In Darkest Nooksack: An Ascent of Lincoln Peak
Lincoln, from Colfax by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
There is a valley between Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters Range, where We The People, an indigenous tribe that kills cars for coupe seeks to establish a 5th growth jungle caliphate.
Road 38, now anonymous because We The People attack any signage that might compete with their own pronouncements of the Christian God and His Pioneer Spirit, remains as a decaying testament to the valley’s former government of occupation. When it begins switchbacking up it becomes The Worst Road in the World. This gauntlet of slide alder and oil pan punching creek crossings literally punched my car’s lights out. Well, a fog light, anyway.
This road is ceding to the jungle, and with it, easy access to the region’s darkest and most foreboding monument: Lincoln Peak. Perhaps this will spur a gold rush of sorts, and the summit will see more than a party every few years - until a wash out adds 3 miles of hard labor to the ticket price for this terrible prize. Perhaps there’s money to be made in the goals and accomplishments trade.
Road 38’s deterioration is gradual and total. A large stone firepit graces the center of one switchback. After several more switchbacks only an alder choked Habitrail remains. I lost the dynafight and opted to hand carry my skis and occasionally use them as a machete.
The Worst Road in the World by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
After trail’s end, I harscheisened upward for several hundred yards before gaining a pretty little tarn tattooed with red algae.
Tarn at 5,000'
Runnels by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
The pigment in red algae (Chlamydomona nivalis) protects the otherwise green cell from intense UV and aids in melting to expand the organism’s ideal environment. In early season individual cells swim to the surface by the billions per square meter using flagella that are later discarded.
I skinned the gentle slopes to the pass, rounded the corner, and suddenly there it was.
YOUR FA HERE: 2,600' of untouched bacon and chocolate chip layer cake by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Lincoln Peak is not a sub-summit of Mt. Baker, it’s an ancestor. It thrusts out of the otherwise gentle, rolling terrain like the fluted horn of some dark colossus too tall for its netherchambers. It’s fluted walls and towers rise over 2,600 feet. They give the appearance of a cake made of bacon and chocolate chips that weep white salty tears, frosted in streaks of snow. Someone left this cake out in the rain.
Lincoln’s new snow now spread at its feet like the veils of fallen brides. Bucket kicking conditions were good - the occasion half blow out of a foothold, a firm layer underneath. No real sloughing to speak of. Most of the cornices were gone. Nothing but small ice and snow pebbles were coming down. I only saw one rock as large as a baseball whirl by. Lincoln’s rock is more solid than I expected. It looks like basalt chips baked in tuff.
From the basin below, Lincoln looks smaller than it really is. At an average of about 50 degrees slope, 5,200’ round trip (ski valkyries excepted) is a lot of front pointing. Lincoln’s only route traverses northward up its snow runneled face. The climb is punctuated by two steep gullies. The lower gully is split by a 30’ constriction midway – currently parallel runnels of snice and snow, both melting fast. The upper gully goes straight to the summit.
You're hernia free! Lower gully. by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Oh, and a third gully; the one I took to the summit, even with the world’s most painstakingly explicit beta right in my pants pocket. I overshot the summit gully. That's how I got to do the Cookie Pitch.
I reached the summit ridge, looked left, where I expected the summit tower to be, and there was a tower, alright; one guarded by a huge, curling cornice hanging over the 1,500 East Face. I looked right and to my relief and disappointment, the summit loomed directly above me, and all I had to do was mix climb some cookie to get to it.
A possible shortcut to the summit by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Cookie! by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Looking down the Cookie Crack. by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Except for the mid-step across thigh cramp, the cookie pitch went well. It just didn’t go to the summit – a higher tower rose beyond, and I was kind of hoping what lay in between them was on the more relaxed side.
It was and it wasn’t. Swimming up the near vertical, chest deep snow gain the summit snow patch proved to have the climb’s greatest sketch appeal.
I peed on the summit snowpatch. I know, I know, but I was tired and didn’t want to be found in a schrund with my dick hanging out, so I played it safe.
Colfax, Baker, and Sherman from Lincoln's summit by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
I descended the proper summit gulley, occasionally looking up to give the mountain an opportunity to smash my face in. The second gully had waterfalls running into by afternoon, but not much came down them. The comforting monotony of downclimbing set in.
FA Op: Tower and the Twin Sisters. by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
I regained my skis at the base of the avalanche fans. I had the elevation to glide to the base of the pass, where a short skin would put me on the downhill course for home. North side slopes, not yet fully consolidated, slid as I sliced.
I was tired, so I beat the living shit out of my car to get back down that road. When parts began breaking I backed off. The good People of the Nooksack Market Center microwaved a Don Miguel beef and bean burrito for me as a parting gesture.
Although I'd dreaded a climb of Lincoln beforehand, I found it to be a rare architectural wonder in an otherwise scenic setting – the Twin Sisters, Mt. Baker, the Sound, redact the approach. It's not a bad climb if a steep snowy gullies through bizarre rock resonate wichall.
Lincoln took a fair bit out of me but it gave me something in return - 2nd degree blisters on the front of each ankle, a Nagasaki suntan where I'd unzipped the Ibex, and the sweet realization that I'd never have to come back.
Waterfall at 6,000' by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Lincoln Route Map by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr
Harscheisen, aluminum crampons, AT skis, two tools, thick gloves
Someone else's car