We started from road spur near chair 8 at the Mt. Baker Ski area. We crossed the clear cut to the next section of trees, because the brush is so obnoxious and wet this day. From there, you ready?... You go down! Cross the White Salmon River (we found a log, good luck, there was more water moving faster than I would wade ). We tried getting up further toward White Salmon Glacier, but once you are near the river the brush gets horrible. We choose to go with the advice of others, stay in the trees on the north side of the river to gain the ridge. Once you gain this ridge (which is clearly seen from the Ski Area or many places on the Mt Baker Road going to Artist Point) follow the ridge to the North Face. We bivied on the ridge, taking longer than anticipated, plus a late start. This whole route, car to car has been done in one day (Bellingham Herold article dated 2003), we took parts of three. Selected Climbs in the Cascades says two to three days. I think its all in your strength, route conditions and route finding skills.
The ridge runs straight into the mountain at about 5300ft. The climb begins on snow and ice here. Head east under a huge rock band and begin route finding through the crevasses. This proved to be very time consuming. We ran into many dead ends where we could not gain altitude until we traversed our way around and around, again and again. This is not like following footsteps up Rainier or Baker. Keep Price Lake in view directly below you and keep the ski area in view. Don't be tempted to go to far east. You will evetually find a narrow steep 50 degree plus snow ice slope that will get you to the upper north face you see from the ski area. From the top of this slope you zig a bit right then left. You begin to see small rock outcroppings and the North Shoulder Col (8400 ft). The North Face is over. This Col divides the Crystal Glacier from the Hanging Glacier. Now you can get a close up of the summit pyramid. You are still aways from the classic South Face gully everyones does, maybe one or two hours depending on your energy and conditions. From this North Shoulder Col, you must traverse east on the Crystal Glacier eventually turning right (west) to the famous South Face gully route that gets you to the summit. We ran into the same problems of huge crevasses and picking a way through them without loosing elevation. This is mountain climbing! Now you should see some foot traffic in the snow. And you should now be on the upper part of the Sulphide Glacier. We descended the Hells Highway, which we had climbed before. We bivied Sunday night at the bottom of Winnie's Slide, too dark and tired to descend the Chimeys at night. Descend the Chimneys, out to Lake Ann to meet a good climbing friend that had moved our car up to the Lake Ann trail head. Otherwise, it is hitch hiking time or another 4 mile hike back to the car along the road between Artist Point and the lower Ski lodge where we parked our car outside the locked gate. Baker ski office said ok, just don't block the gate.
We brought a 60 meter 9 mm rope, four ice screws (used one), four snow pickets(used them all at times), four rock pro (used one). The pickets were the most useful, but conditions mean everything here. what you need may differ greatly. The North Face is very exposed with super long snow/ice climbing. Crampons essential, ice axe and second tool a must in my opinion. Potterfield and Nelson "Selected Climbs in the Cascades" is a must read for this route. It says 50/60 degree slopes. I would say "at least that" bring the gear to protect yourself. This is a carry over, so keep it light but be prepared.
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