On the final steep section to the summit of Mount Baker!
On the final steep section to the summit of Mount Baker! The wind had shaped the new snow and ice into fantastic shapes.
 

Mount Baker 10,785'!

An August 04/05, 2001 Trip Report. Is this August?

 

 

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The Mount Baker Trail begins at 3,700’ 8 miles down the Glacier Creek Road. On the weekends parking is scarce and climbers and hikers have to park on the side of the road. This is a gorgeous trail! Soon a bridge crosses Grouse Creek, but Heliotrope Creek and Glacier Creek can be a problem for dry socks for hikers. Ira says these creeks were bridged in 1968, but in 1969 when they both washed out. I suppose it is no use to bridge these two torrents.

The former site of Kulshan Cabin at 4,700’ is interesting. In former times the Mt. Baker Club and Western Washington Ski Club maintained the cabin, but now it is only a level spot in the forest for a break. Finally the trail splits to Glacier View for the hikers and Heliotrope Ridge for the climbers. Heliotrope Ridge is well above timberline at 6,000’. It is only a 3-mile approach, and took Doerte, Jeff, and I slightly over two hours to reach.

Most parties camp near the trail, but there are plenty more sights to the west. When looking down from above we were amazed at how many parties and tents there really were on Heliotrope Ridge, even on this day of marginal weather. There is plenty of water nearby from the meting snow. The big downside was there is no toilet. With our Park Pass money, there certainly should be. I have never seen so much human waste!

Edmund Coleman and party, from Victoria, first climbed Mount Baker in 1868, by this route. It was his third attempt and required even a canoe trip up the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River! He also named the high Black Buttes, Lincoln, 9,096’ and Colfax, 9,443’.

Doerte and Jeff taking at break at the saddle between Colfax and Grant Peaks. Doerte and Jeff taking at break at the saddle between Colfax and Grant Peaks. This was our first minutes in the sun! Colfax is 9,443'.

A couple parties summited in horrible conditions on Saturday, but others turned around rather than fight the wind, rain, snow, and clouds. It was fun to watch the American Alpine Institute take the "clients" on to the snowfield for their self-arrest and rope practice. They looked awkward and funny! We sat and admired the Coleman Glacier all afternoon, hoping for the mountain to make an appearance. It was cold, and we had everything we had on. Weather reports circulated around the climbers’ camp went from "supposed to get better" to "more of the same". Yuck!

We arose at 3 am to mostly clear skies and a fabulous view of Mount Baker in the full moon. A few headlamps were already up on the glacier. By 4:30 am we were roped up and beginning our climb. The route across the Coleman Glacier was easy to follow and offered amazing views. Walls of snow and ice hanging from the old Black Buttes were incredible. There was a couple parties camped at 7,200’ below Marmot Ridge. We crossed and avoided many crevasses. A few end arounds, a couple of jumps and many snowbridges (some we saw and some we didn’t) finally brought us to the saddle between Colfax Peak and Grant Peak. There was several inches of new snow above 8,500’. Jeff’s thermometer said 30 degrees. I took some long looks at Colfax. Becky says it is an hour from this saddle, but not today.

Yahoo! Finally on the summit, 10,785' ! Yahoo! Finally on the summit, 10,785' ! But, not out of the wind. Doerte lies passed out, and Jeff is admiring the views! That is the only patch of bare ground.

Here we had an excellent view of the Deming Glacier and the Easton Route. We also entered the world of sustained 30-mile an hour winds. Gortex Jackets, gloves, overpants, etc. were all needed to stay warm. The ridge that is usually pumice and scree was covered with weird wind shaped ice. We met the first parties of the day descending as we were heading up the final steep stretch. In September, two years ago this was ice, but on this day in August it was firm snow.

The big summit area was windblown, and any tracks from climbers soon disappeared. There are no landmarks other than the views in the distance. A few wands would be nice to pinpoint just exactly which way to go back down. In cloudy weather it would be extremely difficult to tell where to go.

Finally Jeff, Doerte and I reached the bare ground of the summit hump at 10,785’. Mount Rainier was mostly in the clouds. Glacier Peak, Mount Shuksan, and the Pickets were highlights. We could also see Stuart, and the Snoqualmie Peaks. The wind was relentless, so we soon began the descent. Almost all the summit parties arrived and left within an hour of each other.

Doerte and Mike on Baker's summit! Doerte and Mike on Baker's summit! We were warm in our fleece and gortex gear from head to toe despite temperatures below freezing and sustained 30 mph winds.

We saw the last of the ascending parties at the pumice ridge. It was a relief to get back down below the saddle and in less wind. It was fun to look over and watch three parties descend on the Eaton route. Even with all the sights we made good time on the descent. Cold weather has many advantages on a glacier. The snow was firm. Looking back at the two parties still ascending, we suddenly saw the summit disappear into a cloud.

As we reached the end of the Glacier above Heliotrope Ridge we could see the wind blowing the tents. Anything that was not under a rock was blowing away, and the tents were smashed almost flat from the wind. Mount Baker was engulfed in clouds and wind, rain, and snow! I have never seen a storm move in so fast. There was no hint of anything approaching while we were on the summit, and an hour later the sky was dark with clouds!

Jeff, Doerte, and Mike on the Coleman Glacier. Jeff, Doerte, and Mike on the Coleman Glacier. The summit in the back of the photois clouded in again down to 8,500' as the storm moves in very fast.

For a few minutes it looked like the tent, with Doerte inside was going to blow away like a kite! One of the AAI guides got a radio call that the last party of two was still on the summit and couldn’t find their way off. I hope they made it okay.

Finally, we struggled to break camp and headed down to friendlier weather at treeline. The summit was 5 hours from camp and 7,000’ from the trailhead.

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