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Mount Baker

 
Mount Baker

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 48.77750°N / 121.8119°W

Object Title: Mount Baker

County: Whatcom

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Ice Climbing, Mixed, Skiing

Season: Summer

Elevation: 10778 ft / 3285 m

 

Page By: scottv

Created/Edited: Mar 18, 2001 / Aug 23, 2012

Object ID: 150195

Hits: 200924 

Page Score: 98.62%  - 87 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Overview

Mount Baker is a spectacular volcano in the North Cascades that offers excellent mountaineering to beginners and experts, alike. Baker tantalizes the residents of Seattle on clear days and stuns ferry passengers in the San Juan Islands. Located only 55 km inland from sea level at Bellingham the volcano has dramatic relief.

Mount Baker also achieves prominence as the 3rd highest summit in the state of Washington and as the iciest mountain in the Cascade Range. An unbelievable annual snowfall (world record of ~30 meters in 1998) sustains more than 100 square kilometers of glaciers and permanent snow fields. Consequently, crevasses are a major danger, dictating that all parties be proficient at glacier travel and rescue. Avalanche danger is commonly high because the notoriously variable weather can create unstable snow, even on moderate slopes.

Despite these risks, Mount Baker is an excellent first volcano for those learning to climb on snow and ice. When weather and glacial conditions are right, the ascents can be straightforward and relatively non-technical. Ice fills the summit crater, creating a broad, rounded summit that allows beginners to relax and enjoy the views.

The Coleman/Deming route is the most popular. The North Ridge is more difficult. The Easton route is the easiest, but can be unpleasant because it lies in the Mount Baker Recreational Area (where snow-mobile access is legal). The other routes fall within the (motorless) Mount Baker Wilderness.

 
Killer whale breaches in front of Mount Baker
 

Getting There

North Side Routes:
This is the most common approach. Get on State Highway 542 heading east from Interstate 5 (I-5). A mile past the Glacier Public Service center turn right onto (poorly marked) Road 39. Note that this turn is easy to miss! After 8 miles the road will turn to gravel and soon after you will be at the trailhead. Until the snow melts in mid-June or so, drive in as far you can and then hike, snowshoe, or ski to the trailhead.

Easton Glacier Routes: (via the Baker Pass Trail)
Get on State Highway 20 heading east from I-5 or west from State Highway 530. Go north on Baker Lake-Grandy Lake Road for 12 miles until the road splits. Here take Service Road 12 for three miles, and turn right onto Forest Service Road 13. Take this road for four miles until its end at Schreibers Meadow trailhead.

Ptarmigan Ridge Approach:
From Bellingham, take State Highway 542 east from I-5 to its end at the trailhead. Take the trail 5 miles to Camp Kiser. This approach is for the Park Glacier route, the Cockscomb, and the Roosevelt Headwall.

Red Tape

Vehicles parked at all trail heads as well as some picnic areas and dispersed campsites within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest require a regional Northwest forest pass costing $5/day or $30/year. (Note that although Golden Age and Golden Access Passport holders may purchase a forest pass at a 50% discount, the Golden Eagle Passport cannot be substituted for the regional Northwest forest pass.)
A Northwest forest pass can be obtained from participating stores or ranger stations.

When To Climb

Summit attempts are made year round but the summer months (May-August) are much more popular and have better weather.

Camping

NOTE: Party size limited to 12 members when entering the Mt. Baker Wilderness. Back-country permits are not required for climbs of Mount Baker.

Camping on the mountain is free (once you have the regional pass), but to learn about pay campsites in the park check with the Mount Baker Ranger District. If you climbing north side routes, a comfortable base camp (open mainly on weekends) is the Mount Baker Lodge run by the Mountaineers.

Mountain Conditions

Baker gets loads of snow (average of ~50ft/year) and is white year-round due to its high elevation and geographic location (significantly west of the Cascades, breaking trail for the North Cascades through thick Pacific moisture). Be aware that the weather is often bad. Exposure and low visibility can be the greatest challenges on the mountain.

In planning and timing your trip winter road conditions or weather and snow conditions. It may also be prudent to assess avalanche conditions (see section below on summer avalanche avoidance).

For a smooth approach check for trail information as well as helpful guidance regarding crevassed glaciers in the Mount Baker Climbing Notes.

