Mount Baker North Ridge
I had the great opportunity to guide the North Ridge of Mount Baker which is a great climb in the North Cascades. What made the trip even more special was I got to take a gentleman by the name of Ryan out on the climb, which was his first ever experience in the mountains! I know some of you are thinking, “wow, what a trip for one’s first time,” and boy are you correct. The North Ridge of Baker is a very aesthetic line on the north side of Baker that offers lots of technical climbing challenges for the budding alpine climber. Not to mention that it is a very big fitness challenge as well.
Well, on the first day I met Ryan, I could tell this guy was going to be a crusher. He had researched everything and was really psyched and ready to give the mountain a go. Our first day involved a drive from Seattle to the north side’s start which is the Heliotrope Trail. We arrived mid morning ready to hike to base camp and, in true Washington fashion, the rain welcomed us to Baker. Lucky for us we were armed with the right gear and a ton of excitement which helped make the hike to base camp really a cruiser.
Clear day at camp. Matt Barela photo
Once we arrived at basecamp, we tackled the task of setting things up and readying our position on the mountain to go for the summit as soon as things looked good. Our game plan for the rest of the day was a snow school but heavy rain kept us at bay so we spent the day in the tent talking mountain strategy and going over the climb. We closed the day off with Ryan’s first-ever go at jambalaya, which he enjoyed, and then off to bed.
Day 2 brought us a great new take on things with a gorgeous morning and no sign of rain. Today was a big day as we had to cover a snow school, ice climbing, anchors, and transitions. We got up early to get ready for the day and had a great breakfast of eggs, bacon, and bagels. Once our stomachs were happy we headed on out to the ice fall on the Coleman glacier to start our training. On the way out, we went over the nuances of traveling on a glacier as well as ice axe management. Ryan was a fast learner and it made things go really smoothly. Once we made it to the ice fall we switched to climbing mode and went over the basics of ice climbing and then quickly transitioned into multipitch climbing mode. Once again Ryan was proving that he was on top of things to ensure a smooth summit day. Once we finished our tour of the ice fall it was time to head back to basebcamp to go over some more snow school things.
Great ice climbing! Matt Barela photo
Ryan killed day 2 and was as dialed as a veteran. I was really excited to know that he was ready to go and if the weather looked good we would have a great shot at the top. We sat down over a dinner of chicken pad thai and went over a summit talk. I had to be very frank with Ryan on how things would go since it was his first time out it serious terrain. Ryan listened to the talk and was ready to go and we went to bed around 6:30pm (or at least sat in the tent pretending).
Day 3 was our big day to go for the top. We got up around 2am and after a quick breakfast and packing session we were out of camp at 3:15am. We headed out in the dark to navigate the Coleman Glacier with our headlamps to lead the way. The glacier was in great shape and made for fast travel. We made it to the base of the more technical climbing rather fast and Ryan was ready to hammer down. We crushed it to the base of the ice cliff and now it was time to start ice climbing. Ryan was loving it and looked really good the whole way. We climbed 4 pitches up the ice cliff and once we were on top of that we had only 400 feet to go. We were doing great on time and the weather was so perfect. The temps were allowing us to wear just a base layer and light gloves, which made for such a great morning. We were on top around 10:45am and had nailed it. Ryan was so happy and he did such a great job making it through all the different challenges of the day.
Summit shot! Matt Barela photo
After spending 30mins on top in perfect weather it was time to head out and get back to basecamp. We headed down the Coleman-Deming route which is the standard way down from the north ridge and it was smooth sailing. We were back in camp in an hour and fifteen minutes. The descent route was in perfect shape lending to such a nice walk down.
Once in camp we relaxed for a few and then decided to hike out. Ryan had crushed the North Ridge of Baker but was excited to get out and see his wife and kids. Way to go Ryan and thanks for a great trip!
~ MM Guide Matthew Barela
“I just want to say that I am really happy with everyone at Mountain Madness. Matt Barela was a great guide! I enjoyed hearing about his trips and experiences climbing. I reached my goal and it was all because of Matt! He was able to teach me in one short day enough skills to be successful in reaching my goal. I have never been in the mountains before and we were able to knock out the North Ridge of Baker. It was so much fun!!”
~ Climber Ryan G.
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