Trip: Mt. Baker - North Ridge Trip Date: 05/01/2020 Trip Report:
Baker's North Ridge has been one of the many climbs on my mind in the past couple weeks. I saw a weather window this Thursday night/Friday morning so I asked for Friday off from work and left Seattle as soon as I got off Thursday afternoon.
The weather on the drive there was iffy. I saw clouds in every direction, but with little tiny pockets of blue sky and thin gold light. Somewhere just after Bellingham the rain came down hard and no mountains were visible and my expectations of getting on the ridge were dwindling. Then the rain stopped in an instant, and in front of me was the most stunning rainbow I've ever seen. Everything leading up to this point, the packing, the driving, the missing work, was all worth it just to see this. I kept driving, through the rainbow and into the clouds still unsure what was going to happen in the next 12 hours. I was nearing Glacier, about a mile outside of it, when all those dark stormy clouds lifted just enough to reveal Baker. I knew it was on now. It was go time.
Glacier Creek Road was in mostly good condition for the first 6.5 miles until the snow became too much for my Forester. It was 9:45 pm when I started skinning up the road. I took with me a pair of Irvis Hybrid crampons, Quark tools, extra puffy, 2 bars, 4 gels, and. a liter of water. I arrived at the outhouse at 10:20 and was able to skin all the way up Grouse Creek without boot packing. Made it to the Coleman Glacier by midnight and tried to make out a route to the base of the north ridge but the darkness was deceptive. I ended up having to retrace my skin track to go higher up on the glacier before cutting across underneath the headwall. Snow was plentiful and the pack was firm on the glacier so route finding was pretty straight forward. Made it to the base of the ridge (upper right start) at about 2 am and swapped skis for crampons.
The snow was about mid-shin deep with a layer of crust so it was slow going. Just before gaining the ridge proper I did encounter some ice and firm neve that helped speed things up and add some flavor to the climbing. As the crux ice pitch came into view the darkness started to lift and I could put my headlamp away. Instead of climbing left or right as suggested by other trip reports I decided to go straight up the "arete" which went at about AI 2+/3. There was some good dinner plate chunks of ice coming off but for the most part the climbing was secure and really fun. The sun was really coming out now and I could see the summit. I navigated to the right and through the upper serac section with a few AI 2 moves. Once on flatter ground I put skis back on and skinned to the true summit.
After eating some food and taking in the view I started my journey down the Roman Headwall at about 7 am. The upper portion was wind blown and icy but I was able to get through it and found fantastic turns in the middle section. It turned icy once more at the bottom but wasn't too bad. The last steep section dropping onto the Coleman glacier was pure bliss with neve topped with 6-8 inches of fresh snow. The rest of the ski down was probably the best skiing I've had on Mt. Baker out of the 4 other times I've been up there. Made it back down Grouse Creek and to the car by 8:30.
I'm really glad the weather held and I was able to find some good ice up there. I think the ski down was the best part though
Ice tools and crampons Approach Notes:
1.5 mile skin up Glacier Creek Rd to outhouse.