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Mountain Madness Climber

Alpine Ice Climbing Course on the North Ridge of Mt. Baker

A suc­cess­ful Alpine Ice Climb­ing Course with guides Matt Barela and Alan Rousseau pre­pared three clients for a great future in the alpine climb­ing world. Great con­di­tions on Mount Bak­er’s North Ridge allowed for a speedy course and the men came away strong with great skills to pre­pare them for the tougher peaks ahead. Matt reports on the course below: 

Alan Rousseau and I had the plea­sure to take out three guys for an alpine ice climb­ing expe­ri­ence. Mark, Dave and Joe are great clients of Moun­tain Mad­ness and knew the rou­tine so they were well pre­pared and ready to roll. 

Mt. Bak­er North Side with the Cole­man Glacier

Day 1: We arrived at the trail­head around 11:20am ate a great lunch and start­ed up the moun­tain in per­fect weath­er. We had clear warm skies and every­one was amped to be head­ing up the moun­tain. Our goal for the next 6 days was to learn to climb alpine ice, trav­el roped up, learn some crevasse res­cue and to sum­mit Bak­er via the tech­ni­cal North Ridge. The trail we were on would land us at the base of the Cole­man Glac­i­er by 3:45pm ready to set­up camp. Every­one enjoyed the nice trail up to our camp at the Hogs Back. We enjoyed the sun and pre­pared a great din­ner of bacon-wrapped filets with mashed pota­toes. Dave, Mark, and Joe, who have spent a good amount of time in the moun­tains, gave Alan and me a fine com­pli­ment of the best meal in the moun­tains!” Thanks a bunch gen­tle­man! We fin­ished the night with sto­ries of oth­er adven­tures and then were off to bed.

Head­ing out for a day of training. 

Day 2: We woke the guys up around 7am; or I should say the warm sun woke us all up. It was going to be anoth­er gor­geous day on the moun­tain. We had a spe­cial break­fast for this day which we call the Denali sand­wich”. A great com­bo of eggs, bacon, cream cheese, and a bagel! With a full stom­ach we head­ed off to the low­er Cole­man ice­fall for a day of ice crag­ging. We start­ed off with a fun lit­tle tour of the low­er fall and came into an amaz­ing lit­tle sec­tion of some steep ice to low­er angle ice. The guys had a blast learn­ing to ice climb and gave the ice all they had for the day. They were nat­u­rals and were look­ing to be super, strong clients for the north ridge. We wrapped things up around 3:45pm and were back in camp by 4:30 for a nice relax­ing evening. 

Prac­tice in the Cole­man Glac­i­er icefall. 

Day 3 brought us some changes in weath­er as we awoke to cloudy and cool skies. We had a quick break­fast and head­ed back out to the ice fall for anoth­er round of climb­ing as well as teach­ing mul­ti­p­itch tran­si­tions. Alan took Dave on a rope and I took Mark and Joe. Once again, these guys were ready for all we threw at them and did great! We spent a lit­tle over 3 hours tour­ing through the ice fall before we took a break. Dave remarked that he had a blast in the fall, and I must agree, it was one of the coolest tours I have tak­en through an ice fall. We got back around 1pm and had a great lunch and retired to our tents just before the skies opened up and rain poured down. After review­ing the weath­er, Alan and I decid­ed that we would wake in the ear­ly morn­ing on Day 4 and go for the sum­mit if weath­er looked good. The fore­cast we had was up in the air for the next cou­ple of days and we need­ed to take advan­tage of the cur­rent conditions. 

Prac­tice on the icefall. 

Day 4: A clear, star­ry sky greet­ed us in the morn­ing and we decid­ed the con­di­tions would be great. We were off from camp at 3:37am and head­ing to the Cole­man Glac­i­er. We made our way through a pret­ty bro­ken up Cole­man Glac­i­er. Ear­li­er in the trip Joe was jok­ing about doing a Ver­ti­cal Lim­it” jump across a crevasse. We had one snow bridge that did it’s best to make that hap­pen. The guys did great and we made our way to the shrund that pro­tects the start of the ridge. Alan picked a spot to attack and kicked steps up the steep slope. It war­rant­ed plung­ing two tools as we made our way up the slope. Thanks to Alan, we had sol­id steps the whole way up to the ice cliff. Before we knew it, we were roped up head­ing up the first pitch of the tech­ni­cal ice pitch­es. As I belayed Dave who rocked the first steep pitch in style I got to take some great pho­tos of Mark and Joe ham­mer­ing their way up such an amaz­ing face.

Steep ice on the route. 

At this point the clouds were ris­ing up and swal­low­ing us whole, leav­ing us in a ping pong ball. We cruised up the last tech­ni­cal pitch­es in good form and punched through the clouds once more with a strong dri­ve to the sum­mit. In no time at all we were sit­ting atop the sum­mit above the clouds with spec­tac­u­lar views all around! The guys took it to the top look­ing strong! We ate lunch on top and then begain the long trek down the Deming/​Coleman route which is the stan­dard descent for our climb. It went off with­out a hitch and the guys got to enjoy some great glis­sades down the moun­tain. We were back in camp by 4:35pm and ready for dinner. 

High on the North Ridge.

Day 5: Once again we awoke to some clouds and mois­ture in the air. It sure looked like we made a great call on our sum­mit day as today looked bad. We made a late break­fast and made plans to do a day of crevasse res­cue. We spent the morn­ing at camp with the plan to head out at noon. Just before we hit noon the guys came to us and said they had a fun trip so far and were ready to head out. We packed up camp and head­ed out for the car. We enjoyed lunch in a small town at the base of Mt Bak­er and were back in Seat­tle by 7pm.

Sum­mit of Mount Baker!

I want­ed to say thanks to Mark, Joe and Dave for a great trip. Also good luck to them on their future adven­tures as Mark looks to Vin­son, and Dave and Joe head to Island Peak. I am sure they are going to do well. Also, thanks to Alan who was great to work with.”

- Matt Barela