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Mount Blum: A One Day Ordeal
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Mount Blum: A One Day Ordeal

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Mount Blum: A One Day Ordeal

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Object Title: Mount Blum: A One Day Ordeal

Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 28, 2011

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering

Season: Summer


Page By: fjes6

Created/Edited: Sep 5, 2011 / Mar 9, 2012

Object ID: 743575

Hits: 4152 

Page Score: 78.27%  - 9 Votes 

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First light
Nice gully leading from middle to upper Blum Lake
Middle Blum Lake
I had wanted to climb Mount Blum since I first seen the area from the Baker River Valley a few years back. Rising to 7,680' above sea level Mount Blum is a massive lump, and with deep valley footings on almost all sides, getting into subalpine area takes some effort with most people either combining the peak with a traverse of Bacon & Hagan or opting to hump overnight gear up to Blum Lakes via Blum Creek (3 miles & 4,300'). After a year or two of speculation, honest research & plenty of armchair mountaineering it was time to set this trip in stone-and grano-diorite sounded perfect. And so began the colaboration with SP's own Gimpilator for a one day ascent in late august via the Blum Creek approach accessed from the East Bank Baker Lake trail.


Baker and dawn
Me ascending the gully between middle and upper Blum Lakes(Photo courtesy of Gimpilator)
Goat!(Photo courtesy of Gimpilator)
Slab system north of upper lake
Josh Lewis and his brother were originally going to join us for this trip but do to logistics issues the night before were unable to attend. Gimpilator arrived at my house in Mount Vernon Saturday night after I got off work so we could carpool to the TH for a good ole-fashioned TH bivy coupled with an alpine start for good measure. We arrived at the TH by 10:30pm, got settled and set the alarm for 3am.

Three o' clock came quick under a perfect starry morning. We donned headlamps and started up the Baker River trail for a half mile, crossed the swinging bridge to join the Baker Lake trail and proceeded another maybe 75 yards to right before the Blum Creek footbridge, turned left off the trail and half trail detective/half B3 grade brush bashed our way along the flat until reaching the beginning of the ridge where a nice boottrack was stumbled upon and followed to a rocky knoll at roughly 3,000'. The ascent through that first mile of trail was pretty nice in the cool morning with headlamps. We reached the rocky knoll just as Mount Baker was seeing first light and stopped to eat and take some photos. Beyond 3,000' the trail started to disappear and we decided to travel up the center of the ridge to the 4,900' mark and make an east traverse through thinning woods (B1-2), after a few talus bands we got clear sight of the middle lake, hiked down and crossed the outlet before settling for a snack at 8:30am.

From the middle lake we hiked counter clockwise to meet a gully that gave fine access over talus & scree to the upper lake cirque. About 2/3rds from the top we spooked a pretty large Mountain Goat who gave Gimplilator his second "North Cascades Goat Sighting". Upon reaching the upper lake the normal route started to come into view, a traverse counter clockwise around the lake to reach a steep snow gully leading to a snow bowl below the south ridge. Usually preferring steep rock to steep snow , I suggested we ascend the polished slabs to the north of the lake and traverse east to meet the snow bowl above the gully, this proved to be an excellent choice and as we reached a rocky outcrop above the gully we stopped for lunch part 1 and made plans for gaining the final ridge. It was to our understanding the usual route was to come up the center of the bowl, ascend over some scree and then follow a class 3 ridge to a broader final summit ridge, but while eyeballing, it seemed the ridge above the bowl was knife edged and the ridge scramble from that point was more than a class 3 ordeal, Gimpilator scanned for alternates just west of the ridge while I ate some more trail mix and wondered whether to descend 100' into the base of the bowl or scramble above a couple cliff bands to meet the saddle above the snow bowl.

Deciding to try for what we understood as the 'normal' route, we descended into the snow bowl, kicked steps up to the top and scrambled up onto what turned out to be a knife edge ridge. A beautiful rock spire towered just to our south and the steep east face was definately interesting, the ridge above provided sound rock but after ascending 15' we ended up scaling class 4 rock on the east face about 80' above the glacier for another 30', we weren't on track. A quick decision was agreed upon to traverse leftward through cliff bands in search of another route, and after about 2 hours of prodding through uncertain chimneys and funny ledge systems we discovered a quick, kinda loose but direct route onto the final broader summit ridge.
On the ridge looking into the Snow Bowl
East face
Glacier below the East face
Scrambling over to the south face(Photo courtesy Gimpilator)


