Trip: Mt Baker - North Ridge
On August 25th and 26th, Ken, Ian and François headed down to Mt Baker in order to climb its North Ridge. After reading this trip report (http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1079699) , we revised our plan to increase our chances of success. So, we left Vancouver at 6-ish Saturday morning, stopped at the ranger station to register, pick up blue bags, and went up the road to the carpark. We stopped a few hundred meters before the trailhead to take a look at the route and to snap a few pictures, then headed up to the climbers' bivy at the toe of the glacier.
Ken’s idea was to leave camp early, at 2 or 3am, but without any day light, it would be impossible to navigate the maze of crevasses and seracs between camp and the hourglass. So when we got to the bivy site, we dropped our tent, food and other gear we did not need and went on a reconnaissance trip.
We went up the headwall above camp and made our way towards the base of the North Ridge, looking for the best way to get back there in the dark. We were lucky not to get totally shut down, and only had to cross two dicey crevasses/serac systems before hitting the snowfield right below the N Ridge. On the way back, we took a more direct way to camp, GPS-ing our tracks to find it easily in the dark. What took us 2.5 hours to do in the afternoon on Saturday took us only 75 minutes in the dark at 3am on Sunday. We believe that this is the way to go if you want to climb the N ridge at this time of the year. From what we saw on Saturday, our plan was to climb the snow/rock gully on the rock buttress and from there, gain the N ridge itself (the middle line in the previous trip report).
So after a good dinner and a short night of sleep, we woke up at 2:40am and wound our way to where we had stopped the day before. From there, we avoided a few huge crevasses and headed to the east side of the toe of the buttress, gaining the snow patch on it by walking on a narrow ice/snow bridge over the moat.
From there, we took our second ice axes and made our way up the steeper snow.
From the top of the snow slope there was a 60m traverse on some very loose volcanic rock that we had to cross in order to get to the snow gully. Not steep, but loose. By this time dawn was upon us and the colors were great.
The gully was a mix of ice and snow, easy climbing. At the top, we had one more small rock band to cross before heading up more snow to the base of the ice pitch. Again, this was pretty straightforward, avoiding the crevasses.
Since we only had a single 60 meter 1/2 rope, Ken tied into the middle and led 3 of the 4 ice pitches on both strands. Ian lead the last one (a second rope here would have been useful to do longer pitches). Ian and François followed, one on each strand. It was slow progress, but we eventually made it to the top of the 50 degree ice slope and then started simul-climbing on the full length of the rope from there.
Aside from François swearing at his rented boots and taking a few breaks, the progress towards the summit was constant, with very few crevasses at this point. For two of us, it was our first experience ice climbing and I personally have to say that traversing on steep ice is scarier than going straight up.
The last difficulty of the day was to avoid the top seracs below the summit. We had the option to go right to what seemed to be the obvious way to go from our photographs, or follow the faint track contouring left. We decided to go left and after one last ice traverse, we climb the final face to the summit dome. We made our way to the Grant's Peak, avoiding a few more slots on the way. We made it to the top at 1:45pm, 10.5 hours after our departure. The summit was pretty windy and after a short break, we made our way down the Roman wall. What took us 10.5 hours to climb took us only 1h40 to go down, back to the camp. Breaking camp was done quickly and we were on our way back to the car, dry clothes, beer and pizza! The only casualty of the trip was a coreshot to Ken’s rope.
Great trip, great people, great climb! If you are planning to do this route, we strongly recommend doing the reconnaissance the day before.
ice axe, 60 meter half rope, crampons, snow pickets, ice screws
scouting your route the previous day was key to this trip