External Links to More Details:


Geological and Historical Notes

Mount Baker exhibited a small amount of volcanic activity in 1975-76 (steam release) and is expected to erupt again. Steam is often observed emanating from Sherman Crater. Baker has a geologic history of frequent lahars (torrents of ash, rock, and water), the mountain's greatest geologic hazard.

The three most prominent sub-summits are Sherman Peak and the Black Buttes (Colfax Peak and Lincoln Peak). The main peak of Mount Baker is called Grant Peak. Colfax was Grant's Vice President.

Baker's proximity to the ocean has motivated a long history of races between the mountain and sea level. The contemporary version of this competition, the Ski to Sea, takes place over Memorial Day weekend (last Monday in May).

Summer Avalanche Avoidance


Some notes to keep in mind during summer ascents when crevasses dominate the climber's mind (from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center):

"Because avalanches continue to occur at higher elevations during the summer months in areas having either residual snow cover or permanent snow and ice cover, and several people within the Northwest have been killed by these events, here are a few notes about summer avalanches.

Avalanches occurring during the summertime can be generally grouped into three types:
  1. First, wet slides within the existing snowpack are similar to wet spring slides, as progressive weakening occurs within the snowpack through melting and water percolation. Although these slides are most likely to occur during the warmest part of the day, they may occur at anytime of the day during periods when the snowpack does not re-freeze substantially at night.

  2. The second type of summer avalanche occurrence is associated with new snowfall at high elevations. Summer snowfalls are usually followed by substantial warming of the newly fallen snow as air temperatures rise rapidly with intense summer sunshine. When the new snow overlies an old snow, ice or smooth rock surface this may lead to possible wet loose or wet slab avalanches.

  3. The third type of summer avalanche is an ice or snow and ice avalanche. These are usually triggered by the failure of large ice blocks such as seracs within glacier icefalls. This in turn may involve additional ice and/or snow. Timing of these events are mostly random, usually being associated with both meteorological conditions and glacier motion. However, they are most likely to occur during extended periods of warm weather.
Climbers, hikers and other back-country travelers during the summer are advised to evaluate snow stability and use normal
safety practices for travel in avalanche terrain with snow cover."

External Trip Reports

Additions and Corrections

[ Post an Addition or Correction ]
Viewing: 1-4 of 4    
kdpiersonUntitled Comment

Hasn't voted

Just came back from Baker yesterday- went up the Coleman route. Road 39 is still snowed in ~ 1/2 mile from the Heliotrope trailhead, but isn't that difficult to navigate. Slushy, sloppy snow continues along the duration of the trail to the timberline, and some of the snow bridges over streams are starting to melt out. Snow on Coleman is relatively soft w/ postholing up to upper elevations, making the lower part of the climb more of an effort.
Posted May 13, 2003 10:58 pm
kdpiersonUntitled Comment

Hasn't voted

Road 39 is completely clear to the trailhead and leathers can be used to reach the snowfield at ~5,000’. Please exercise caution crossing some of the swollen streams (nice warm weather over the past few days has heightened meltoff). We hit the lower glacier at 04:45 and it was way too late b/c the snow was nice and soft by the time we approached the ridgeline before Roman Headwall.. so we ended up sinking in quite a bit at 10,000’ for the final push. Some teams who left before us at 04:00 didn’t have as much difficulty- we saw them moving in the mountains’ shadow so the snow was still relatively firm for them, but teams behind us were having a great deal of fun with the postholing. Some snow bridges are starting to open up on the glacier, but not that badly yet.





Please also watch out for the avalanche zone the trail navigates through in the morning- we saw three on our way up when the snow was hitting the seracs.


Posted Jun 9, 2003 10:25 am
Derek FranzenUntitled Comment

Derek Franzen

Voted 10/10

The Golden Passport will be honored at all Northwest Forest Pass Fee Sites according to the USDA FS website.
Posted May 16, 2005 3:49 pm
rgb22009 season

Voted 7/10

Road 39 is not driveable.

Forest recreation annual pass is $50.

Some links on this page are no longer valid.

Please check US Forest Service website for up to date conditions.

If you summit Baker please send your report to Forest Service.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/conditions/road-trail-conditions.shtml
Posted Sep 3, 2009 3:02 am

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