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[TR] Mount Baker - Coleman Headwall 3/7/2015


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Trip: Mount Baker - Coleman Headwall


Date: 3/7/2015


Trip Report:

After a great day on Colfax the weekend before, I knew access to Baker was outstanding and that snow conditions were nice and firm. While I'd planned to do the Coleman Headwall later in the year to get more technical conditions, it seemed like a worthy car-to-car objective for this strange spring and with only one weekend day free.


Dan and I left Seattle on Friday evening and made it to the trailhead at 11pm. We slept until 3:45am or so and were moving by 4:30am. It was right about an hour to gain Heliotrope Ridge in approach shoes and then, after switching to boots, another hour to the lower flat camping area on the way towards the Roman Nose at about 6,500 feet. We took a pretty direct line towards our route, weaving around a handful of crevasses and crossing a few snow bridges, and were at the base by about 8:30am.


The upper two thirds of the route looked pretty straightforward, albeit steep. The bottom third was a choose-your-own-adventure array of steep snow on the right and various ice lines on the left. We wove around the first couple crevasses and then headed for the ice, knowing that the rest of the route would be mostly steep snow and that we wanted to swing the tools a bit. Dan pointed out a weakness in the center of the ice fall and it looked fun to me, so I headed for it, set a belay at the base, and brought him up.


It was a narrow ice couloir of sorts, with a bit of AI2 and then a short vertical step before easing back off to AI2 and alternating between ice and neve. It was chock full of one-hit wonders and I'm sure I had a huge shit-eating grin on my face the whole time. I ran us to the end of our partially-coiled 70m rope and had 2 screws of our 6-screw rack left. Even though the terrain eased up there, it was still AI2 or so and I decided not to have Dan simul-climb the vertical step, so I brought him up on a 2-screw anchor. He then finished the couloir, I headed past, and we began a very long simul-climbing block that would get us almost to the top before re-racking once above the bergschrund off a somewhat tenuous stubby plus t-slotted ice axe belay.


While reports and route descriptions mentioned that things eased off after the first third, we found steep terrain again up high. The middle third was certainly less steep, but the last third, including some bergschrund shenanigans, was pretty steep and relatively difficult to protect. I banged in a token picket every once in a while (we brought 3 of them), but the snow conditions weren't great for it. Thankfully our steps were pretty secure and our tools had some purchase in the icy crust. It's always hard in conditions like those to decide whether to remain roped or to put the rope away and ensure that a fall would only impact one person. In this case, for better or worse, we remained roped.


Once the headwall eased up (around 1pm at this point), it was an easy walk across the plateau to the summit where we were alone with a stunning view of the North Cascades and out to sea. The winds were up a bit, so it wasn't terribly comfortable and we headed down shortly thereafter. The descent went smoothly and we were back at the car right around dark, about 14 hours after we'd started—no speed records needed.


I thought this route was quite similar in nature to the Adams Glacier on Mount Adams. It's consistently much steeper than the North Ridge on Baker and, depending on the line taken, seems that it can have just as much ice.




The headwall and our line



The approach



Entering the ice couloir before the vertical step



Dan finishing the couloir on perfect neve



Dan near the top of the headwall





Gear Notes:

6 screws, 3 pickets


Approach Notes:

Pretty direct line toward the Roman Nose was possible; no floatation needed

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Nice work! Joe and I climbed it car-to-car on Sunday, and your bootpack helped speed things along! We found the conditions to be great, but after talking it through ended up simul-soloing most of it as the conditions made for solid climbing, but we had no confidence in the picket placements. We regretted skipping the AI2 step at the beginning though.

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