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