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hbrogers

trip advice

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I am new to mountaineering so I really need some help. A friend and I were looking at using guides to climb Mt. Baker. Is this smart for fist timers or are we biting off more than we can chew? We live in Mississippi so before we travel to Washington we really want to make sure we have everything in order. We plan to do this frequently so we are getting a little bit of gear as we go along and plan to rent the rest for now. Any advice on times to climb and best beginner place would be great. Would it be bad to find a local to guide us up Mt. Baker or do people even do that? We are both broke ass college students so the guides like Alpine Ascents and RMI will probably break the bank. I would really appreciate the advice.

 

Thanks,

Hewitt

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Mt Baker is really an ideal mountain to start off with. It has all of the same challenges as Rainier (glaciers, crevasses, weather, lots of elevation gain, etc) but without the ass kicking of an extra 3,600 ft of altitude.

 

The two most popular routes, and the best for beginners, are the Coleman Demming and Easton Glaciers with the Easton being perhaps a bit easier.

 

The typical season starts in May and runs through the end of September. Starting in May the weather becomes more stable throughout the season and dramatically so after July 4th when the jet stream shifts. As the season progresses, however, crevasses open up, snow bridges shrink and become weaker, routes become more circuitus and icier. The trick is to find the sweet spot when weather is stable and the glacier is still in good shape. My recommendation is July (after the 4th).

 

I don't recommend climbing Mt Baker without some instruction first. You need to know ice axe skills (self arrest, self belay, boot axe belay), cramponing skills, rope work and knots (figure eight, clove hitch, Prusik hitch, butterfly knot, water knot, fisherman's knot), snow and ice anchors (how to place effective, pickets, deadmen, flukes, ice screws, bollards, etc), route finding skills, weather reading skills, and so on.

 

You can get a jump start on your education by buying a copy of Freedom of the hills and practicing what you can, but there are some skills you need a mountain with snow to practice and learn on.

 

Yes, guides cost money but if you go with a good outfit and take a skills course (not just a summit bid) you can learn a tremendous amount. Think of it this way, you are already spending money on clothes, gear, and travel expenses, the guide fees are just a bit more coin you have to come up with.

 

The other option that you mentioned is find a generous soul who is willing to take you under their wing and show you what you need to know and guide you to the summit. With this approach you really don't know the qualifications of your 'guide', they may be really great or just learning like you.

 

Best of luck,

 

Dan

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Spend an extra day w/ the guides and have them teach you stuff. American guide svcs. like AAI, Bellingham, are well known for the "teach + climb" model.

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If you want a peak that a beginner can do with little practice and no guide, look at the Mt. Adams south side route. The only non weather related skills you need to know is how/when to use crampons, how to self arrest, and how to glissade. A competent person can learn these from reading freedom of the hill and watching the better youtube videos and then you can practice them on the mountain on the first safe snow slope you get to.

 

Oh, and buy your gear off of online forums like this one, it will be much cheaper.

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I spoke with Alpine Ascents and they said 250 a day for private guide which I didn't think was too bad. They also said it would take three days for Mt. Baker, and the pack weight would be around 65lbs. I was kind of wanting to do a lighter climb. I guess I'm just being picky now. So does Mt. Adams have glacier travel or is more just like hiking up steep snow slopes? Do you really think my friend and I would be able to do it and if so how many days for the climb? Is it easy to navigate? If someone could send me a pm with more details on what I need for Mt. Adams that would be great. Just bought a petzl cosmitec ice axe and I have an arcteryx bora 80 pack and north face 20 degree bag. While I'm at it with all the info requests, any good climber want to take two people up haha. Sorry for the long post but I would prefer not to die my first trip out.

