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Baker Easton CB2

Grand Prize Winner Celebrates With Baker Summit!

Grand prize win­ner EJ Hurst recounts Mount Bak­er climb last sum­mer. Climbs for this sum­mer are just around the corner.

When Scott Hen­ley wrote to me to let me know I had won the Van­cou­ver Island Spine Trail Asso­ci­a­tion Grand Prize I didn’t believe him at first. Out of over 1 000 peo­ple, I had won the best prize ever – a guid­ed trip up Mt. Bak­er with Seat­tle-based Moun­tain Madness! 

The Series is an annu­al mul­ti-event cel­e­bra­tion to raise aware­ness for devel­op­ing a con­tin­u­ous wilder­ness trail, 700km long, link­ing com­mu­ni­ties all along Van­cou­ver Island, from Vic­to­ria to Cape Scott. I did a sec­tion in Strath­cona Park For­bid­den Plateau as a ski tour. 

I elect­ed to do my climb with a group in July on the Eas­t­on Glac­i­er route. Moun­tain Mad­ness rent­ed me an ice ax, moun­taineer­ing boots and cram­pons. On the first day of the trip, I was met at my hotel by our guides, Chris Petry and Jen­ny Kon­way and we went to Sec­ond Ascent gear shop. All the par­tic­i­pants had been sent detailed equip­ment lists and we emp­tied our packs on the floor for a com­plete gear inspec­tion. Chris hand­ed out some plas­tic bags with small­er blue bags inside. Know what this is?” he asked. I am think­ing it’s the toi­let.” I said. Moun­tain Mad­ness fol­lows their Leave No Trace” ethics seri­ous­ly. When Chris and Jen­ny were sat­is­fied we would be safe and com­fort­able, and there had been sev­er­al last minute gear pur­chas­es from Sec­ond Ascent, we packed up and head­ed for Mt. Bak­er 3 hours to the north. 

Mount Bak­er. Jeong Yoon photo.

The snow was fair­ly low and we trav­elled in it almost from the base of the trail. The day was clear and our first glimpse of Mt. Bak­er was amaz­ing. What a beau­ti­ful moun­tain. We trav­elled up to the mead­ow (snow cov­ered) and had a break. Chris was the focus of much hilar­i­ty as he mimed the begin­ner, inter­me­di­ate and advanced meth­ods of using our blue plas­tic bags. From there, we fol­lowed the Rail­road Moraine” where the sun was blaz­ing hot to our camp at Sandy Camp”. We over­looked the glac­i­er and had views of ice falls. 

That night we were treat­ed to a spec­tac­u­lar scene as the weath­er came in at sun­set. In the west were jagged peaks sil­hou­et­ted against red and black clouds look­ing for all the world like Mor­dor. To the East, the set­ting Sun light up the white snowy peaks with gold and pink and there was even a rainbow! 

Mount Bak­er at sun­set. Pho­to from anoth­er trip. MM Collection.

The next day was snow school. The weath­er was misty and rainy. Our guides lead us through all the basic moun­taineer­ing skills we would need includ­ing cram­pon steps and turns, mov­ing togeth­er roped up, self belay, using prus­sics and, the most fun, self arrest. We start­ed off slid­ing on our bums and stop­ping our­selves with our ice axes and end­ed up being launched down the moun­tain head first on our backs by the guides and hav­ing to stop our­selves. Con­vinced that we were going to be okay on the moun­tain, the guides urged us to stay dry in our tents and rest up for the next day. They even brought us hot soup in bed! 

Prac­tic­ing foot­work dur­ing snowschool. VISTA photo.

Sum­mit day start­ed at 3:00 am with a pop tart break­fast! It was only the sec­ond pop tart I have ever eat­en and the only organ­ic one! I was glad I had some land­jager smoked sausage in my pack for back up. (a tip from one of my Mt. Ben­son sum­mit shar­ers). It was dusk when we start­ed but we didn’t even need head­lamps. By day­light, we were on the glac­i­er and roped up. From here, Chris set a pret­ty gru­el­ing pace. The snow was already get­ting a bit soft and we passed sev­er­al open crevass­es. The day was clear but the wind was ter­rif­ic. Chris, who has climbed Mt. Bak­er over 30 times, said he had nev­er had such sus­tained, strong wind. We put our heads down and motored up to the caldera below the summit. 

Climbers on the Eas­t­on Glac­i­er; pho­to from anoth­er climb. MM Collection.

We climbed the 35% slope and did a cou­ple of switch-backs. We crossed above one open crevasse, then round­ed the end of anoth­er and walked above it. I was real­ly hop­ing no one would lose their foot­ing. Once we reached the top of the Roman Wall, there was an easy walk to the sum­mit. Chris and Jen­ny sprint­ed to the top – the rest of us plod­ded. It was about 12:00. We took pho­tos, signed to the book and I made sure to wave in the gen­er­al direc­tion of Gabri­o­la Island. The Straits of Juan de Fuca and Geor­gia were cov­ered in fog. 

Sum­mit! VISTA photo.

As always with moun­tains, the hard part was still ahead. We had to get down, pack up camp and return to Seat­tle that day. After a quick lunch on the sum­mit, we head­ed back down. We only had a short stop at the caldera and then plunge-stepped our way to back to camp. We quick­ly packed our tents and said good bye to Mt. Baker. 

By 7:00 pm we were back at the van, putting on our new Moun­tain Mad­ness t‑shirts and snap­ping some last pho­tos. We got back in Seat­tle at 10:30 pm and glad to hear the guides were drop­ping us off and going home rather than unpack­ing gear that night. 

Moun­tain Mad­ness ran a fan­tas­tic trip and I want to thank them again for donat­ing this prize to the Van­cou­ver Island Spine Trail Association. 

Thank You Moun­tain Madness! 

~ MM Climber EJ Hurst