrise but was wide awake by 6:30. I was out of the tent before 7:00 and set up my camera and tripod to shoot sunrise. This was one of the best winter sunrises I have ever seen. The colors were so vibrant and bright.
Nikki capturing the sunrise with her paintbrush in hand
After breakfast we packed everything up and took down our campsites (shoveling snow back into the pits).
This trip was a grand success. The weather, views and company could not be beat. This may take the cake for the best place to winter camp in Washington. Snow camping takes a few extra pieces of gear and precautions than summer camping, but it is always totally worth it.