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Mt. Baker in May?

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Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Apex » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:53 pm

Hello everyone,

A couple of friends and myself are thinking of climbing Mt. Baker in mid/late may as our first real mountaineering experience (unguided). We all took a glacier travel course last summer in the Columbia Icefield, so we'd like to move on to something a bit bigger and more objective. What are the conditions like? Would it be feasible for nearly beginners to climb it in May via the Coleman-Deming Route. We'd take 3 days I think, one day to practice our crevasse rescue and refresh on skills, one day to get to camp 1 or 2, then summit and down.

My biggest concern is avalanches at this time, and crevasses that aren't completely exposed or uncovered yet.

Thoughts? Again, we've never really done anything like this yet and this would be our first experience. I really appreciate honest answers and don't want to get ourselves into anything that we can't handle yet.

Cheers.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby HeyItsBen » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:27 pm

The conditions will be different from year to year, but I did the Coleman-Demming as one of my first glacier routes in May of 2006 and can comment on my experiences.

I thought it was a great beginning glacier travel route. It's not very steep so it allowed us to concentrate more on our glacier travel technique. We did it in three days - one day up to camp, one day to practice crevasse rescue, and a day to summit and come all the way back down and out. All of the crevasses were covered while we were there, but you could just barely detect quite a few. I led the climb and punched through twice.

Some PNW veterans can probably comment more on possible conditions, but the weather will be a crapshoot in May. We got snowed on on our 2nd day, and rain the morning of our summit day, but we climbed through it and had a great summit day. Got lucky I think.

As far as avalanche safety, best to watch and check current conditions over the final few weeks before your trip, IMO. I remember the rangers up there being very helpful and knowledable about current conditions. Obviously if it dumps several feet of snow the week before your trip, you'll want to reconsider. We carried beacons/probes/shovels.

If your schedule is flexible, go when conditions and weather are best. We flew up there and didn't have that luxury.

Still one of my favorite climbs of all time, such a beautiful mountain. We had an amazing campsite overlooking the Roosevelt Glacier, and watched huge pieces of ice falling down the upper Roosevelt.

I say make sure you know your glacier travel /crevasse rescue/self arrest and go for it!
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:32 pm

benjamingray hit it on the nose. Good advice, can't add anything myself.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Apex » Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:06 am

Thanks for the feedback, thats very helpful to hear. We have no avalanche experience or training... We have done a couple of day snowshoeing trips and done a bit of practice with beacon searches but nothing too in depth, not to mention we also have no beacons or avy gear. Something else to consider.

Cheers.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:24 am

Tell you what, next week I plan on climbing it (possibly that exact route) which I can give you an update on the conditions. When I "attempted" that route on my Mount Baker Journey the avalanche danger was bad which was in late April. When I finally did it in July of last year I had a blast! Although I had a bit of a white out and heavy winds.

And if you happen to see my digital camera in it's black case let me know! :lol: :) (At the Base Camp) It was sad to loose. :(
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Apex » Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:43 am

Awesome, that'd be great, though a month in advance :P

Any other thoughts?
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Alasdair » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:08 am

This is what it looked like last may. I think this trip was early may.

http://alasdairturner.blogspot.com/2010 ... ourse.html


Weather will be your biggest issue. It could be great, it could be crap. If its crap, be very conservative.

I will be on the mountain all next week starting on Sunday so I should have a good idea of snow cover for this year then. If I had to guess I would bet that this year will be another big snow year for the volcanoes up high which should give us great crevasse coverage up high late into the year. May should be an easy walk up. FYI dont unrope on the summit plateau that is were the mountains largest crevasses are. For some reason lots of people seem to unrope up there and I have never really understood that.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Apex » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:34 am

Thanks Alasdair,

Crevasses aren't a huge concern for us, and we'd definitely stay roped up everywhere we think its necessary. Avalanches are a far greater concern to us... but that really relies on the weather.

Good luck with your trip!
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:45 am

@ Alasdair, I may see you on the mountain depending on how long you'll be there. I'm crossing my fingers with all the new snow coming in. Avalanche danger a few days ago was bad! And to think last weekend was one of the best (lowest Avalanche Danger) day's of the winter! :x
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Alasdair » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:49 am

avi danger is reasonable right now, but will get worse through the week. The big rain event did not effect the upper parts of baker, so the avi hazard could have gone either way up high. I would be careful above 9000ft.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:56 am

I know it seems good right now. But a few days ago it was saying as high as 5 all over the cascades which had me freaked out. It's amazing how fast it went down which had me a bit suspicious of the high zones on what it actually was. Sadly nwac does not report avalanche danger in May... most of the time. (I think it did for a little bit last year due to a unusual high danger in May)
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Alasdair » Sat Apr 02, 2011 7:02 am

Hey Josh if you have not taken an AIARE avalanche course sign up for one as soon as you can. Mountain madness or AAI out of bellingham teach good ones. The reason the danger went down so fast is because it rained a ton on top of a relatively unconsolidated snowpack. That caused a very large natural avalanche cycle. Anything that was unstable slid in the last few days. Now it is cooling rapidly which is freezing the snowpack and making it more stable.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Apr 02, 2011 7:10 am

I've made those predictions in the past about that happening, and sure enough the slopes froze over. I've had one case of bad avalanche danger when nwac said it was good which is why I was suspicious of the rapid change. I've had some minor teaching and some learning from experience but I gotta admit I should take a full avalanche course one of these days. Now I'm certainly not clueless when it comes to testing the slope and such. :wink:
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:25 pm

Alasdair wrote:FYI dont unrope on the summit plateau that is were the mountains largest crevasses are.


Alasdair, I don't doubt that you have seen crevasses on the summit plataeu, but it really surprises me. I have climbed Baker dozens and dozens of times from May - November over the last 20 years and have never seen a single crevasse on the summit plateau. How would crevasses form? The summit plataeu is pretty flat, I would not expect the glacier to move a whole lot.
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Re: Mt. Baker in May?

Postby Alasdair » Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:14 am

This is my theory about what causes the crevasses. The upper Roosevelt glacier and the colman is where most of the ice from the summit plateau goes. This causes cracks that run the entire way across the summit. Late in the season a very large opening often forms on the summit in a crescent shape from the top of the colman headwall to the far side of where the top of the Rooseelt glacier starts. Technically this is probably a shrund. two years ago it was big enough to put a two story house in. Smaller crevasses almost always run parallel to this large crack and are located in a strait line pretty much exactly where you would walk from the top of the easton glacier to the true summit. I will dig around a bit, I think I have some photos of these things.
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