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[TR] Seward Peak - Standard - West Ridge 05/23/2021


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Trip: Seward Peak - Standard - West Ridge

Trip Date: 05/23/2021

Trip Report:

Yesterday me and @Albuquerque Fred climbed the seldom done Seward Peak on the shoulder of Mount Baker. It was very enjoyable in this season and I would highly recommend it. I would imagine that later in the year it might become less fun due to brush and more challenging choss scrambling. We didn't see a soul after the road, nor any sign of people other than some cut brush. But then again we didn't see much at all. 

We drove up the spurr road labeled as FS Rd 38, adjacent to Ranking Creek, until the third switchback with no problem; after this the road looked good for just as much as you can see, then after that it gets really ugly and rough. Two parties in trucks did make it two more switchbacks and were camped when we walked by but I bet it took as long as walking did.

Photo of the road after the third switchback, the trough on the left is very rough and pretty deep.



The brush on the old road grade wasn't bad; I think this was the perfect time of year since nothing was leafed out yet and snow covered a lot of it. Continuous snow cover began around 3900' so we donned snowshoes to get them off our backs and for traction. We continued on what seemed to be an old road bed continuing north through the last switchback shown on the map and took a hard right uphill into a gully/clearing at 4200', continuing up to the ridge crest. About here we realized we had hiked up into the clouds and it remained a whiteout for the rest of the day. 

I think this is Fred around 6000'.



We stopped to remove snowshoes and contemplate our fate at 6100', right below the first cliff band, though we couldn't see it. After a break we got a very short opening, just enough to plan out a route:



We went up the snow ramp, scrambled a short section, up the large snowfield to the top left above the horizontal rock island, then scrambled a gully to the ridge crest. This must be the standard route because we passed several rap slings.


Looking back down the gully:



Me too high on the ridge:


Beckey says to ascend the ridge then descend on easy ledges, I would say you almost immediately descend after reaching the crest, we went waaay to high to the top of a gendarme and had to backtrack a lot, loosing tons of time (we couldn't see anything). We descended on snow into the south bowl and climbed to the final rock band. In this season this was mostly moderate snow with a short scramble section. Then a few minor ups and downs on the ridge to the summit.


Worth it for the views, Baker in the distance:



We left a tube with some register paper behind since we didn't find anything and it seemed doubtful there would be a register. Please let me know if I'm mistaken. We spend all of one minute on the summit and headed out.


Ascending back to the ridge crest:



Two 90' raps down the gully, downclimb the snowfield, then one rap on pretty easy ground to the snow ramp and back to the world. 



11 hours car to car with lots of dinking around routefinding in the whiteout. 5300' gain.

Gear Notes:
(2) 30m ropes, snowshoes, axe, helmet, crampons, mountaineering boots

Approach Notes:
Middle Fork Road to the third switchback near Rankin Creek. Not too brushy, snow cover began at ~3900'.
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Did you guys make it past the big ass gate on FS Rd. 38 that has the warning about being video monitored?  There is some BS notation about a wildlife closure 12-1 thru 6-15 on some maps.   Climbing in whiteouts is fun, it's like entering a parallel universe where you get to wander around inside the mind of Joe Biden when he's trying to read a teleprompter.  

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I saw no gate nor any such signs. There is a gate and I believe signs about video monitoring at the side road that descends to the river for the fish passage construction site. But that is about 4 miles before the turn off for the Rankin Creek Road.

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