Trip: Mount Baker - North Ridge
It all began with a 7 or so mile bike ride up Glacier Creek Road. Went by fast enough. The 18 gears on my Surly Cross-Check were not quite enough to make this go by without a lot of stand-up pedaling. Took us about 2 hours to the trail head.
Getting close. Jeff with his pannier/backpack haul method.
Is that a bike attached to my backpack...? I added the rear rack the day before I left Seattle. Best $25 I ever spent. Jeff had some old static line in his car which worked great for securing the pack to the rack. Never had to stop and adjust on the way up, on the way down is another story.....
We made it to the trail head at about 8:45pm. Decided to throw in the towel. It was pretty nice having a picnic table at our campsite.
So this is what the north side of Mount Baker still looks like. We were hiking by about 7am on Saturday. Took the usual amount of time to hike in.
We scouted the highest campsite we could reasonable see. Pretty sure this is the typical high camp for climbers.
The plan for Saturday was to route find through the glacier a bit and maybe climb around on a serac if the opportunity presented itself. It had been more than a few month since I had swung my tools. Jeff grabbed some sticks on the hike in and there were some laying around our camp so we took them out and marked the way back out onto the glacier. Took us about three tries to find a reasonable way through above camp and down onto the Coleman.
One final offering before trying to get some sleep... which I didn't get much of. I thought I might be a bit apprehensive about the climb but I think the light outside kept me up the most.
We were up at 2am and hiking out of camp by 3. Honestly we could have left earlier but this seemed like a reasonable time. It took us three tries from the location of our previous days serac'ing to find our way to the bergschrund at the "high" start to the route. I'd say we found our way to the base with relative ease compared to some of the roadblocks we encountered. Jeff's intuition proved quite reliable. Despite our path appearing to go right into an icefall we found a perfect way thru without losing too much altitude.
Right before the bergschrund.
Here's when we encountered the only rockfall. You can see previous rockfall laying around. It started with some smaller rocks whizzing by not too insanely fast but at a good speed, then a larger basketball size rock landed 30 feet up slope and came to rest a foot above my pack. After this it quieted down for a second. Jeff headed into the bergshrund and as he climbed down into it more rocks started coming down. These were moving pretty fast, mostly smaller chunks, but the finale was definitely something I will not soon forget. Due to my location I didn't notice it until it was hovering about 15 feet off the slope above the bergschrund and spinning at a haunting rate. A piece about the size of a tire which sounded like an airplane propeller came cruising down about 20 feet to our right. This was my first experience with rockfall to this degree so it got my attention. I quickly headed into the bergschrund and we stood there for a minute waiting to see if any more rock was coming down. It was quiet so Jeff headed up and over the slightly overhanging lip like a champ. I followed and we were on our way up. We simul-climbed with a picket between ourselves. The snow was pretty firm and the slope just steep enough for a mix of front pointing and french technique.
Unfortunately this is where the route photos end. I was a bit ambitious about bringing the SLR along and it didn't quite fit into the climb like I hoped it would. This route required all my attention so I decided to put the photos on hold. At our rest the sun started coming through and the ridge started looking bigger. I headed out from here placing pickets/screws as we went and finally establishing our first belay at the circle in the photo. Jeff took the lead up and over the edge of the ridge. The ice was brittle on the surface, lots of plating and digging to get to solid stuff. Jeff established two more belays before we began simul-climbing again. The beta we had spoke of a secret passage to the left and an option that seemed to go right up and over as well. The later was definitely blocked by an overhanging wall of about 30' so we started the leftward traverse. At this point we were following a bootpack of sorts which was nice for comfort's sake. This led into a little icefall with a fin sticking up and the path headed over it. I climbed up to the fin and peeked over. It dropped off quite a bit on the other side so I threw in a picket and delicately climbed over. The bootpack continued beside a large crevasse and up what appeared to be the summit crater disappearing into the clouds before crossing the crevasse. We followed along in good faith and finally came to a solid bridge across. A little more slogging and we were at the end of the climbing.
The descent was pretty tiring. We started too far south on the roman wall along the Easton route and had to traverse pretty far back to the Coleman/Deming. About half way down there was a massive crevasse which spanned almost the entire width of the glacier from Colfax all the way back to whatever that rock wall is called which continuously sheds rock. We had to traverse pretty close to the wall and cross through the rockfall zone for about 5 minutes to get around the crevasse. Interestingly enough there were lots of snow "craters" as we were heading down. Some were pretty large but all seemed to have a collection of small rocks at one side or the other. Maybe a volcanologist can explain this? I have my theory.
We made it back to camp at about 5:45pm and back to our bikes at the trail head just late enough to have to ride back down in the dark. Despite looking forward to the bike descent the whole time I was on the mountain, it proved to be mostly nerve racking when factoring in the low batteries on my headlamp, the half-paved/half-gravel potholed road, serious fear of a flat tire, and the constantly shifting weight of my pack on my bike rack. We both made it down in one piece and it definitely felt further on the downhill than the up. An hour later we were back in Bellingham where I picked up my car and headed for Seattle with a few stops along the way for food and red-bull. I rekindled my love for the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and Bad Brains with the windows rolled down trying my best at singing along to stave off exhaustion and my rapidly closing eyes. 24 hours after I awoke that morning I was back in bed, this time with a wife who wouldn't let me get any sleep.
Classic climb. Definitely climbed beyond my previous limit this time. Felt good. Scary at times but good.
6 Ice Screws - used them
4 Pickets - used them
New pair of Scarpa Rebels - worked great.
Grivel G12's - wish I had brought my BD Cyborgs.
point and shoot camera next time
Grivel Matrix tech tools worked great, Jeff had one tool and a light-weight Camp Nanotech which also worked great.
Long Bike Ride
If you have time, find your way through the glacier when it's light outside