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Ascent of Mount Baker on 2013-07-24

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Pete Ellis
Date:Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Baker
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:10781 ft / 3286 m

Ascent Trip Report

After my Utah week which finished with Flat Top Mountain, I drive NW to Seattle, meet Pete Ellis at the airport and we spend the night with Duane and Pattie Gilliland at Burlington.

In the morning we head E along highway 20 to Cedro-Woolley where we stop at the rangers office, N side of highway 20 near E end of town, a short way W of where the 9 heads N. No permit is required but a Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park at the trailhead. These are $5/day or $30 for a year and since we will need a pass for other upcoming peaks in WA and OR, for simplicity we pay the $30.

After lunch we continue to Schreiber Meadows trailhead: E on 20, L on Baker Creek Rd to N48.64905 W121.72853, sharp L on a good gravel road to N48.68164 W121.75983, then R climbing a few sets of hairpin bends, to reach the trailhead, N48.70674 W121.81247, 1104m (trail starts immediately R toilets). There are only a few parking spaces left as the other Mt Baker route, Colman-Deming is closed due to a road washout.

We had planned to make an overnight camp on the glacier, but arriving on a warm afternoon and feeling the weight of our packs we decide instead to go for the night-and-day hike option with a light pack and an evening start.

We wander along the first mile of trail to inspect the creek crossing. In daylight with no pack it's a boulder hop but might be more difficult laden or in the dark; folks seem to wade it.

We start our ascent at 8.30 pm. The creek is a little higher than it was at midday but we get across dry shod, fairly continuous stepping stones at N48.71320 W121.82924; Pete lends me one of his walking poles which helps quite a bit. Note: a sign says there is a hikers bridge but there is not, however our crossing point is soon reached in the direction indicated by the sign. To get back onto the main trail after crossing, it's necessary to follow a trail downstream for a few yards - don't be fooled by the dead-end path into the trees.

Beyond the creek, the well constructed trail zigzags uphill through nice coniferous woodland. At N48.71720 W121.83424 turn L, signposted Park Butte. At N48.71883 W121.83980, 1420m fork R, signposted Railroad Grade. This trail soon reaches the impressive lateral moraine of that name, turning L at N48.72380 W121.83724 and following it uphill, along a quite narrow arete with an almost sheer drop to the R. By now it is dark but a full moon has risen and head torches are barely needed.

The moraine ends in about 1 mile and we are soon on the glacier. We put on crampons and rope up. There are quite a few crevasses, some very impressive, but there's a pretty clear boot trail which enables safe passage, with just a few narrow crevasses easily stepped over. Over to the right we witness a dramatic ice avalanche caused by a serac collapse. It's a gorgeous evening, the mountains bathed in bright moonlight, the lights of various towns visible along the coastal plain.

The only tents we see are two at the start of the glacier and a group of about four at 2500m (N48.76180 W121.83210). Beyond these, the glacier trail heads steeply up to just below a large crater (strong smell of sulphur), traverses quite a way left then zigzags up a steep slope, bypassing several more crevasses, to emerge on a snow ridge with a big drop R to the crater. The climb levels off then a quarter mile of fairly level walking and a final short ascent lead to the summit N48.77672 W121.81457, 3281m, a small cinder dome with a few rocks and a summit register. It's chilly so we don't investigate the register, just enjoy the solitude, the moon and stars and the south and eastern aspect full of frosty peaks. It's 3.45 and there is already light in the east although it's nearly two hours to sunrise. We're up in 7 hours 10 minutes, far quicker than expected, but given the moonlight we're very happy with our Baker climb and can do without the sunrise.

We head down fairly soon, initially keeping R to visit the snow dome N48.77636 W121.82052 which the GPS puts only 1 or 2 metres lower, and this looks about right. We then retrace our steps down. This isn't as easy as we might have liked, as the snow is hard and very uneven, making crampon work quite awkward, slow and at times unpleasant. However we maintain reasonable progress. As the sky brightens, the peaks are bathed in Alpenglow and we seen the shadow of our peak cast on the atmosphere out west. We pass a few ascending teams including the group at the tents, also a few small parties who like us are night/dayhiking without a camp.

At the foot of the glacier we stow the rope and crampons and hike down (lots of entertaining, rather tame marmots along the Railroad Grade ridge), again boulder hopping the creek crossing, arriving back at the trailhead 11 hours 56 minutes after leaving it - a great night out!

We feed, brew tea, dry gear in the sun and doze, before checking back in at the Cedro-Woolley Rangers office as required (otherwise emergency contacts will be initiated etc), then heading north just across the Canadian border for tomorrow's Silvertip Mountain attempt.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:7159 ft / 2183 m
    Distance:15.6 mi / 25.1 km
    Trailhead:Schreiber Meadow  3622 ft / 1103 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:7 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:4 Hours 40 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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