Trip: Mt. Baker - Park Glacier
It's been almost a year since I last climbed in the Cascades. I was sad to see them go when I moved away but I knew I would be back. Joe was itching to get out and climb this summer and I had 6 days off from my job in Boise so we decided on a weekend to climb. The weekend kind of sneaked up on us, and with a week to go we still hadn't decided where to go. The weekend finally arrived and I piled all of my gear into the back of my truck and piled all the guide books on the passenger seat. I'm sure reading Beckey guides while driving isn't the safest thing to do, but it sure helped pass time on the long drive.
Joe and I had attempted Mt. Baker once before and felt it was time for another shot. I remembered my trip last June with Lisa to ski the Boulder Glacier and how we were the only two people on the east side of the mountain. So it was decided that we would go back to the east side of Mt. Baker but this time up the Park Glacier.
Joe and I got to Artist Point at about 10 and were on the trail by 10:30. The trail was spectacular, it was completely above tree line giving us views of Mt. Baker in the distance. We quickly covered the 5 miles to Camp Kiser and decided that we would camp up on the saddle at 7000' between Park and Rainbow glaciers to give us a shorter summit day. We arrived at camp around 5 pm after about 2 miles of hiking and a little bit of glacier travel.
The guide books had warned us about route finding through the lower park of Park Glacier and finding a way past the bergshrund. We did a little reconnaissance of the route with Joe's new camera and plotted our route up to the headwall. With very warm weather predicted on Saturday and a 13,000' freezing level on Friday, we decided on a 2 am start.
2 am came all too quickly and before we knew it we were heading up into the heart of the crevasse's. It only took us two wrong turns to finally find a super thick snow bridge that lead up to the smooth upper glacier. One obstacle down, one to go.
On the way up to the headwall, we crossed a large avalanche debris field that had come off the headwall, leaving a very large ice patch in the exact spot were we wanted to go. We were not expecting a lot of ice and did not bring a second tool or ice screws. We arrived at the base of the headwall at 4:30 and began looking for a way through. There was a small vertical step were the bergshrund and a crevasse met. Joe made it look easy as he climbed up and over the bergshrund and we began to simul-climb, swapping leads using only two pickets and a 30 meter rope. We had to make a fairly long detour around the large ice patch, kicking steps in the relatively firm snow. We finally made it over the small cornice at the top after 2 hours on the headwall.
It was a quick and easy ascent up the ridge and we arrived on the summit at 7:15. There were a few other teams on the summit that had come up the Easton but they soon left and we enjoyed the summit to ourselves on a warm windy day. We had a quick refuel and discussed how we would get back down the headwall safely. We decided to belay each other down as the snow was starting to turn very sloppy. Once off the headwall we let out a big sigh of relief and we trudged through boot deep slop all the way back to camp.
We had originally decided to make it a three day trip, but when we got to camp we realized that we might only have enough fuel to boil a liter of water for dinner. We took a quick nap and packed up camp at 1:30 in search for a new camp with running water. Joe discovered that over the course of the day his big toenail had turned completely black and was starting to hurt real bad. He didn't want to stay the night and have the possibility of it getting worse. We made the decision to hike out to the car, we both needed a long and grueling day so why not today? We arrived at the parking lot at 6 pm, exhausted after a long great day of climbing.
Standard glacier gear. Would have been nice to have a second tool and some ice screws.
Follow the trail till the end. The way up to the glacier is pretty obvious.