Neither Tim nor I had climbed Mt. Baker before. After some head scratching and brainstorming we came to the conclusion that the only way to resolve that would be to go out and actually climb it.
We settled on the popular Easton glacier route, given the long approach to the north side routes. On Saturday morning we departed the Schreiber’s Meadows trailhead and enjoyed a leisurely hike to our high camp on the rocky cleaver next to the base of Easton glacier.
On the hike in, we chatted with a party of three who turned back due to poor visibility. When we arrived at high camp the mountain was covered in clouds.
As the afternoon morphed in to evening, we were excited to catch glimpses of the upper mountain and patches of blue sky. We viewed a solo climber coming off the mountain with a full pack. He joined our camp and told us of his plans to camp on the summit, but turned back due to high winds.
By nightfall, the weather looked great. Light wind, partly cloudy, with lots of stars. At 10:20 PM, I set my alarm for 1:20AM. After 3 luxuriant hours of deep sleep. I awoke to confusion. “Where am I? Why would I get up at this time to do anything? I’m on Baker?” I made peace with reality, and climbed out of the tent to make a pot of tea.
Out of the tent, we noticed the mountain was again shrouded in clouds. After breakfast we walked up to the glacier and applied our rope and crampons, and set off in the darkness and fog.
The next few hours involved the crunch of crampons, and the flash of headlamps. Visibility was low, but the boot path was easy to follow, and the lower glacier did not present any routefinding challenges.
We took a break before a broken up area mid-mountain. This break was a transition between headlamps and low visibility and morning light and some clearing. From here to the summit crater we wound our way through some beautiful and dreadful glaciated terrain.
At the summit crater, more blue sky appeared. By 8am we were above the clouds and stepping on to the summit!
The downclimb gave us the opportunity to revel in the beauty of the Easton glacier.
Mt. Baker does not have the elevation or hulking mass of mighty Tahoma, but I found its glaciers to be of a grand scale. Equally, if not more impressive than its big volcano brother. The giant crack on the summit was primordial and awe inspiring.
There was one party climbing ahead of us, and two behind us. For a summer weekend climb, I was pleasantly surprised by the light traffic on the route.
Our high camp on the rocky cleaver was outstanding. My compliments to the uh…forces of plate tectonics and volcanism. The North Cascades has to be one of the best places in the world. After the Olympics of course. :)
Coming from sea level we both felt the altitude. I’ve been eating raw cloves of garlic on my high elevation climbs. It helps me a lot. Eliminates nausea and adds a little spring to my step (and spice to my breath).
Thank you Komo Kulshan for allowing us to travel safely upon your flanks.