Meadows of Heliotrope Ridge North Cascades

Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope Ridge

Mount Baker Wilderness Heliotrope Ridge

Meadows of Heliotrope Ridge North CascadesColeman Glacier, Heliotrope Ridge Wildflowers #54421  Purchase

Summer is nearly over, and now that we’re in that exciting pause before the coming fall season I have some time to catch up on a few posts I’ve been too busy to work on. If you’ve been following my updates you’ll know that most of the height of  summer was spent close to home. Specifically the Mount Baker Wilderness of the North Cascades. Fortunately for me this wilderness is only an hour or two drive from my home. Practically in my backyard. During the month of August I photographed the following areas accessed via the Mount Baker Highway:

  • Church Mountain
  • Skyline Divide
  • Hannegan Peak
  • Heliotrope Ridge
  • Heather Meadows Recreation Area

Mount Baker Heliotrope Ridge North CascadesMount Baker from Heliotrope Ridge #54423  Purchase

During the last week of August I was hoping to visit one more spot that might offer good displays of wildflowers. I almost forgot about Heliotrope Ridge. It has been around twelve years since my last visit. And it’s been twenty since I taught a weekend photography workshop there through the North Cascades Institute.

Heliotrope Ridge trail is extremely popular due to the easy and close access to views of the sprawling Coleman Glacier. And also because it is the start to one of the main climbing routes to the summit of Baker. Since I’ve been there before I knew that the best wildflower meadows were up high near the edge of the glaciers and snowfields. I also knew that I would have the place to myself if I went during the week. Sure enough during my three nights on the ridge I saw only one other person wandering around. The few climbing parties that set up camp stuck to the glaciers with eyes on the summit.

Heliotrope Ridge Wildflowers North CascadesHeliotrope Ridge Wildflowers #54537  Purchase

The wildflowers of Heliotrope Ridge were markedly different from those on the hikes to Skyline Divide and Hannegan Peak. There I came across fields mainly of valerian, lupine, corn lilies, and heather, but on Heliotrope there was a greater variety of flowers with an emphasis on yellow arnicas. Also since this area is so close to Mount Baker it receives much more snow, therefore the plants had just escaped the confines of winter and began blooming in late August while other subalpine ridges in the area were already well past peak and had gone to seed.

Another thing to do aside from gawking at the views and wildflowers is to wander cross country, there are no trails at this point. Going west along increasingly barren slopes of mixed volcanic rock and crumbly slate there are numerous rushing snowmelt streams. If you are prepared for steep snowfield/glacier travel then continue higher up to the actual crest of Heliotrope Ridge. Here the ridge consists of a wild display volcanic cinders jagged blocks of andesite and lava bombs, looking like it just cooled yesterday. Even better though is the view from the ridge of seldom seen Thunder Glacier and basin below Colfax and Lincoln Peaks, this is truly a wild and lonesome area of Mount Baker!

Coleman Glacier Climbers camp on Mount BakerMount Baker climber camp on Heliotrope Ridge #54432  Purchase

Illuminated tent, Mount Baker North CascadesHeliotrope Ridge Camp Mount Baker #54518  Purchase

Forbidden and Boston Peaks from Hidden Lake Peak, North

North Cascades Photography

North Cascades Photography

Forbidden and Boston Peaks from Hidden Lake Peak, North CascadesNorth Cascades sunrise from Hidden Lakes Peak #54196  Purchase

What a great summer season for photography! Despite canceling my last trip in July to British Columbia, due to wildfires, I’ve been very busy adding lots of new images to my files. While waiting for the wildfire season to moderate I’ve returned to several of my favorite locations in the North Cascades. Since this is the height of summer in the mountains I selected some sub-alpine locations. Good displays of wildflowers and rugged vistas were my goal. These locations are mainly in North Cascades National Park, and the Mount Baker Wilderness.

Late July and August is the driest time of the year in the Northwest. It also has the most predictable weather. Sometimes though this means the weather can be a little too good, with empty blue skies. Great for outdoor activities, but not the greatest for photography. Fortunately my timing was spot on and in a few days I was treated to some fantastic lights shows in the mornings and evenings.

