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[TR] Mt. Baker - Coleman Headwall 8/1/2010

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Trip: Mt. Baker - Coleman Headwall


Date: 8/1/2010


Trip Report:

On the weekend of 7/31-8/1 Jed, David, and I climbed the Coleman Headwall. Affer days of sunny forecasts the weather forecast took a turn for the worse the day we left (Friday). Suddenly there was a 30% chance of Thunder showers. This, of course, turned into a 100% chance. We stopped and set up a tarp to wait out a deluge of rain half way up the Heliotrope trail. We considered bailing on the climb before it eventually stopped. As soon as we set up camp we found ourselves in a rainy white out. Prospects of climbing were 'iffy'.


We got up a bit after 2:00 am to clear skies. David's buddy Chris, who planned to climb with us as a foursome, was nursing some sort of bug and woke up horribly sick. He decided to stay back and we were now a team of three. We headed out at around 3:30. The snow out of camp was already soft. It was overcast a good part of the night and things never firmed up very well. We proceeded, hoping the snow would firm up at higher elevation.


David approaching the route:





There are two general approaches: the more direct right side, and that left side over towards the start of the north ridge that angles up a big rock outcropping and rejoins the direct approach. We did that left side angling approach. The right side is melted out quite a bit. Looks nasty.




The crux (in my view) was in the first pitch. You can either go up and left to hug in close to the face, or traverse out towards the edge. We went out to the edge because in close had a lot of rockfall debris. That meant that in the first pitch we immediately traversed across a section of black ice, and then up a long (maybe a pitch and a half) section of ice. It's nice because there are bomber screw placements in this section. We dodged quite a bit of rockfall even on the traverse though, and it was barely dawn. There's a good bit of rock fall hazard on the whole route to consider. I'd insist on climbing under colder, firmer conditions to avoid this.


Here is the black ice section:





Maybe half way up there's a big crevasse to cross that looked questionable, but we found a pretty straightfoward snowbridge once we got up to it:




Towards the top of the route it's still all high angle snow, up to 50 degrees in places. It was super soft when we got there and we spent a lot of time placing New Zealand style deadman pickets for pro. It killed a lot of time. In the end we didn't summit until 2:00 (10.5 hours camp to summit):




Gear Notes:

ice tools, rope, 5 pickets, 7 screws. That probably seems like a lot of pro, but it worked out really well. As a team of three we basically did a running belay the whole way. With that much gear we were able to run multiple pitch lengths before regrouping to regather the pro.


Approach Notes:

A lot of people advise traversing the Coleman glacier low, somewhere in the 7000 foot range, to avoid a maze of crevasses higher up the glacier. We ended up traversing higher--maybe 8000 feet or so I think--and managed to thread a path fairly easily. Maybe we were just lucky.

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Steve, that must have been your group I saw under the tarp on the trail on Sat. I was on my way out after climbing Coleman Headwall Fri and NR Sat. I overheard your group express satisfaction at the utility of the tarp that had just gone up, and we all got a good laugh. If I knew you were going in to climb the HW, I would have stopped to talk.



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A very nice TR, and thanks especially for the route photo drawn in red. It always staggers me why more posters here do not take the time to do this. It's so easy to do and can be so helpful to others.


Congrats on sending this route!



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