As Climbed: [III, 50°, AI3+]
Mt. Baker is notorious for having terrible weather and copious amounts of snow. With a decent weather forecast and hopes of good conditions following a short cold spell Josh Zahl and I set out to climb the North Ridge over the weekend of June 3-4. Our plan was to drive from Vancouver to the trailhead at Heliotrope Ridge on friday night, climb the N ridge on saturday, bivvy at the base of the N face of Colfax, and climb the Cosley-Houston on sunday.
I don’t have too much to report about the route itself. It deserves the classic status it has and we found really good hard snow/icy conditions. The nice thing about Baker is that the approach is short and pain-free compared to most PNW alpine objectives. We were nervous about not having skis but didn’t need them.
It is important to remember that you need to head waaaayyy climber’s right once you hit the glacier instead of being fooled up the Coleman Glacier. Once at the base of the route we took a pretty direct line up and just simul-climbed all the way to the serac headwall. There isn’t much for pro — we just used a couple pickets and pretty much soloed with a rope on (not the best idea) but it saved time instead of putting the rope away and the terrain was well within our comfort zones.
Once at the headwall it is pretty much pick your poison. There was an easy way up near a rock band but we decided to head straight up on of the vertical pitches on the right. Josh led up and we were both a bit humbled by the difficulty. It was the altitude, right? Either way, it was pretty fun to be climbing such good ice in June!
Once above the headwall it was just more glorious snice/neve all the way to the summit. Any crevasses were pretty filled in or solid snow bridges were easily available. We summited in 12 hours from the car, having gotten a bit turned around on the glacier and spending extra time up the harder ice section. It will be fun to go back and see how quickly it’ll go…
On the descent we found the N face of Colfax pretty much fully melted out. It gets strong afternoon/evening sun and think the route needs to be climbed late fall to early spring. Either way, the snow was soft and sticky by this point and we bivvied anyway. We awoke to rock solid frozen conditions which made the ski-less descent much more enjoyable.
In terms of the region, this route is really the bang for your buck climbing wise. Minimal approach, fun, relatively flowy climbing most of the way, and some vertical ice! I hope to find more like it nearby…