Mount Baker Skyline Divide North CascadesMount Baker from Skyline Divide #54244  Purchase

For now I’ll just post some image highlights from the first few locations since I still have tons of editing and processing to do. I also have another summer trip planned to a very exciting new location. That one will put the brakes on any further posts for a few weeks. Stay tuned, and don’t forget that prints and commercial licensing are available for all of these photos!

Pink Heather North Cascades WashingtonPink Heather North Cascades Sunset #542154  Purchase

Mount Shuksan from Skyline DivideMount Shuksan from Skyline Divide #54238  Purchase

North Cascades backcountry campBackcountry Camp on Hidden Lake Peak #54229  Purchase

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

This article was originally posted back in August of 2008. Since my main summer photography trip for 2014 will be an extended visit to several very remote and seldom visited areas in British Columbia, I felt it appropriate to bring this one back to light. To date this trip to the Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia was one of my favorite and exciting in recent years. Despite an abundance of National Parks and Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest, it is getting harder every year to find a place to visit and photograph that is relatively unknown and has a truly remote wilderness feel to it. The Athelney Pass/Salal Creek area fits the bill in all aspects, even though it has no wilderness park or protected area designation.

Begin original 2008 post:

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard and  Icemaker Mountain #18242   Purchase

For the last six days I’ve been working on editing all the new images from my recent trip to Athelney Pass in British Columbia’s Coast Range. This trip was one of the best and most productive amongst a string of excellent photo trips in 2008. So it’s worth adding a few words and pics about it. I was vaguely aware of this area until early last month while researching nearby Coast Mountain routes and trails on the web. It only took seeing a couple of photos on Google to convince me to make a trip there.

Salal Creek Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Creek Coast Mountains British Columbia #17884  Purchase

Researching Athelney Pass in a couple of guidebooks revealed that it wasn’t too far away. Just a 4-5 hours drive north from Bellingham. I felt four-six days would provide ample time for exploration and photography. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no formal trail leading into this rugged wilderness. Meaning that while the hike to Athelney Pass is only a modest 8-10 or so miles in length and 2200 feet elevation gain. However it felt like it was about twice that much.

Athelney Pass Coast Range British ColumbiaAthelney Pass Mountains British Columbia #19083  Purchase

Mining cabin Coast Range British ColumbiaDerelict mining cabin and equipment at Athelney Pass #17979   Purchase

There are several sections requiring route-finding in the forest. Along with a couple of torturous sections of bashing through thick nearly impenetrable slide alder. The rest of the route is “easy” hiking in open country along the river bank and steep loose glacial moraines. If your definition of easy is hiking for miles on unstable ankle breaking rocks the size of baseballs and bowling balls! All of this plus a lengthy logging road access meant that I had the whole area mostly to myself. I only saw one other person in six days and that was from a distance. The only other downside to this trip was encountering the discarded items from past mining exploration.  There is a derelict cabin rusting equipment, plus discarded barrels of fuel higher up the ridge.  (By 2014 all this may have been cleaned up since my 2008 visit)

Athelney Pass Coast Mountains British ColumbiaAthelney Pass British Columbia #18127  Purchase

As an added bit of excitement I came across a very large Grizzly Bear on the road as I was driving out after the hike. I’ll never doubt the speed at which these animals can run. I was driving a gravel road when it burst out of the brush in front of my vehicle. It took off down the road at an accelerating speed before disappearing into the brush again.

So if you are looking for a new place to go hiking away from the crowds with a true feeling of raw wilderness, and don’t mind putting in the extra effort this area might be for you.

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaIcemaker Mountain  British Columbia #18270  Purchase

Mount Ethelweard Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard  British Columbia #18545   Purchase

Salal Divide, Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Divide British Columbia #18545   Purchase

All photos are available for purchasing as prints or for commercial licensing. Just click on the desired image and then click Add to Cart to select your option.

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