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