16 October 2012

Mt. Baker Headwall, Ski & Summit

For part 2 of the Mt. Baker summit attempt, let me take you to 4:45am on our second day. The disruptive alarm woke us from our deep slumber and we arose from our warm, cozy sleeping bags to shove our protesting feet into cold, rigid ski boots. Dramatic enough for you? Good.

We weren't taking skis to the summit for a few reasons (opening crevasses, lack of experience [me], low familiarity with the route). To save weight we (Ryan and myself) planned on wearing ski boots with crampons to the summit (thus not carrying an extra pair of boots). The morning was chilly, but greeted us clear and beautiful.

Moon at top; climbers headlamps middle right (worth expanding this shot by clicking on it)

Sunrise - fire smoke is causing the red
From our camp on the Black Buttes we started towards the summit, with our goal in view almost the whole time. To gain the summit, we had to cross on the saddle between Colfax Peak and the Baker, then take the pumice ridge straight up, staying to the right of the Roman Wall. 


Ryan on lead. Our other three man rope team in front. Roman Wall center-right at top of Baker.

Gaining the saddle to Pummice Ridge.

Rope. Helmet. Picket. Shades. All Check! Ready for summit!

We took a rest before tackling the Roman Wall, which was the steepest and iciest portion of our climb. The steps were already frozen in place from the day before. Going was steep, but completely manageable with crampons and an ice axe. We only had issues while passing people on the way down. Who has the right of way you ask? Yeah, none of us had any idea.

Sunrise at the Roman Wall
Summit is the dark cone at left. The summit field is the size of many, many football fields.

Summitters! Left to Right: Ryan, Brian, Owen, Me, Grandpa Max, Spidey, Ben

In all, it took us about 4 hours to summit. I, for one, was happy to finally make it to the top. The Roman Wall took longer than it should have due to all of the poeple coming down and I was low-blood-sugar-crashing hard once we finally crested the ridge. I could not get my sandwich in my face fast enough!

For whatever reason, Baker felt like much more of a slog to me than Adams or Helens. The elevation is much less of a factor on this volcano, but the 7,000' of elevation gain combined with the "backwoods" and roundabout hike to even get to the snow level just really takes it out of you. Plus, my backpack is pretty heavy for such a short person! Proof!

Probably a 40lb pack when you put my skis and boots on it. Ouchie. 


We enjoyed the summit views for about an hour, basking in the midday sun and letting the snow soften up, before heading down about 11am. Our descent was pretty straight forward. The snow was soft and made for easy progress. We found a lost beanie on the way and made a nice little landmark for it, so it's owner wouldn't miss it. We also had to cross a number of crevasses and a recent avalanche field, which we did with much haste. I was SO HAPPY when we could see our tents again!

Summit Views

Snowie. The Beanie Snowman.

What do you see when you look into a crevasse? Empty darkness.

We arrived at the tents and collapsed into piles of sweating flesh. The relaxation didn't last long though, as we still had a 3+ hour hike to our cars and we were entering the hottest part of the day while standing on a reflective snow field. Ryan and I took the skiing short shortcut to the bottom of the snowline, and got more than a few dirty looks from people on foot. The skiing was even surprisingly decent!

Summer turns. What they lack in elegance they make up for in "I-HIked-For-That-In-August-AWESOMENESS"

A big thanks to Ryan, Ben, Owen, and Brian for letting me be the token girl on this adventure. We definitely experienced some Level II Fun mixed in with this adventure, but overall I'll count it as a Level I win in the record books!

30 Before 30: Stand on 3 NW Volcanoes. Check.