My Baring Mountain climb is a saga in two parts. On the twenty-second of December my climbing partner and I made our first attempt. Having neglected to thoroughly read the route description in 75 Scrambles In Washington, I had little idea of where to find the beginning of the rather dubious “climber’s trail.” To make a long and arduous story short, we headed toward the ridge directly from the parking lot - no where near the actual trail. Somewhat to my surprise, we managed to pick our way through the cliffs and arrived at the ridge at around 10:30, three hours after leaving our car. We knew we had to be back in Snohomish by late afternoon and were very uncertain of our ability to down-climb our route so we opted to follow the ridge for short ways and then turn back. Soon however, we began to see trail markers - red spray-paint spots on the trees. Following these to where they seemed to end we started down what we confirmed as the actual route when we met another climber coming up. Now certain of the route, with tracks to follow down, we made good time to the road and were driving away by 2:00. I was frustrated that this comparatively moderate peak had eluded me but comforted that we now knew where the route began (a few hundred yards down the logging road I had mistaken for the Barclay Lake trail just before the second stream marked by an orange ribbon) and had we not had the time constraint we would have been successful. That last point I now believe to be false.
On the day of New Year’s Eve we decided to make our second attempt. Leaving the trailhead an hour later we gained the ridge at 10:30, cutting an hour off our first attempt. It might have been the conditions, a few inches of powder over mud, but the climbers trail was extremely difficult to follow and we tried not to waste time looking for it, as it seemed to offer only psychological assistance. As we followed the ridge toward the basin and the notch the conditions began to become frightening. I would imagine that the route is a fun scramble in the summer but covered with ice and loose powder snow it quickly became treacherous on the ridge. After a couple exploratory maneuvers we cut to the south down below the cliffs and then back up to a saddle of sorts that gave us access to the basin.
Once out of the forest we encountered upwards of four feet of fresh snow, making us very glad we had hauled our snowshoes up with us (we had been wearing crampons from about 200 feet below the ridge). Across the basin and up the chute to the notch was an unexpectedly strenuous climb. Even on the steeper portions of the chute at least a foot and a half of power was clinging to the ice and hard snow underneath, the easiest way to proceed ended up being to scoop out each step by hand. At the notch we headed north in what was supposed to be an “easy scramble,” in late December it is anything but. The snow was so soft we were basically reduced to crawling up the hill. We did finally reach the summit at 3:30 and enjoyed the view for all of ten seconds before turning around - I wanted to get back to ridge before dark. The way down was simplicity, in fifteen minutes of sliding plunge steps we covered ground that had taken us an hour on the ascent. Instead of following our route back exactly we opted to avoid the sketchy ridge sections entirely and follow the south slopes until the ridge was more gentle, in the last rays of the sunset we found our tracks and continued by headlamp.
Our trek down to the road was long and slow and we lost our tracks numerous times. What made the difference between hiking out at 8 pm and an unplanned bivouac was the fact that we knew that as long as we didn’t cross any streams and kept descending we would hit the old logging road that led to our vehicle.
I underestimated it twice but Baring Mountain ended up being a valuable exercise in route finding made unduly complicated by the snow conditions. I hope to return in the spring when the mountain can really be enjoyed.
For additional photos: http://ifiwereacrow.blogspot.com/2012/01/baring-mountain.html