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[TR] Mt. Baker- Coleman Headwall 7/9/2006

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Climb: Mt. Baker-Coleman Headwall


Date of Climb: 7/9/2006


Trip Report:



Justin Evans and I decided we wanted something a little less burly than a 2-day Logan trip, so we settled on the Coleman Headwall, despite knowing that it would make Aaron jealous (Aaron and I bailed off the Headwall last year, and Justin and Aaron were chased off the North Ridge on July 4th by lightning).


The views were gorgeous on the hike in, and we tried to scope out the route.




After three hours from the trailhead, we passed by the Black Buttes camp, mobbed by at least thirty people.




We marched half an hour further (not nearly as far as I thought we went) to a flat spot where we set up camp, ate dinner (fortified with some hot Thai peppers), and watched the snow turn golden. A huge system was to the north of us, as the forecast had predicted, and the temperatures were dropping. We boldly set the alarm for 3:45 AM and went to bed.




At around 2:30 AM we were awakened by the first sounds of the conga line heading up the C-D. Around 3:30 the train was still continuing, and we decided to wake up. We geared up and buried our bivy gear so it wouldn't blow away. We opted for the high traverse (drop just below the base of the nose), which probably had a little more vert, but had minimal routefinding issues. I underestimated how much time it would take (I really should know better by now), and we were at the base of the route proper around 5:30 AM.


The first portion was moderate-angled snow that was softer than we would have liked, but we kept going, expecting to find icier parts above. The sun had risen and was lighting up the surrounding valleys, but given the headwall's NW aspect, it would be a long time before it got sun.




We then ran into an obstacle. Ahead and to the left, massive leaning seracs.




To the right, a dirty-looking stairstep that was a mix of ice and neve and some crap, but afforded decent pro and good rests.




I led up about a full ropelength of the stairsteps and continued up the gentler snowfield above, which was fluted with runnels scoured from previous rock/icefall. This part sucked for several reasons:


1) I had made a 90-degree turn just after the ice step and had some ropedrag.

2) I was kicking steps into what would have been nice neve had it frozen.

3) I was hungry and thirsty but wanted to speed through the objective hazards.

4) I was starting to get the urges to take a crap.


We traversed up and left aways, traversed across a snowbridge (not visible on the route photo), and continued up a little more, where we saw a nice ramp to take us out of the hazard and onto the center of the headwall. I passed the lead to Justin, as I was mostly out of gear (placed 3/3 pickets and 5/8 screws), and he led the ramp (gained by crossing another snowbridge) to a snow arete.




Here we refueled and rehydrated, not having eaten/drank anything in three hours. I decided I could keep the brownies baking until the summit, as it didn't look that far away (note the foreshortening visible between the two route shots), and we believed we were past the crux.


Justin took over leading (breaking trail) from here on. First we had to cross the crevasse stretching across the face. We found a spot that looked like an easy 6-foot step, though the problem was it wasn't ice or even neve, it was soft snow. After much groveling, including a false start, Justin made it past the step. He belayed me up this portion, though it was much easier for me, as he had already dug out the placements.




We then simuled quite a ways up more kick-step snow until we scooted to the right past the final crevasse. We thought we were home-free, and we were glad to be on the summit soon. Clouds were starting to come in, and our time spent on the lower face without food/water was catching up to us. We got quite a sting in the tail when we discovered that the face above the crevasse was hard ice, almost like the melt-freeze associated with water ice.




This portion, though it took screws well, was tedious and tiring. Finally we passed near the rocks, where the ice had softened somewhat on the surface and gradually gave way to easier snow and a gentler slope. However we still were not on the top! Each time we (Justin, me, and my intestines) thought we were getting closer, the slope would just ease off a little more and still keep going up. Our pace slowed. The snow changed to ball-bearing ice crystals, and the clouds dropped closer and closer to us. WTF? The weather forecast was supposed to be much better than this! The system was supposed to be further to the north, and the real mess wasn't due until Monday.


Finally we were on the summit. Visibility had gone down to about 200 feet, and Justin was freezing his ass off waiting for me because I was literally freezing my ass off. But boy did I feel better. We then got the hell off, as the visibility dropped even more, and it started to rain ice pellets. The descent was easy to find, thanks to all the traffic on the route. But we took our time going down, thanks to fatigue (we were too hurried by the storm to eat or drink anything on the summit) and crappy snow conditions (in some places slush over ice). When we got halfway down the hogsback, the storm eased up, and we downed some much-needed food and water.


We made it back to camp pretty quickly after that and packed up, glad that we hadn't summited any later.




We hiked out, chatting with a friendly Mountain Madness guide and his client, and bumping into a few dayhikers. But the Buttes camp was all but deserted, the weekend being over. The hike out went really fast, thanks to the cooler of beer waiting in the car.


Thanks for the good trip, Justin!


Gear Notes:

had 3 pickets and 8 screws.

4 pickets and 6 screws would have been better given the not-well-frozen conditions

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The choice on how many pickets to make was:

"I own two pickets. How many pickets do you own? One. Guess we'll have three pickets."


I'd consider buying and carrying more pickets if they weren't such a pain to rack. I've tried all options (over the shoulder, on the harness, center-clipped, end-clipped, etc.), and in every situation, they'll find some way to stab you or get in your way.

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Very enjoyable T.R.! ...especially the frank and honest way in which the author dealt with certain...er...biological imperatives. yellaf.gif

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