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Baker with Mountain Madness

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