Mt Baker's North Ridge

Kai is one of those unique characters whose climbed for 20+ years, and hires a guide to show him the best climbing available for the weather conditions he arrives in.  That's exactly what he did last week, and tagged two classic routes in the Cascades.

But I've got to admit I was a little bit worried about the weather - the forecast called for 30%-70% chance of rain for all but one day of Kai's visit.  Even though I was confident that we were picking the best routes given this forecast, we were still rolling the dice when we left the car, hoping that the weather would improve or hold out just long enough to let us through.


On Sunday we left my car under threatening skies and hiked up to the Hogsback on Mt Baker's Heliotrope Ridge.  We fell asleep to the sound of a light rain beating on the fabric of Kia's ultralite tent.

But at 2:30am, I stuck my head out and saw nothing but stars above, and the snow had refrozen into perfect, stand-on-top neve.  It was time for crampons!  We made quick work of the traverse to the North Ridge, opted for the left-hand start, and climbed the headwall in three and a half long pitches.  A final traverse over to the summit finished off the ascent.  All that wonderfully firm snow from the morning had softened into mid-calf to knee-deep post-holing for the descent of the Coleman-Deming Route, but that meant we could go crampon-free back to camp with a few glissades along the way.  Kia opted to pack up and hike out the same day, which made for a really BIG day, but we were eating burgers at Graham's in Glacier that evening.  It also meant that we'd take a full rest day tomorrow instead of hiking out and driving to our next objective:  Forbidden Peak.

The photo show below:
Threatening skies on Sunday, while on the way to our Hogsback bivy.

Perfect crampon conditions crossing the Coleman Glacier on Monday.

Beautiful Mt Baker.  The North Ridge is the left side, rising up from the foreground.

The lower North Ridge.

Possibly my favorite shot from the climb - Kia climbing the ice pitch of
the North Ridge headwall.  2 1/2 more pitches of steep snow followed.

Summit relief, 8 hours and 45 minutes after leaving camp.

Descending the Coleman-Deming Route, with a post-holing experience.
Statistics:  Pro Guiding Service.  Mt Baker (10,781ft / 3285m), North Ridge, III+ AI 2/3, steep snow, glacier.  24-25 June with Kia L.