Blog and Photos from Field Trips to Easton Glacier


In 2007,  there had been close to a meter of snow in the several days preceding our field trip.  Although we were able to get to the Railroad Grade on a narrow trail beaten down by returning climbers, visibility was limited by falling snow, so we decided on discretion rather than pushing on.  

We retreated to the upper meadows where we were joined by a group from UBC (lead by Rob Burroughs) who had pushed up the trail behind us, having been delayed at the international border.  Together we explored the layering, grain size, density, and permeability of the snow in several snow pits.  Snow-density profiles were recorded for later analysis in class.

We also collected some of that new snow in a thermos bottle. We kept the thermos in a refrigerator on campus, and we recorded the grain size as it evolved over the next 2 weeks.. 

See some photos at right.


On October 4, a group of about twelve lead  by Steve Warren and Ed Waddington headed for Mt Baker.  The rain began after we crossed the main stream on stepping stones. As we ascended the Railroad Grade, visibility was variable and decreasing in heavier rain. Steve, Regina, and Raleigh descended onto the glacier to observe ice worms, while the rest of the group retreated.

With the stream rising from the heavy rain, we waded back across, reaching thigh-deep water in the deepest channel in the last few feet against the left bank.   Peter gave a steadying hand to many party members, and the heaters back in the vehicles 20 minutes down the trail were appreciated more than usual.

No photos are known to have survived the rain that day. :-)


The mountain was sunny, cool, and dry. The afternoon temperature on the Railroad Grade was close to freezing,   Some fresh snow remained in sheltered spots from a storm a week earlier, and the stream flow was minimal.

Our group of 29 from UW (lead by Steve Warren, Ed Waddington, and Tom Carpenter) met up with a group of 10 from UBC (lead by Dave McClung) at Schriebers Meadow.  There, we "buddied up" and split into two groups, one heading to the upper Railroad Grade (lead by Steve and Dave), and the other to the Eastom Glacier terminus (lead by Ed and Tom)..

You can check out the 2009 photo gallery at right.



Saturday, October 5, was sunny and warm. with the freezing level near the summit of Mt Baker. Our group of 17 students and faculty (lead by Steve Warren, Ed Waddington, and Kat Huybers) left Schriebers Meadow at around 10:40.  The afternoon temperature was close to 10 C in the upper meadow where the trail joins the Railroad Grade.   However, there had been heavy snow in the preceding week, and we encountered snow on the trail below the trail junction splitting off to the terminus or the Railroad Grade.

We found approximately 30 cm of snow in the meadow below the Railroad Grade campground, where we excavated a snow wall, and measured two profiles of density, temperature, and grain size for later analysis in class. The snowpack was coolest at mid-depths, where the grains were also smallest.

We then proceeded through the snow up to the access point onto the Railroad Grade, where we were able to see Easton Glacier, the lateral moraines, and the glacial foreland. Although the glacier was largely covered in new snow, we could see crevasses and blue ice exposed in the icefalls. The decrease in tree size along the valley center line from lower elevations toward the terminus also suggested recent glacial retreat.

In spite of the warm day, flow in the glacial stream flow was minimal and the water was unusually clear, suggesting that due to the high albedo of the snow cover, the glacier was not melting, and the only flow in the stream was coming from snowmelt. However, the stream near the trailhead was flowing vigorously and clear, suggesting that it was collecting snowmelt from a large area at lower elevation.

You can check out the 2013 photo gallery at right.



Saturday, October 24, was cool with some morning sun, becoming overcast by afternoon. The freezing level was around 9,000'. There was no new snow, and no snow from last winter. Dave McClung (emeritus, UBC) joined our UW group of 7 at Schriebers Meadow at 9:30. About 1 km into the the hike, we could see the avalanche chutes on the ridge to the west. Dave explained After the first of several lunch stops at the trial junction at ~4,500', we took the high route though the meadows to Railroad Grade, and we were able to get onto the ice at around the 5800' level. (just beyond a small pond right beside the moraine).

The debris cover on the ice at the margin was much drier than it has been on other trips, so we were able to just walk out to the blue ice without getting covered in mud. On the glacier we made fried ice, getting some thin sections ~1-2 mm thick. When viewed though our crossed polarizers, we could see individual ice crystals, with dimensions of ~ 1 cm.

After clearing off the upper few cm of rotten ice, we put a several drops of food coloring on the flat surface next to the wall of a narrow crevasse. In the next 20 minutes, we could see that the dye had migrated down by ~40 cm through the water channels between the ice crystals.

We could see foliation under our feet, represented by narrow whiter layers standing vertically 1-2 cm above the surrounding Looking closely at the vertical faces of the narrow crevasses, we could see distinctly blue vertical layers with few bubbles alternating with whiter bubbly layers. The blue layers probably represent the closed and rotated traces of former water-filled crevasses that formed far upstream.

Photos from the trip are available on the right-hand sidebar above.

2007 pictures
2009 pictures
2013 pictures
2015 pictures