 

Thanks,

Hewitt

 

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Hewitt-

 

Here's a plug for the North Cascade Mountain Guides here in Mazama. They offer a 3-day glacier travel training course for $550 a person, which is a heavy focus on the skills you'll need for climbing glaciated peaks. That breaks down to $183 or so a day. I think a summit attempt is extra, but they are good guys and it would be 2:1 instruction. http://www.ncmountainguides.com/glacier.asp

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Mt Adams is pretty straight forward navigation wise and it should take 2 days although strong climbers can go fast and light and do it in a long day. Do a search for Mt. Adams in the trip report section (or on google) and anything that has "south" in the title is what you want. There is no glacier so no need for a rope/harnesses, its hiking up snow slopes, maybe 30 degrees at most. You will want to go probably by mid to late july depending on the snow, after that it becomes a long dusty slog. If you have backpacking experience, practice the neccesary snow skills down low and are in decent shape you should be fine as long as altitude or weather doesn't get you.

Edited by RaisedByPikas

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However if you are serious about mountaineering you will eventually need to hire a guide to learn glacier travel or take a class but those usually last a few months.

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Baker is a great first mountain especially if the glacier travel is what attracts you to climbing. Percentage-wise, baker is more heavily glaciated than any other mountain in washington. The area is much more conducive to learning skills. The camping is sweet and there are unique toilets. The size of the mountain and approach is reasonable. You can't go wrong there.

 

Have you thought about taking a 6 day course instead of a 3 day? The price might not be that different. I seem to remember it being $900 for a 6 day. There are a couple outfits that work there, like american alpine definately, alpine ascents used to (and may still) and possibly mountain madness. I can answer questions related to both the AAI but not madness or other companies. feel free to PM me.

 

mid july to mid august is best.

 

as for the best place to learn, what are your future goals?

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If you want to make a trip to get glacier experience you really should consider adding a third person to your party because it is much safer to travel roped-up across a glacier with three than with two. The exception to this is that people often travel unroped across glaciers in summer when all crevasses are open and visible. You just can't fall.

Edited by pcg

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Someone is pulling your leg. Mt Baker is an easy day climb for most folks, and likely a half day climb for many folks on this board. If a guide service is telling you it's 3 days that's kinda nutty but whatever.

 

Mt Hood is a really perfect beginner hill. It is big but has hazard only perhaps the last say 500 ft up the South Side route, and is climbed by many noobies every year.

 

Climbing Mt Hood, Mt Adams, or Mt Baker will be all about the right timing if your coming all the way from Mississississippi. Your best bet for weather is August, but Hood by then is a complete junk pile and likely not worth the effort. Baker will still be fun. Best times for the volcanoes are in Dec (my fav!!) or like May.

 

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Of course, you can climb Mt. Baker car to summit in one day, but if a guy is traveling all the way from Mississippi, I assume he wants to learn mountaineering techniques as opposed to just getting up to the summit. And 3 days is not that long compared to the wealth of things out there to be learned and practiced: glacier/mountain camping, knots, prussiking, climbing and descending snow slopes, cramponing, ice ax self-arrest, snow anchors, roped travel and crevasse rescue at the bare minimum. Then there's also route finding, map&compass navigation, and judgment which are skills that you gain with experience.

 

So my point is, know whether you just want to climb Mt Baker or to learn mountaineering. Then look for a guide/guiding company that will give you what you want. As of AAI, I took their 13-day training course and they were absolutely awesome. Oh, and one more piece of advice. Before you sign up for anything like that, go on a lot of uphill hikes. That will help you develop musculature and get you used to climbing. Being adequately strong will make sure you get most out of your climb and the climb will be enjoyable. I've seen too many newbies out there who despite being in pretty reasonable shape dreaded the climb just because they had no musculature for intense uphill climbing.

Edited by Reed

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While I'm at it with all the info requests, any good climber want to take two people up haha.

 

I would offer to take you and your friend out and do some skills training and a summit try, but I am pretty ill with no promise that I will recover.

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Thanks for all the great advice and info. I really appreciate it. Sorry to hear that Daniel. I hope you get to feeling better. I just recently found out I had a tumor on a nerve in my knee and things weren't looking so good but turned out ok. I hope things turn around for you

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I vote for Adams for a first climb. My daughter and I did Adams last year for our first and learned a lot! Will let you know what kind of shape you need to get in for the bigger mountains.

