Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Climbing Mount Baker (Day 2)

Day two of our Mount Baker climb began early.  We had turned in at 8:00 the previous evening and woke at 4:00 am.  Edward and I had a comfortable night, were warm and slept well, but the other two did not, getting little sleep and suffering from the cold.

After a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee or hot chocolate, we packed up one of the tents, put all the gear in the other tent except our day packs, some snacks and some extra clothing and started off across the glacier in the dark at about 5:00.

We had out headlamps to light the way and could see the lights of Vancouver behind us to the northwest as we began our ascent, quickly warming up and shedding layers of clothing.  As the sun rose we could see the peaks of the Canadian Range and the North Cascades catching the light.

The first few hours took us across the rest of the glacier, skirting various crevasses or finding safe places to cross them.  At about 9:00 am we reached the Coleman-Deming Saddle, a narrow ridge that runs to the southwest between Coleman Glacier and Deming Glacier.

We stopped for a breather and to enjoy the fantastic views to the south and east, now visible for the first time.  Mount Baker and the Roman Slope which we would be ascending were to the north and Mount Colfax with its snow-cap was to the south.

We could see much of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands to the west with the Olympic Mountains on the horizon.  Mount Rainier was visible to the south and Baker Lake lay below us to the east.  The sun was shining and we could not have had a more beautiful day.

Just above the Coleman-Deming Saddle we took off our crampons for a short scramble up a bare part of the Roman Slope and then put them on again for the final part of the climb which took us across the top of Deming Glacier, around a stony outcrop and up to the Dome.

The Dome is the snow-capped peak that appears from below to be the summit of Mount Baker, but it is not.  We hiked east across the Dome to Grant's Peak a small bare outcrop that is the true summit at 10778 feet.  We arrived there, removed our crampons and were on the summit before 11:00 am.

At the summit we signed the logbook (kept in a metal box), had something to eat and drink and headed back down arriving back at our vehicles at 4:00 pm.  The descent was, of course, much easier and we made good time, stopping for our gear where we had spent the night.

I was very tired, however, by the time we were back on the Heliotrope Ridge trail and had all I could do to keep up with the others who seemed to have regained all their energy.  We were back home by 6:00 pm for the four "b's", burger, beer, bath and bed.

Seeing Mount Baker now it is difficult to believe that we were actually at the top, but I look at the peak very differently now, not as something distant and unapproachable but as something I've started to know more intimately and also as something that tested me beyond my limits.

I realize that others have done far more difficult things, but at my age and with my abilities it was in every way one of the most amazing and memorable things I've done and I'm sure the others feel the same.  It was a "summitting" in more ways than one.

Climbing Coleman Glacier in the dark

Sunrise looking north.

 Still a long ways up.

 Looking west to over the Black Buttes to Puget Sound.

More views north as we climbed the glacier.


 Near the top of Coleman Glacier.

 At the top of the glacier.

Colfax Peak

 Mount Baker still far above (1500 feet of elevation to go).

At the Coleman-Deming Saddle and the view to the southeast.

Deming Glacier

Looking back over the Black Buttes to Puget Sound and the Olympics.

 Mount Rainier to the south.

Headed up the Roman Slope.

Colfax Peak

 Colfax Peak with the rocky slope we ascended in the middle foreground.

 The Black Buttes, Lincoln Peak and Puget Sound.

 Deming Glacier with Baker Lake in the background.

 More of Deming Glacier.

 The top of the rocky scramble (obviously volcanic).

 Onward and upward.

 The summit getting nearer.

 Close to the top of the Dome.

Across the top of the Dome to Grant's Peak.

The top of the Dome with Puget Sound in the distance.

At the summit (Grant's Peak).

 Looking west across the Dome.

Mount Shuksan and Lake Anne to the north.

Sherman Peak and Sherman Crater to the south
(note the steam vents).

 Baker Lake to the southeast.

 Headed back down.

Deming Glacier and Glacier Peak.

 Colfax Peak just ahead again and crampons off for another scramble down the bare slope.

 Looking back up the way we came.

And back across Coleman Glacier.

And finally the Hogsback again.

Note: many of these pictures were taken by Edward.


  1. Congrats Ron and Edward!
    looks like in a few photos you captured the mountain shadow in the sky shots picture number 2 and 3 below the sunrise photo with ( venus?) in it. Perhaps a photo of the view to the west.?

    I got sort of nervous looking at these pictures.

    1. I wondered what that was, but think you are right, Marti. Watching and photographing the sunrise from up there was amazing, but that makes the picture even more amazing in my opinion. I understand why some of the pictures make you nervous, but I'm not very comfortable with heights and at no time did I feel that we were doing something dangerous or feel uncomfortable.

  2. This really looks like a totally amazing adventure.
    Very beautiful pictures, especially the sunrise and the glacier pictures. Some pictures really do look somewhat scary (like 5506).
    Is Mount Baker an active volcano, or are the steamvents on a neighboring mountain? The only supposedly active volcano in Germany is the Eifel, which also happens to be a botanically spectacular area.

    1. Thanks, Martin. This was the experience of a lifetime. Never felt, though, that we were in danger or unsafe. The guide we had was wonderful. In answer to your question,m Mount baker is an active volcano and the steamvents are part of the mountain and near the peak. Its part of a chain of volcanos that reaches down into California - Baker, Glacier Peak, Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Shasta and I'm missing a few.

    2. The Eifel really is nothing like that. It is a lush mountain range of about 600m maximum height. Part of it is volcanic deposits and parts are old limestone reefs. The last eruption was 10000 years ago, but it is still active in that it produces carbon dioxide and the area moves up a few millimeters each year. It is in no way as impressive as the mountains you mentioned, yet it has a beauty of its own and lots of orchids. In fact most species of Verena's home state, Northrine Westphalia grow there.

    3. Mount Baker last erupted in 1880, so it is quite active, as is, of course, Mount St. Helens. Rainier, too, has erupted in recent history, so the volcanoes in this area re young and active. Baker has its share of orchids, but Rainier is an orchidist's paradise.


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