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Baker Slow Boat with Mountain Madness

Mount Baker Slow Boat — MM-style

Moun­tain Mad­ness guides Chris Mar­shall and Casey Hen­ley led a group up the Squak Glac­i­er on Mt. Bak­er from July 18 – 21. Although it was only the sec­ond half of July, the south side of the moun­tain was in typ­i­cal late-sea­son con­di­tion with exposed glacial ice, many large open crevass­es and tricky route finding. 

Pass­ing a crevasse as the morn­ing sky lights up. Chris Mar­shall photo

This trip, offered as a spe­cial four day Slow-Boat” expe­ri­ence, allowed the team to be fueled by gourmet back­coun­try cui­sine and to spend a full day on snow and glac­i­er trav­el skills and to get ade­quate rest before a sum­mit attempt. Plus, the guests’ packs were sig­nif­i­cant­ly lighter hik­ing into base­camp since there were two porters on the trip car­ry­ing all the group equip­ment and food! If you’d like to climb Mt. Bak­er, and do so in a more relaxed and less stren­u­ous trip, the Slow-Boat” is for you!

Mount Shuk­san on the Approach. Chris Mar­shall photo

The past win­ter wasn’t kind to the Pacif­ic North­west, deliv­er­ing near-record, low snow­fall. The sum­mer has been hot­ter and sun­nier than aver­age too, which is great if you are a beach-goer, but has allowed the glac­i­ers to suf­fer. Many of the large glac­i­ers on the vol­ca­noes in the PNW are show­ing late-sea­son con­di­tions in the mid­dle of the sum­mer and are so bro­ken that some of the stan­dard” routes are impassible. 

The steep, bro­ken Roman wall in late-sea­son con­di­tions. Chris Mar­shall photo

That didn’t stop Moun­tain Mad­ness’ team from attempt­ing a sum­mit on Mt. Bak­er. We chose to climb the Squak Glac­i­er instead of the Eas­t­on. This allows a short­er over­all approach, a beau­ti­ful base camp at the scenic Crag View, and an excel­lent loca­tion for teach­ing a snow school and glac­i­er trav­el class in prepa­ra­tion for a sum­mit bid. A high camp at Crag View shouldn’t be missed; you have stun­ning views of Mt. Shuk­san to the East, and the Coast Moun­tains and Puget Sound to the West.

Snow School! Chris Mar­shall photo

Prac­tic­ing self arrests. Chris Mar­shall photo

Gourmet food on the Slow-Boat” is a top-pri­or­i­ty, ensur­ing that our guest eat nutri­tious­ly and in style. We had carne-asa­da tacos, com­plete with gua­camole, sal­sa, and oth­er fix­ings the first night! Oth­er din­ners includ­ed pesto pas­ta topped with wild Alaskan smoked salmon, and a pad-Thai with chick­en and a peanut sauce. Sure beats the din­ner-in-a-bag that some oth­er guide ser­vices offer on their Mt. Bak­er climb!

Casey pre­pares the fin­ish­ing touch­es on din­ner. Chris Mar­shall photo

An alpine start brought the rope teams to the Squak Glac­i­er in the dark. The route to the sum­mit was all but straight-for­ward, involv­ing cross­ing blue glacial ice, step­ping over and wind­ing through crevass­es. Almost to the sum­mit, on the final steep slope know as the Roman Wall, Chris’ team found that the bridge over the bergschrund (large crevasse) had col­lapsed, and had to punch new tracks out of the schrund and onto a steep and icy slope. The tra­verse back to the east onto of the schrund was steep and excit­ing. A num­ber of hours after leav­ing camp, the team was stand­ing on the sum­mit with a blue sky and swirling clouds below! Bravo.

On the sum­mit! Chris Mar­shall photo

If you’d like to climb Mt. Bak­er, and want to do it with a lighter pack, with gourmet food, and a relaxed sched­ule, come find your­self on the Moun­tain Mad­ness Slow-Boat”!

~ MM Guide Chris Marshall

Until next year! Chris Mar­shall photo