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Natalie Afonina

[TR] Mt Baker - North Ridge 07/18/2020

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Trip: Mt Baker - North Ridge

Trip Date: 07/18/2020

Trip Report:

From a week ago. 

TR with nice formatting lives here (still figuring out how to get copy-paste to play nice without reuploading all the photos): https://www.natexploring.com/tripreports/north-ridge-baker-tr 

Longest approach for a single pitch of ice I’ve done in a whilePSX_20200720_212239-01 (1).jpeg

 

Bare Bones

Route: WI3- Ice, Snow, Alpine, 3000 ft, Grade III*

Ascent via North Ridge. Ski down the Coleman-Deming

Length: Two days with an overnight at Black Buttes to catch that alpenglow and sleep

Dates: July 18-19, 2020

Climbing Gear

Here’s my regular PSA that just because someone on the internet used a certain rack (or lack thereof) does not mean it’s the right rack for you.

The Details

We took a leisurely time approaching from Heliotrope trailhead and heading up to Black Buttes Camp. It was my first time on Baker since I did a mountaineering course when I was 15 (shout-out to Lakeside School for putting on the best outdoor trips). So instead of a typical c2c, I wanted some extra time to get acquainted with the mountain, routes, crevasse fields, and savor the sunset alpenglow of course.

Small humans, big packs

Small humans, big packs

733E6A4C-8732-48EE-8B4F-29899D183BEB_1_201_a.jpeg
 

 

We made high camp with plenty of time to spare to do a few crevasse rescue refreshers, drink tea, eat ramen and relax. We brought two tents and a bivy bag for the 3 of us (guess who had the bivy bag and was envious of the other two…).

Views were incredible and weather window was ideal. We had no wind, sun and just slightly below temps overnight to firm the snow up.

IMG_20200718_202624-01.jpeg

We went to bed around 9pm with a planned 3am wake-up. I like my sleep and if there’s no reason for a super early alpine start, I’d rather let my body rest and reconstruct itself.

Layers upon layers. Classic PNW

Layers upon layers. Classic PNW

IMG_20200718_204240.jpg
 

Bivy bag life

I lost my blow-up sleeping pad somewhere, so for this bivy I used a foam z-rest, a Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine 30F sleeping bag and my down belay puffy. Stayed warm all night and even slept through a couple of the groups making noise at midnight and 1am for the Coleman-Deming ascent.

3am came. We boiled water. Downed some oatmeal and suited up for glacier travel to the tune of Rise Up (highly recommend for a morning pick-me-up)

IMG_20200719_030748.jpg

A note about route-finding: I don’t recommend camping where we did. It’s ideal for the CD route, but not for the North Ridge. We ended up descending about 900', crossing some very large crevasses to gain the route-proper. Would’ve been faster to camp lower down.

Blurry alpenglow morning shots as we descended and then navigated onto the route (how I usually feel at 4am). Some pretty large crevasses to get over across the main drag

Blurry alpenglow morning shots as we descended and then navigated onto the route (how I usually feel at 4am). Some pretty large crevasses to get over across the main drag

Hitting the morning sun rays after some tricky crevasse meandering.   Soon we were on the approach to the crux of the route (the part I was most excited for): the ice headwall. Kinda Games of Thrones-looking.

Hitting the morning sun rays after some tricky crevasse meandering.

Soon we were on the approach to the crux of the route (the part I was most excited for): the ice headwall. Kinda Games of Thrones-looking.

IMG_20200719_073054.jpg

We caught up to 4 other parties at this point that presumably got less sleep and were more ambitious in their alpine-starting. The easiest way up is on the left through a lower-angle section of ice, and is where the other parties were clustered in a bit of a climber traffic-jam.

Not wanting to get cold and also because I was excited to get a real pitch of ice in, I took a line up to the right (to stay out of the way of the other climbers and not hit anyone with delaminating dinnerplates). It had an overhanging ice bulge that was fun to climb with skis on the back.

Got my hips as far in as possible to keep my skis and pack from pulling me off. Went up and over the overhang without a hitch and the climbing was stellar. Gotta love glacier ice. Worth the thousands of feet of elevation gain and crevasse slogging.

Got my hips as far in as possible to keep my skis and pack from pulling me off. Went up and over the overhang without a hitch and the climbing was stellar. Gotta love glacier ice. Worth the thousands of feet of elevation gain and crevasse slogging.

IMG_7410 (1).jpg
 

Note to self: when climbing an overhang with skis on your back, figure out a way to do a diagonal carry, because the tips kept hitting the ice anytime I so much as thought about looking down to find good feet. Live and learn.

From here it was cruiser ice. I soloed another 2 pitches of low-angle ice and set anchors to keep my partners safe. Pro was meh up here, and I cursed at the picket and ended up using my tools and an ice screw for anchors where I could find solid enough ice.

IMG_20200719_093131.jpg
 

It’s not like this is a bad anchor, but it’s not like this snice is very good either. It held and was solid when my partners weighted the rope, I’m just used to my pure blue waterfall ice.

Bringing my partners up the last two technical pitches. I was envious of Randy’s diagonal carry which would’ve made the ice climbing easier.

IMG_20200719_095941.jpg

Some more crevasse and snow slope navigation was required from the technical crux to reach the summit.

Definitely a no-fall zone

Definitely a no-fall zone

One of my dreams is to climb in Antarctica. This frozen tidal wave of pure power is what I anticipate that landscape to look like: minimalism at its best.

PSX_20200722_075600-01.jpeg

Mountaineering is a lot of walking. We reached the summit uneventfully, snacked, lounged, summit selfied and FINALLY took those skis off our backs.

IMG_20200719_130422.jpg

A note about my skiing. I’m a climber who skis, not the other way around. The skiing was by far the crux of the day for me. I get tense, anxious and feel like I can’t control all the variables. But this is why you bring partners with complementary skillsets. Randy and Tyler were patient and coached me down the Roman Headwall and navigated us safely back to camp through the crevasse fields.

“Can I take the bunny slope guys?”

“Can I take the bunny slope guys?”

Some crazy seracs and yearly layers in the glacier pack that you can see top right.

F9F9FC86-7CBC-40C5-B743-AE01A4341954-01 (1).jpeg
IMG_7350.jpg
 

Back at camp. Quick break, pack up, ski to where the snow ends, throw the skis back on the packs and run down the trail to some beers and water.

image-asset.jpeg?format=1000w
 

Why does the pack always feel and look bigger on the way down? It’s a mystery of the universe.

Hiking back out through wildflower meadows. No mosquitoes this time around!

IMG_7459.jpg

Was that one pitch of ice worth it? Hell yeah it was. Was it worth carrying skis up and over? Yes. So much faster to get down that way.

Good people, good climbing, good weather. This smile says it all

IMG_20200719_125952.jpg
 
Gear Notes:
Grivel G20 Plus Crampons monopoints (cause I’m too lazy to switch em out) 2x Carbon Tech Machine 5x screws ranging from 13-17cm (with 1 token stubby) 5 draws; 2x double-lengths Beal Joker 9.1mm 60m dry-treated rope 1 picket (not used, classic

Approach Notes:
Don't do what we did and camp at high camp for the CD, cause you'll have to descend ~900' to gain the route proper across a crevassed section
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Welcome Natalie!  Nice to see a new face around here.

Amazing photos;  looks like a stellar trip.

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Lovely meeting and chatting with y'all! Glad you didn't ski into any holes! ☺️

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Sweet! Welcome!

My pack also looks bigger on the way down, probably because I don't pack as carefully for the descent, so everything looks bigger and feels bulkier.

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