Awesome Obelisk
Blum Summit
The final ridge was straight foreward, we ascended up to the final bowl and climbed northish on talus to the ridge for the final quick traverse over to the rocky summit. 1:30pm and we where eating Lunch part 2, a gnarled metal tube housed the summit register with not too many names on it. The views were incredible, with Baker Lake and Mount Baker, Shuksan, Icy and Ruth, Spickard was visible as well as Jack, the Pickets, Despair & Triumph, T-bone ridge and Whitehorse. An excellent vista, Hagan looked perfectly Cascadian and the traverse over to Bacon didn't look so foreboding, I'de like to see some more traverses in my life next year. After signing the register, rattling off as many peaks as we could name & accepting the fact that we couldn't stay much longer we started down at about 2:00pm, beginning the debate of whether we would make it out before dark or not.
Blum Register
The Register
Mount Baker and Baker Lake
Uh...(Photo courtesy of Gimpilator)


Upper Lake on the way down
It was pretty warm out as we stumbled down the summit ridge, we reached a cairne above our funny ledge system and scrambled back to a bench above the snow bowl. On our journey of the knife ridge Gimpilator had stashed his trekking poles and axe under the assumption we would return the same route, uninterested in back tracking I proposed I descend back over the talus and down the polished slabs while he grab his gear and glissade the bowl and gully via the normal route culminating in a rendevous at the upper lake. And so, we split up and I began a very enjoyable boulder hop towards the polished slabs north of the upper lake. The scenery in the upper basin was textbook alpine, so remote you can almost taste it, and while scanning the scenery I noticed two figures traversing around the lake, as if coming back from the Bacon/Hagan traverse. Surprised to see other people in the area I hollered and flashed my bright orange helmet, they paused for a moment then changed direction and started towards the slabs.

"How's it goin' y'all?" I ask. Turned out to be two guys from Bellingham with the same idea as us, only with a later start and some route finding issues, after discussing what lie ahead if pushing for the summit they break for food while I found a nice spot to wait for Gimpilator to reach me and harrass these gentlemen about their knowledge of the existence of Grizzlies in the North Cascades. Deciding a summit push wouldn't be feasible without a few hours of bushwacking in the dark, the two decide to descend but not before informing us they found our stashed water filter, re-stashed it and now had to climb over a ridge above the lowest lake (I said they had routefinding issues) to grab it and meet us at the middle lake to give it back. Not really a big deal, they were nice enough to mention they found a stashed filter and return it, a miniscule bummer returning to the lakes waterless and waiting for them, nice guys though.

Anyways, the two started their descent while we pumped water and soaked in a few last views and photos before opting to change our route by maintaining 5,000' on a traverse out of the lakes and onto the crest of the wooded brushy ridge. Again, no trail to follow, we pushed through B2 brush before reaching the talus bands (crossing maybe 700' lower than on the way in) and re-entering the woods. Once onto the broad and steep ridge we started a zig-zag descent in hopes of finding traces of the trail to no avail, the brush slowly got worse as the gradient steepened further before becoming an honest B4 bushwack to the 3,000' rocky knoll. From here the trail was easily followed through the evening light with orangish skies on the horizon, the bugs during the bushwack, the worst I've seen this year, had died back by the time we found the trail and after a casual descent we reached the bottom of the ridge in almost total darkness, deciding not to use headlamps we found ourselves in some B5 brush for what seemed like 300 yards. I have read about old pioneers fighting through the dense undergrowth of the pre-settled/logged valley floors and this felt right on par with their experiences, sometimes climbing over 10' of old blowdown only to stumble into the direct center of an enormous Devils Club patch, I started to remember Fred Beckey's account of a trip to the Pickets in the early 1940's and his return through the trackless Goodell Creek valley, "The brush challenged us to a duel which we accepted with Bulldozer force". Ya, thats what we were doing alright and in the now total darkness, me and Gimpilator had split up to forge our own thrash path in a fight to meet up with the Baker Lake trail, what would feel like the Interstate after this last section. Finally we emerged out of the woods, thouroughly cut from head to toe and a Bald Face Hornet sting to level out the Devils Club barbs. Nine o' clock and we were dropping our gear into the bed of my pickup feeling pretty clever about the days travels, I am certain we could have completed this journey much quicker but in an area so beautiful it's hard to rush oneself.
Also it was pretty steep.

Crossing the Baker bridge(Photo courtesy of Gimpilator)


Red TarnThe East FaceBlum LakesBaker Lake And Blum LakesSummit CigaretteHagan MountainMount Despair
Southern PicketsClouds Over BlumBilly GoatShuksan SE FaceThe Summit Of BlumThe Pickets And DespairMount Blum
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Viewing: 1-3 of 3    

Josh LewisI sure wish

Josh Lewis

Voted 10/10

I sure wish that I could have joined on this trip, even though Gimpilator said he would never climb this mountain again. The bus schedule is why I was not able to join on this trip.
Posted Sep 13, 2011 3:34 am

jaxcharlieNice Report


Voted 10/10

Thanks for sharing!
Posted Sep 16, 2011 12:46 pm

gimpilatorGood Write Up


Voted 10/10

This was a great climb and I'm glad we could do it together. With the changing weather, it might be the only one of my chosen top 3 peaks that I actually get this year.
Posted Sep 16, 2011 1:42 pm

Viewing: 1-3 of 3