Monday, September 15, 2014

Climbing Mount Baker (Day 1)

Our youngest son, Edward, and I have talked for years about climbing Mount Baker.  That finally became a reality last week, Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13.  With a friend, Nate, we began gathering information during the summer, setting dates, hiring a guide and getting into the best possible shape for the climb which for me meant four ascents of Oyster Dome in the three weeks preceding our climb (Oyster Dome is a viewpoint in the Chuckanut Mountains that requires a 7 mile round-trip hike up 2000 feet of elevation), in addition to another eight-mile hike and lots of fast walking.

We got together to check our gear and make last minute plans earlier in the week, using a list provided by the guide service, and the day before the climb I rented crampons for all of us in Bellingham.  Crampons are required gear since a large part of the climb is on snow and ice over Coleman and Deming Glaciers.  The guide service provided harnesses for roping up, ice axes and helmets. With food, sleeping bags, extra clothing and tents we each had packs weighing about 25-35 pounds and Edward and I both had our cameras along as well with some extra camera gear.

Saturday morning we met our guide, Troy, in Bellingham and headed up the Mount Baker Highway and the Glacier Creek Road to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead where our hike would begin.  After getting our packs on we headed up that trail which took us two miles through the woods to the beginning of the summit trail.  The Heliotrope Ridge trail is a popular hiking trail that brings one to a viewpoint overlooking Coleman Glacier and Mount Baker (the picture above was taken on a hike to that viewpoint a number of years ago with a group of school children).

The trailhead is at 3200 feet and after reaching the summit trail climbed up the Hogsback, a very steep and narrow ridge, to the side of Coleman Glacier at 5200 feet.  We had planned to camp at the top of the Hogsback but decided to go on since we had made such good time.  After practicing the use of crampons and ice axes we roped up and climbed the first part of the glacier to a broad open area at about 8000 feet known as the Football Field, where we set up camp, had supper and watched the sun go down before turning in for a night's sleep.

One of the streams we crossed as we hiked the Heliotrope Ridge trail.

 First view of Coleman Glacier from the Heliotrope Ridge trail.

 Climbing the Hogsback.

  Ed's pack (I don't know why he took this picture).

 The four of us, Troy, our guide, Nate, Edward, and I.

Views of Mount Baker and Coleman Glacier from the Hogsback.

 Heliotrope Creek near the top of the Hogsback where we refilled waterbottles.

 One party of climbers descending the glacier as we prepared for our ascent.

Learning to use crampons and ice axes and to self-arrest (stop ourselves in case of a fall).

Not very good technique on Edward's part here.

 The other three.

 Yours truly (how I hate pictures of myself).

 Troy teaching us self-arrest techniques.

 Roping up and preparing to climb the glacier.

Views from the top of the Hogsback.

Starting up the glacier.

Near the Football Field at 8000 feet where we camped on the glacier.

View from the glacier.


 The ridge to the west of our campsite.

 Mount Baker with the Black Buttes to the right.

 The Black Buttes looming above us to the south.

The view north and northwest.

Camp and an evening meal.

Watching the sun set before turning in for the night.

And one last picture of the next day's route
(we would climb the rest of the glacier -much longer and steeper than it appears -
to Coleman Saddle and then head up the rocky ridge to the left,
the Roman Slope, and from there across the top of Deming Glacier,
which cannot be seen in the photo, and past the farthest rocky ridge
to the last long slope up to the summit).


  1. This is PamJ from Ipernity Ron... aka Snowdrops !! (not Spam and I do understand !

    This is a way marker.... its breathtaking.... literally . I know I never could.. but I AM smiling because I KNOW this is simply the BEST for you !! WONDERFUL !!

    1. Thanks ever so much for the kind comments, Pam. This was indeed a waymarker, only I should not have waited so long to do it.

  2. Wow, what an experience, and what fabulous views. Just a tad jealous here.

    1. Come and visit and you can do it, too! It was indeed an experience.

  3. Wow, what an awesome experience that must've been. I am eagerly awaiting the second part. I know I'd lack the fitness at the moment. Never been climbing with crampons either (not required in Germany - as we only have tiny glaciers or what is left of them).
    Anyways - nice pictures.
    Btw.: I finally put an article of our tour online.

    1. Thanks, Martin. I'm on my way to visit your new post.

  4. So happy for you that you got a chance to experience the beauty of Mt. Baker =) Fantastic shots! --- Especially the views =)

    1. It was an entirely different experience enjoying it from the mountain rather than from the surrounding areas.


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