North Ridge of Baker
The weekend of July 20th Yoshiko and I guided the North Ridge of Mount Baker. Going into the trip, as we often see in the Cascades, an inch of rain was forecasted for the first day of the trip. When I see rainfall amounts like that I generally try to find an umbrella or a backup plan. Fortunately a backup plan presented itself, and my catlike aversion to wetness was fulfilled. We spent the first day of our trip at Mount Erie reviewing some rock climbing techniques, as well as belaying, rappelling, and multi-pitch transitions.
Marco and Yoshiko training at Mount Erie. Alan Rousseau photo
After a fun day of climbing in the rain shadow, the crew headed into Anacortes, and we all enjoyed a nice dinner and walk along the coast before returning to our campsite for the night. The next morning, we woke up early and continued our drive to the north side of Baker.
On approach to the Heliotrope Bridge. Alan Rousseau photo
We still had low-lying clouds on our hike and a bit of rain in the evening. I was beginning to worry that the storm was going to stall out over us. However, we woke up at 2 am to a starry sky. Which means one thing: GO TIME! So we boiled up a big pot of water, and everyone pounded some caffeine and oatmeal and we were off and running (well, walking) on perfect neve to try and find a way through the very broken Coleman glacier.
Early morning departure. Alan Rousseau photo
From some info a friend had sent me I knew there was a passage at the 6600’ contour. So we began an ankle-crushing traverse across the crevasse riddled Coleman glacier. With only one wrong turn that cost us 150 vertical feet we found our way to the base of the North ridge. A few hundred feet of steep (50 degree) front-pointing and a short traverse across loose rock put us on the north ridge and above most of the objective hazard the route presents.
Steep ascent. Alan Rousseau photo
The record breaking temps the week before, coupled with a lot of rain and a big drop in freezing levels left us with unusually firm snow on the entire route. We moved together for the most part to the base of the ice cliff, with a couple running belays along the way. The ice cliff offered 3, 30 meter pitches of 60 – 80 degree terrain. Then 2, 70 meter pitches on 50 degree neve. From there we were able to walk together weaving through the upper crevasses and seracs that guard the summit plateau. We reached the summit 10 hours after leaving camp. Everyone was feeling pretty tired, but we still had to muster enough energy to descend to camp, pack up and continue back to Seattle.
Getting ready to belay up the ice pitch on the North Ridge. Alan Rousseau photo
A summit worth ten hours of effort. Alan Rousseau photo
Fortunately the conditions were conducive to glissading, which eased the pain of descending with a few fun sections of sliding on our butts down the mountain. Three hours after leaving the summit we were pounding water, and packing up tents preparing for the trail down to the car. By the time we reached the van, sorted gear and loaded up we were looking at a 2 am arrival into Seattle. Strong work everyone for staying positive on the 24 hour push!
Thanks for a safe and enjoyable couple days. I look forward to sharing a rope with you all again.
~MM Guide Alan Rousseau