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Threading the Needle on the North Ridge of Baker

Despite the sketchy weath­er atop Mount Bak­er, late August proved to be a bless­ing in dis­guise for Moun­tain Mad­ness Guide Ian Nichol­son and climber Bill Clapp as they were the only ones on the moun­tain! This cus­tom trip allowed a chal­leng­ing but excit­ing ascent of the North Ridge of Mt. Bak­er along with some alpine climb­ing up South Ear­ly Win­ter Spire in the Cas­cades. Check out some of their pho­tos and their sto­ry below. 

Cloudy con­di­tions pro­vide fan­tas­tic sunsets

We hiked up the first day and camped at 6,700 feet. In the park­ing lot it was rain­ing, but as the day pro­gressed it got much nicer. By the time we got to camp, we were get­ting occa­sion­al views of the moun­tain, but by the time we woke up it was super nice. 

We wove our way through the maze of crevass­es. It seemed like it was going to be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult, but every time a path through would allow us pas­sage. We got to the base of the steep climb­ing at 8,800 feet. A bergschrund had been on my mind the entire night, I was­n’t sure if we were going to be able to get across it. But luck­i­ly, a small snow bridge and an 80 degree step led us to the 50 degree snow. 

Bill Clapp on the ascent

The ice cliff prop­er was in good con­di­tions, though it was cold and brit­tle. Above the ice cliff, we climbed anoth­er 300 ft of 50 degree snow before it eased off. Then the bergschrund, which com­mon­ly cre­ates prob­lems below the sum­mit, was easy and we strolled right through it.

It had been cold the whole day, we were wear­ing near­ly all of our lay­ers, but as we began the descent, we stripped down to t‑shirts and baked in the after­noon sun.

Ian Nichol­son warm­ing up on the descent

Bil­l’s four days ice climb­ing in Ouray helped pre­pare him for this trip. It took us 13 hours from camp to camp, which is bet­ter than aver­age. He had an incred­i­bly pos­i­tive atti­tude the whole time, which made it real­ly fun. Being from Flori­da, he was psy­ched to be in the moun­tains. Bil­l’s the man!” 

~ MM Guide Ian Nicholson

Bill enjoy­ing the view from South Ear­ly Win­ter Spire

My expe­ri­ence with Moun­tain Mad­ness climb­ing the North Ridge of Mt. Bak­er and rock climb­ing in the Wash­ing­ton Pass area exceed­ed all my expec­ta­tions. Climb­ing with Ian Nichol­son, I expe­ri­enced moun­tain guid­ing at its finest, and also the beau­ty of the moun­tains, men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenges, and tremen­dous cama­raderie and fun – my rea­sons for climbing.”

~ Bill Clapp