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Trip Report: Mt.Baker (The tour of Enlightenment)

Howdy all!

enlightenment

Lynne and I summited Mt.Baker on Saturday! Here is a little summary (it is a little long):

 

My flight into Seattle arrived late due to bad weather and mechanical problems. Lynne picked me up and we went to stay at my friends house that lives in the area. On Thursday, we woke up early and started arranging the huge pile of gear that we would have to take up the mountain. The plan was to climb up to the base camp, spend the next day practicing all of our crevasse techniques, and then summit on the Saturday.

We drove to Mt.Baker and signed in at the ranger station. At that time we also picked up our "blue bags" which are what you use to clean up your "waste" on the mountain. We parked and picked up our very heavy packs (I estimate that my pack weighed about 80 lbs.) We did the short 3 mile (2300' elevation gain) hike to the base camp. We arrived really tired, and desperately wanting to remove the huge packs from our backs. Base camp was in a hill side at about 5700', with large snow fields behind us that turned into the Coleman glacier just 300 feet above.  The weather was not very cold, but really foggy. There would be moments of clearing, and then we would be right back into the fog. Sometimes the visibility dropped to about 50'

The next morning we awoke to a nearly clear day (except for the high clouds). We were camped near a set of boy scouts, and we watched them head out to the summit leaving at 7 AM (this is really late). We practiced our crevasse travel, and placed a bunch of snow anchors in the snow field near our tent. Then spent the afternoon hiding from the rain in the tent. After talking to a couple of parties that were coming down from the mountain, we decided the ideal time to depart would be 1 AM. We decided to hit the sac, but I don't think either of us slept much.

At 12 AM, the alarm went off. I looked out the tent window, and we had a nice clear night. We could look to the northwest and see Vancouver, BC.

After quickly boiling some water and getting dressed we were off at 1 AM. We got to the base of the snow fields and started to rope up, when Lynne remembered something... she forgot her funnel. You see, when women go climbing on mountains, they are at a disadvantage when it comes time to relieve themselves. Thus women mountaineers often carry a funnel which saves them a great deal of time (and allows them to write their name in the snow :) She went back to the tent, while I finished the preparations for the glacier.

Our route of choice was the Coleman-Deming glacier route. It is not the easiest route on the mountain, but it is not the hardest either. We started up the first face which was a 20-25 degree snow slope for about 1000' of elevation gain. We could see other teams ahead of us, their bobbing headlamps going up the mountain. After this hill, there is a gentle slope that is filled with crevasses.  At on point, we came to a large open slope were a large group of seracs (ice chunks the size of a car or small house) were looming above. You could see the rements of when seracs had fallen in the past. Needless to say, we moved quickly through that section. We navigated through the field, and made it up to a steep wall below the ridge at 9000' elevation.

We took a break, and then headed up the steep wall to a rock ridge. The ridge took us up about another 500', and then we traversed to the side to a ~40 degree slope that leads to the summit. When we arrived at the top, the sun broke through and we rested as well as fueled up for the decent.

Another group on the summit had decided that the weather was good enough to get naked (much to the joys of the surrounding mountaineers :)

The decent took much less time, and we enjoyed the sun for the first thousand feet. The sun and warm temperatures were starting to really melt the snow causing my crampons to ball (snow gets into the spikes making them useless). We removed our crampons and continued the decent. It started to snow, and continued to snow it rain for the rest of the decent. On the way down, we could see some of the avalanche prone fields that we had walked by at night, and we were both glad the we didn't see them then.

Near the end of the crevasse field, we came to one of the larger crevasses that had a snow bridge across it (a section where the snow has not melted, and you can walk across). The snow bridge had been weakened a great deal by the warm temperatures, and was starting to fail. We found an alternate route around it, and soon we were back at our tents, and very tired. Total time: 12:45 tent to tent. After that, we packed up our 80 lbs. packs and headed down to the car (slowly).

We have some great pictures, and I will try to get them on the website when I get back.

Up next: Mt.Rainier (details to follow)

Pictures from this trip

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