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[TR] Mt. Baker- North Ridge 7/31/2004


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Climb: Mt. Baker-North Ridge


Date of Climb: 7/31/2004


Trip Report:

Alex Mineev and I did this over the weekend. Nelson calls it "a steep, committing climb with tricky route finding and a long approach over a heavily crevassed glacier." Which about sums it up.

I had expected something along the lines of the Adams Glacier, reading the descriptions and the photos in Nelson and Beckey. When we got to the base of the climb on Saturday afternoon, though, we were both pretty abashed. The whole snow portion of the route is gone, collapsed into a chaos of icefall, like the pictures you see of the Kumbu icefall.

So, the next morning we started out around 5:30, and within an hour we were climbing nearly vertical water ice (okay, maybe 7o degrees, but it FELT vertical!) I did my first ice lead (and placed my first ice screw) and did okay, considering I was using one ice tool, a long ice axe, and aluminum Stubai crampons. On the next pitch, I dropped my first ice screw.

Altogether, it was three or four pitches of fairly stiff and extremely steep ice climbing, until we got up to the ice cliff, where it got much less steep, and a little easier going.

Eventually it eased out to where we were setting pro with pickets instead of screws, and about that time, we came across footprints; apparently someone else was up there just a couple of days ago. Where's your trip report!!!???

We summitted, finally, about 4:00 PM, both pretty wrung out, headed down the Coleman Glacier route, and got to the car close to 10:00. The top of the trail is pretty demoralizing to hike down after such a long day.

It was a lot of fun, in retrospect, although when I was in the middle of it, my feeling was that the only reason I wasn't voting on bailng was that I was more afaid of descending that shit than climbing more of it.

Alex did a great job leading the water ice; he said later it was his first ice climbing lead.

Today I'm pretty stiff and sore all over, and my middle finger of my left hand (the one I held my ice tool in) is all swollen and sore, from bashing into the ice all day.

Pictures to follow (Alex is too busy to download his digital pics, my film isn't back yet.)


Gear Notes:

Ice screws, pickets, ice tools, crampons, etc.


Approach Notes:

The Heliotrope ridge trail is in fine shape; the Coleman Glacier route is pretty good, although it's starting to do a lot of end-runs around crevasses.

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Actually I do not have any pictures from the technical part. I was t00 scared and concentrated on immediate climbing needs...

One thing I remember clearly is the thought "why the hell I am a climber and not a chess player?!!"

I believe the route is in perfect condition for fun outing. Out of the two options to gain the ridge, west face looked like easy climbing but it was under bare loose rock - quite unpleasant. East side, as Tom mentioned, reminds Khumbu icefall. Quite climbable with tons of options, all under/between huge dripping seracs.

Oh, yeah, we had to climb in and out of a big crevasse on the hike towards the ridge.

The ice cliff (aka two pitches of 60-70 degree ice and snow):

I would say that earlier in the season it may be two pitches. We somehow had to make 3 belay stations making it 4 pitches before we could start simul-climbing on top of the cliff. The first and the third belays were on awful rotten ice. I believe one could use pickets in this kind of ice.

Titanium ice screw: worked just fine! I bought it “just in case” the day before the climb. Albeit all these talks about how lame these screws are I liked it. Yes, it had some additional friction in dark water ice, but in normal crappy glacier ice it worked fine.

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North Ridge Baker, east side



NR Ridge Baker



Sun reflecting of the ocean. View from our bivy site



Tom, NR Baker



Me at the bivy site, NR Baker






Views from our bivy, NR Baker © Tom





The ice cliff. Me going up. © Tom



Me at the second belay © Tom



Shuksan from NR Baker route © Tom



100 feet below summit © Tom



Me on the summit, NR Baker



Baker crater © Tom


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Congrats on your climb, and not to play arm-chair climber or anything, but you almost couldn't have picked a WORSE place to bivy, from what I can tell from your pics. I've seen house-sized blocks and debris on the glacier under the "NW Face" from the seracs up high. My $.02.

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I'd have to say that the bivy would appear to be well thought out and calculated. And from an armchair aspect, that crevasse would seem to swallow any blocks that might attack. And if the photo's aren't all they seem? I have climbed with both of you, and know you wouldn't plan a bivy in immediate danger.

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Nice TR Tom. Two questions: (1) When did you shave? and (2) what were you thinking bringing Stubai aluminum crampons on that route? You are a hardman.



Hey, I shaved off that beard months ago. My face has almost stopped feeling cold.


Jim Nelson said they'd be okay for climbing moderate ice, when I bought them from him after our Sharkfin outing. I was more concerned about taking advantage of the anti-balling plates. It was pretty scary, though; I'd STRONGLY recommend proper steel crampons with good front points. I should have brought my Simond scorpions.


OTOH, when you've got a rope gun like Alex, you can almost dispense with the crampons entirely.

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Shorts over polypro? shocked.gif

Dammit, Alex, I TOLD you not to post that photo!

How come that when I look at the picture I see the mountain, but when tomtom looks at it he sees the polypro?.. blush.gifmoon.gif


Anyway, what is it kinda secret code? Polypro makes one look like a montee?


Zatknees Suka Pizta! boxing_smiley.gif

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We were constantly traversing left and up until we got to the spot with soft snow and with a 45-55 degree slope toping on the crest of the ice cliff. There were multiple opportunities to climb over the small overhangs, but I did not feel safe enough to attempt climbing over any of them + I knew there would be soft snow above the overhang and tools would not stick, so climbing over it would be very scatchy + we had backpacks which would make dancing on them a bit clumsy + we already had at least 2 hours of climbing thru icefalls on the approach to the cliff...


(I am severely hammered at work these days. We'll get together as soon as I checkin my piece of code)

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