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Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

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Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby Jaskic » Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:03 pm

Hello everyone!

I am a new climber with a little indoor and outdoor experience top-roping, but I am incredibly eager to try an alpine adventure. I've been told (and read) that Mt Baker and Mt Adams are good beginner training grounds, and I've found guided trips that offer skills training combined with reaching the summit of each. My question for the experts here: which one should I start with? My reading tells me that Baker is more technically challenging (and dangerous), but Adams is higher (and given that I've never really been physically challenged at altitude, I have no idea how I will react. Hoping my childhood asthma doesn't decide that it's a good time to return!). So, I am looking for an experience that provides a good training ground and a great summit. I'm shooting for next (2012) summer with one of the guide companies in the area.

Any thoughts or advice or guidance would be very much appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby Snidely Whiplash » Sat Jul 16, 2011 5:22 pm

If the idea of navigating huge crevasses gives you pause, I'd start with Adams. The easiest routes on Baker (Easton, Coleman) still have big seracs and crevasses. On Adams, there is a non-technical route to the summit (Lunch Counter), and it's only 1,500 feet higher than Baker. There are also some easy technical routes to the summit, such as the Mazama Glacier, which could give you some easy practice on low-angle glacier slopes which aren't as serious as Baker.
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby JHH60 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:53 pm

Glacier travel and crevasse rescue, and snow/alpine ice climbing involve some gear and techniques that will be new to you. If you want to do this again (vs. just climb a specific peak with a guide) you might want to consider choosing a class first and the destination second. You can climb Adams, Baker, Rainier,... with a guide service and learn just enough to do it safely with a guide in 3-4 days + travel time, but if you're willing to throw in an extra 2-3 days you can take a more comprehensive class that will lay the skills foundation for you to do this unguided in the future, and will include a summit of Baker (or some other peak) as part of the class. You could start with a six day intro to alpinism class that would include some basic belyaing, rope management and rock climbing skills that you may already know. If you have (or can get, by 2012) some outdoor multi-pitch rock climbing experience you may be able to jump into a more specialized class that would focus on the glacier/snow/ice skills you don't have. I've personally had a good experience with American Alpine Institute's alpine ice class on Baker but other guide services in the WA area are also highly regarded.

http://www.aai.cc/ProgramDetail/AlpineIce/
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby Mountainjeff » Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:23 am

If you are not planning on taking a class or hiring a guide, go for the South Side on Adams, but if you are hiring a guide, do for Baker. My asthma never has given me significant problems at high elevation. Bring a rescue inhaler and you should be fine.
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby Aaron Dyer » Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:32 pm

Go for Baker. On a 5-day trip to the Cascades once my partner and I hit Baker and Forbidden then were going to go down and do Adams before Rainer. We drove all the way down there (it's way down there), got to the parking lot, looked up and it about ruined our trip. Adams is most a choss heap in with no remarkable views in the immediate area. We luckily pulled it together, bailed from there, and did Rainer instead.

Baker is very beautiful, is surrounded by the North Cascades, and has other opportunities near by if you get motivated to do so. You can get a guide, if you want, or not. The nice part about climbing is that you have to do NOTHING except be comfortable with the risk you are taking for yourself.
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby Jaskic » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:19 am

Thank you so much everyone, great information.

@etsnyd: good advice. While it does give me pause, I need to learn the skills. The big question was to start "easy" (Adams) and do Baker as a follow-up a year later.

@JHH60: I agree with you. The trips I am looking at are guided "expeditions" that are at least 4 days, and include a few days of pure skills while on the glacier. My intention is to do Baker or Adams in 2012, the other one the following year, and go from there. I would love to do a longer skills class, but I can't get away for that much time. I can do multi-pitch outdoor classes and climbing locally (east coast), but the alpine stuff I need to travel for. That leaves me to once a year basically.

@MountainJeff: awesome! I'm glad to hear I wouldn't be the only asthmatic to try it. I haven't had issues with it in years, it's just my inexperience at altitude that concerned me...but I'm glad to hear you haven't had any issues.

All the advice is great, I can't thank you all enough. I wish I could say that you all swayed me to one or the other, but it's just more detail to consider!!!
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby stinkydog » Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:29 am

Aaron Dyer wrote: The nice part about climbing is that you have to do NOTHING except be comfortable with the risk you are taking for yourself.


I'm not being lazy - I'm just managing my risk!
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby billisfree » Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:02 pm

Why don't you test yourself first with a day hike up Mt. Rainier to Camp Muir? Then you got a little high-alitude experience.
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby kylenicolls » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:38 pm

I suppose it may depend if you are coming from Portland or Seattle. THe shitty thing about Adams is it is pretty far from Seattle. My understanding is there are shorter distance routes than going -I5 south to Hwy 84 and back up- but have read that people say they take more time. I will say the south side ascent/decent was 11.2 miles according to my GPS and they was in July when there was still snow so a more direct route could be taken and without the loose stuff. Although we did a 2-day, the added ascent time was about 7.5 hours for us. We are average-good shape. Nothing special.

Adams is definitely worth doing, but isn't very scenic on the south side.
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby lcarreau » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:48 pm

If you're managing your risk, you can't manage it (properly) unless you actually climb on the volcano; it's HARD to do from the lounge chair in the front room ..

Like was already said, the south side of Adams is isolated and bland. I would try Camp Muir or Camp Schurman on RAINIER for the ultimate alpine experience!

Image

8)
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Re: Newbie alpinist: Mt Adams or Mt Baker to start?

Postby billisfree » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:55 pm

WTG Icarreau
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