Elevation Gain: 7800 feet
Equipment Needed: Ice axe, helmet, crampons, total glacier gear (prusiks, chest harness, harness, etc.
Another weekend, volcano. Another day of extreme effort, amazing views, wonferful bonding with friends and another wonderful adventure that I can tell people about for years. Mount Baker was clearly one of the best climbs I have done so far and I want to thank my leader Russell for his great leadership as well as all of the OSAT rope leaders who helped make this weekend one that I will remember for a LONG TIME. I would like to thank my friends Magellan and QuetzalCoatl for joining on this amazing climb.
Saturday June 13th
We started at the trailhead heading up to camp. To me this is always tougher than the actual climb. Carrying 50-60 lbs on your pack in uncomfortable plastics is absolutely painful and this was no different. Add to the fact that the Railroad Grade has a very tough river crossing and you have issues here very early. In fact the first part of the trip was clearly the toughest part. With a little help on navigation plus some bushwhacking we were on the Railroad Grade and heading up to the camp at about 6700 feet. The Railroad Grade is very scenic and though it somewhat is like a trail on a semi knife it is actually not to bad to walk up. However 50 lbs uphill feels like 50 lbs uphill. No amount of volcanoes make it easy.
In about 5 grueling hours we were at camp. Shortly after setting up our leader told us the internary area which is get ready by 12:30 am because the earlier we get up the better. I knew I was in good hands here because absolutely every volcano I have done follows this same rule. The weather helped us go to bed quick by dropping a nice thunderhead on the party. Luckily the surrounding summits took the brunt of the lightning strikes, though this was the most thunder I have ever heard since moving to Washington. Our tent was staked in deep though and despite some wind and rain we were fine.
Sunday June 14th
After getting a good deep 5 hour sleep (I sleep well on snowclimbs) I got up and we all roped up to head on the Easton Glacier. We has 4200 feet to go for the summit and plenty of crevasses to dodge. The weather improved dramatically from the evening storms and it was the perfect scenario: a clear cool night. We were ready to climb and it was ON. Russell set a perfect pace. Slow steady but highly productive. We took a five minute break every hour or two and moved slowly up the mountain. Though we were steady it was still tiring from the day before. But a volcano is a special gem and clearly Mt. Baker is one of the best.
By 5 am we were at the crater. Ah, that same sulfur smell. And it was having the sleepy affect on my team. Clearly we could only take a small break there. And then it was time for the final push to the summit. We were slow and steady but were by almost an hour were going to be the first to the true summit. It was a tough stretch and between camp and the summit and camp we had to cross six small crevasses but in the end we all made the summit safe and very happy!!!! On my personal note, roping up is highly recommended if are attempting the Easton Glacier. It is one of the easier glacier paths you will take but it does have crevasses and should be taken with caution. Though the crevasses that we crossed were small one wrong move could mean a nice fall here.
Mount Baker was amazing in terms of views. The summit views over the cloud and towards Mount Shuksan were nice but it was on the way down which really made this trip very special. It was also great for Magellan, QueztalCoatl and I, great friends for the past two years to finally knock off a volcano together. We signed the summit log (Yes I signed it EASTKING) and then headed on down.
Heading down was a little steep but nothing like Hood where I had to totally downclimb it. We did run into plenty of traffic heading up the route. But we made the summit first and boy it was wonderful being there alone. It was actually pretty quick heading down the volcano. On the way back I got a first hand look at the crater. Mount Baker is definite still active and it pits are steaming much more that Hood's are. I am thankful for getting up there and I pray that it doesn't blow in my lifetime (Or at least after a couple more summit of this special place. On the way down was uneventful except that we ran into clouds once we headed back to camp. The low fog was moving up the mountain and limited visibility though it didn't create a whiteout.
We got back at camp at 11 am ate and packed up and then headed on out by 12:50 . Again the backpack down was very tough but at least we were heading down and the Railroad Grade was much clearer down. It was 3 and a half grueling hours but we made it back to the car safely and were greeted by our victory candy bars food, soda. OSAT is a great group of people who know how to setup a climb and they setup summit day perfectly. Mount Baker was nice too by clearing us out all the bad weather and allowing us to enjoy it's summit. As stated earlier thanks to all one of many great days in the mountains.