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Watson Traverse

A classic ski traverse from Mount Baker to the Mount Baker Ski Resort

Ski Touring Difficult

25 km
3.4 km
3.2 km
1 day +
Low Point
1.1 km
High Point
3.3 km
Watson Traverse Map

The Watson Traverse is a relatively straightforward and scenic route from Mount Baker to the Mount Baker Ski resort. While the trip is relatively long it is perfect for a single day trip wrapping up and over numerous cols with the highlight/crux of the trip riding down the Park Glacier. While the summit descent is just a part of the trip it is hard to beat over 5,000 feet of fall line turns to break up the long distances of skinning. For this trip to be successful you need to start early as the first rays of sun are already hitting the Park Glacier. Another thing to keep in mind is the weather forecast needs to be sunny and without wind as you will be traveling in Alpine for pretty much the entirety of this route.


Leaving from Glacier Creek Road make your way up to the Heliotrope Trailhead but instead of going on said trail make your way north through the woods. After about 15 minutes of skinning through the trees you will find yourself at the base of open slopes. Follow the main drainage past the first avalanche swath on the left before ascending northeast and arriving on the flatter slopes of Heliotrope Ridge. From here do an incredibly long traverse east staying just below the ridge and before long you will descend onto the Coleman Glacier.

Once on the Coleman Glacier follow the upper lobe East making your way around Colfax Peak staying near it but also not to close incase the upper slopes slide. Before long you will reach a col that separates the Coleman and Demming glaciers. From here to the summit follow the ridge until arriving a few hundred feet below the top and traverse over onto the Roman Headwall before bootpacking the final few hundred feet to the flat summit area of Mount Baker.

Walking over to the summit of Mount Baker you need to decided if you want to go through with the traverse as after riding down the Park Glacier you are committed. Standing on top of Mount Baker and looking east it is a blind roller over to the Park Glacier Headwall. Not being able to see this crux where there are massive crevasses we wrapped around it by following the ridge down northeast to 10, 050 feet. Once here it was a smooth ramp onto the Park Glacier and easy turns all the way down to 5,500 feet where you need to make sure you ride into the basin just South of the Portals.

From here the long slog East starts by wrapping over to the col just west of the Portals East. Being snowboarders we switched over to riding doing a hard skiers right traverse down to around 5,100 feet before switching back to skinning and heading southeast towards the main low col. Arriving on the next ridge we decided to ride once again Northeast following the terrain all the way down to Wells Creek where we found an opening in the creek and grabbed some water for the final ascent of the trip.

Being at 4,050 feet we were in the spot where the creek branched off in 3 directions climbing the Eastern tributary. Following this drainage we soon enough got around the Southwestern col of Table Mountain and traversed East in the flat alpine bowl before heading up to the ridge via a small treed section. Being on top of the Blueberry Chutes we were about to make our final descent back to the car. Since it was late Spring and the chutes were in the shade we followed the ridge down before arriving on the groomers of the ski resort. Within a few minutes we’re at our second car at the Heather Meadows Parking lot and had pulled off the Watson Traverse.

To see my trip in the area and more photos check out this link https://www.whereiskylemiller.com/mt-baker-542/watson-traverse/



Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

High Exposure (E3)

3 out of 4

In case of a fall, death is highly likely.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between March and May


  • Bowl
  • Alpine
  • Ski Safari
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area