Monday, July 7, 2014

Independence Day Mt. Baker Summit

Wow... I honestly couldn't have asked for a better period of time to hike to the top of this mountain. We timed our summit perfectly for a beautiful sunrise in clear sky conditions. We got lucky with the weather. I can only hope more people get out and adventure up or around mountains because the views at the summit of Baker were truly breathtaking. I'll try to describe my trip in the most concise way. From the moment we parked at the trailhead, this is how it happened:

Climbing Mount Baker

12:00 PM: We arrive at trailhead (we chose the Coleman-Deming route so we started at the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead)

12:45 PM: We take the wrong turn on the trail and get lost. Checking our maps and elevation, we find ourselves dropping into a small valley to cross a river. We check maps and elevation again.. We assumed we were lost but close to the trail. Wander for 30 minutes in the right direction, thankfully.

1:15 PM: See people in the distance and find the trail again! We continue to head up the mountain.

2:30 PM: Reach the snow level and start hiking up snow fields. Aim for camps around 6000-7000' in elevation. At this point we can see a few small crevasses so we avoid them as best as we can.

4:30 PM: Reach 7000' and a relatively flat area to set up tents. Make dinner (MRE's wahoooo yum)

6:00 PM: Practice some ice-safetly techniques, such as what to do if someone falls, how to tie certain knots to climb out of a crevasse.

7:30 PM: Bedtime - so we can wake up at midnight and head up the mountain.

12:10 AM: WAKE UP. Get on our climbing gear. Now it is time for the heavy jacket, gloves, harness, rope, crampons etc. I remember looking up at the night's sky and millions of stars. I could also spot the Milky Way. It was breathtaking. Next we made breakfast, I ate some Reese's.

1:15 AM: Start ascent up snow field to the summit. Everything around us is still dark as we climb. It was a pretty sweet sight to peer down mountain to see other lines of headlamps making their way up the mountain too.

4:00AM: After numerous breaks, we can see the sun starting to pop out over the horizon. (The colors are dim at first, but slowly become vibrantly orange, pink, and red against the dark blue early morning sky).

4:30 AM: We hit Pumice Ridge. One step too far to the right or left will end in you and your team to their own demise as you fall into the gaping crevasses below. We notice we are closer to the summit at roughly 9000' in elevation!

5:00 AM: We hit 10,000' in elevation with only about an hour left to hike. The burn in my legs really kicked in and I wondered if it would ever end. I remember getting pretty angry and contemplated quitting at this point.

6:00 AM: Reach the summit! Take lots of photos!! (Video below, super bro-y)


7:00 AM: Begin the descent back to camp.

8:00 AM: By now the knees, thighs, and ankles all kill, but we're moving at twice the pace.

9:00 AM: By this time the sun has started to strengthen and the dry, hard snow is starting to moisten. We see the tiny tents from our camp from far away. We glissade down the slopes to it but I almost ripped me shoulder off by trying to stop sliding so fast down the slope. (Super scary, not ideal parts to glissade on.)

9:30 AM: Make it back to camp. Eat lunch. Pack everything up. Head back down the mountain.

10:30 AM: Glissade down every slope because the ice was freakin' perfect for it! We got really wet..

11:00 AM: Leave the snow level and hit the trail through the forest back to the car. I noticed my feet were about to fall and burn off. I was so exhausted.

12:00 PM: Make it back to the car and passout.

1:30 PM: Stop to get Hawaiian BBQ. Mhmmm.

This trip hands down was the most successful one I've ever been on. I can't stress enough how lucky we got with the weather, perfectly sunny skies. Ahhhh, perfect. Can't wait to climb the three mountains left on my list :).

The Summit -10,781 ft
The Summit Team

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