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dberdinka

Mount Baker Speed Record

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With all the interest on speed records in the mountains this summer I thought I'd point out this amazing story from 1913, 105 years ago!.    The worlds changed, the trail is gone and this ascent could no longer be replicated but I'm just curious if people think there's really been any advancement in the sport.   The following comes from an excellent read, published locally in Bellingham, called Komo Kulshan- The Story of Mount Baker by John C. Miles (2010).

The original Mount Baker Marathon was a balls out race to the summit and back from Bellingham using cars or trains to access trailheads and back.  Due to bad weather  the third and final race ended in confusion and near disaster.   A disgruntled local name A.M. Burnside challenged the winner Paul Westerlund to a rematch starting in the town of Glacier to the summit and back.   At the time there was no road up Glacier Creek, only a roughly hewn trail  that had been built two years earlier by locals as part of the first Mount Baker Marathon.  The round trip distance was 28 miles.

Here's the quote from the book

"The rematch was run in early September, Burnside leading most of the way, only to be overtaken by Westerlund with just three miles to go.  Westerlunds winning time was six hours and two minutes over the twenty-eight mile course with it's 9,700 foot elevation gain (and loss).  He certainly dispelled any doubts about his strength, though Burnside later claimed to have had such a bad ankle that his doctor had advised him not to race."

That's an average rate of just under 13 minutes per mile.  Shitty trail, talus, presumably late season ice and hard snow.     If modern speed freaks had to add 16 miles of trail and 3000' of gain/descent  what would times look like now?  For that matter what is the current non-ski C2C (so sad we base it off cars) record for Mt Baker from the Heliotrope TH?

 

 

Edited by dberdinka

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Westerlund and Burnside were wearing freakin leather boots, using primitive mountain gear and smoking cigarettes which is way more badass than any modern speed freak records.

That type of hardman doesn't exist anymore.

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There is also  an excellent documentary entitled The Mountain Runners (available from Seattle Public Library) about the Mt. Baker Marathon, with a cameo by our own Chad Kellogg, who hilariously referred to a guy who spent ~6 hours in a crevasse during the third marathon as "popsicle material."   I particularly loved the fact that the first marathon featured guys going by train via Glacier and others by car via Deming.  A guy from the Glacier side was in the lead until the returning train hit a bull and derailed, leaving him to return via buggy, horseback, and auto while wearing a bathrobe.  He came in second, and as I recall the bull was grilled for the afterparty.  At any rate if you can get your hands on the DVD it's worth watching.

Edited by tanstaafl

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Though these guys are long gone. Folks should take the time to seek out the old guard and hear their stories first hand. I have had the chance to sit around the table with many of the old guard. Hearing their stories first hand has given me fond memories. It would been great to have heard these guys stories. I would have come in first but for that damn bull! Got even as we ate it!!

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The new guard has some pretty cool stories too, and frequently make new ones. Their company tends to be less redundant.

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On 8/9/2018 at 9:13 AM, BK9 said:

Westerlund and Burnside were wearing freakin leather boots, using primitive mountain gear and smoking cigarettes which is way more badass than any modern speed freak records.

That type of hardman doesn't exist anymore.

...not to mention hardwoman.

http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12193010600/print

The modern human wussy is (sipping americano at Stumptown) me.

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On 8/9/2018 at 9:34 AM, ivan said:

i was born in the wrong era :(

Only your imagination is keeping you from finding your own challenge. Recently one of the paragliding pilots flew across S and N picket Range. Probably one day N Picket traverse would be something that is challenging to some. 

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On 1/30/2020 at 11:12 PM, Dan Probst said:

Google a bit more, we revived the race in 2017 minus the cars and trains. Mtbakerultra.com 

Sorry Dan, impressive but not exactly comparable.  We need to revive the actual race to the summit, if not from Bellingham, at least from Glacier!  I understand with the wilderness act and all it would have to be underground.

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On 1/31/2020 at 9:45 AM, JasonG said:

Sorry Dan, impressive but not exactly comparable.  We need to revive the actual race to the summit, if not from Bellingham, at least from Glacier!  I understand with the wilderness act and all it would have to be underground.

I'd suggest that what Dan has done from Concrete to Sherman Summit and back is the best modern comparison possible to the race from Glacier to the summit proper and back.  Dan had to use the southside route to take advantage of the NRA to avoid any wilderness.  It's not really a revival of the original race but it's possibly more impressive with less hoopla and fanfare.

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I'm not knocking the modern race at all.  I'm more curious what new gear and techniques could shave off the original RT times from Glacier. 

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