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Thanks for all the info and advice. I'm going to get a pair of boots and the two I'm looking at are Scarpa Inverno and the Omega. Any other suggestions. I know some will tell me those are overkill, but I plan on doing higher elevation climbs eventually and climbing during late winter/early spring and I really don't have the money to spend on two pairs of boots. Also, will the Arcteryx bora 80 pack I have work for most climbs or should I look for a lighter pack as well?

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I'm going to get a pair of boots and the two I'm looking at are Scarpa Inverno and the Omega. Any other suggestions. I know some will tell me those are overkill, but I plan on doing higher elevation climbs eventually and climbing during late winter/early spring and I really don't have the money to spend on two pairs of boots. Also, will the Arcteryx bora 80 pack I have work for most climbs or should I look for a lighter pack as well?

 

Scarpa Inverno and Omega are both solid boots. I think the Omega is probably going to be a bit more precise and climb a bit better. I have Invernos and they are very durable but a bit boxy and bulky. FWIW, I use a smaller pack than 80 liters for Alaska climbs including Denali. If it is in the budget I would pick up a pack in the 45-50 liter range. Get something light and simple without any unneccessary pockets or zippers.

 

Something like these: http://www.prolitegear.com/millet_prolight_45.html http://www.prolitegear.com/montbell_alpine_pack_50.html http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442621955&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302700149

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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I'm guessing by "north face 20 degree bag" he is talking about a synthetic. It will be really hard to fit all of your gear in a 45 liter pack with a big synthetic bag so I would stick with the big pack.

 

Also, I would buy boots for late spring/summer mountaineering and skip the plastics. By the time you have money for high altitude or winter trips then you will probably have money for better gear. If you buy a bunch of overkill stuff right now, your trips will be less enjoyable and probably less successful because you will be bogged down with a bunch of heavy 4 season gear.

 

There is nothing wrong with only buying lighter duty mountaineering gear and limiting yourself to the warmer seasons. Given the choice of 4 trips all in the summer or 1 trip per season I would definitely take 4 trips in the summer. Most early season mountaineering is best done with skis or ice tools, both of which are expensive.

 

Now that I've read more about your situation it seems like your best bet for the long run will be to buy the minimum amount of gear that you need for a 3 day guided trip on Baker. The money that you would have to spend on a tent, crampons, boots, and an ice axe will pay for the guide. You will have a much more enjoyable trip and you wont be worrying about whether you are doing something wrong or endangering yourselves. I can almost guarantee that you wont think you wasted your money even if you don't summit. You've got 7-8 months to save up an extra $5-600 (plus tip), I'm sure you can swing that some how.

Edited by RaisedByPikas

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I agree with the Pika regarding boots. A good pair of insulated single leather boots like the La Sportiva Nepal Top Evo or the Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX (or Scarpa Summit if you can find them) are going to be a much more versatile boot, one that you can ice climb in, do a lot of stuff in winter in, and do summer mountaineering in. My plastics come out for Rainier in the dead of winter and Alaska and that's it.

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i understand what yall are saying about the boots. i do plan on doing a lot of mountaineering and def plan on taking a trip to alaska not too far down the road so i would like to go with a boot that will work for everything. with that being said is it still a bad idea to go with a double plastic boot? if i could get a pair of scarpa omegas for around 250 would it make it not as bad of an idea haha?

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The boots will get you where you want to go are definitely overkill. Wait until you actually have the skills and money before buying gear for Alaska. You will need a lot of goose feathers and much more expensive gear than just good boots to go on winter trips or up north.

 

 

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these are all great advices.

When I get the chance, I would want to go back climbing again.

 

My wife just recently gave birth so planning trips especially climbing gets too complicated for us.

 

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check whittakermountaineering.com keep checking their monsoon sale under the used gear section. have gotten a great pack and some really good boots and other gear at great prices.

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i'm looking for some gloves and found the black diamond soloist for $80. are these good gloves or should i look at something else? i don't want really bulky gloves but i want them to be warm and have good dexterity as well. any recommendations would be appreciated

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