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Ascent of Mount Baker on 2020-07-13

Climber: chris hooper

Date:Monday, July 13, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Baker
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:10781 ft / 3286 m

Ascent Trip Report

with Josh Leclair. 13.5 hours car to car. started 1:45am monday morning. since the plan was hashed sunday morning and I had some things to take care of, I did not arrive to the trail head until 20 minutes before we departed on the climb and had not napped Sunday, so the climb was the tail end of a 35 period without sleep.

Below the ice wall, I fell into a small hole in the ground, which might have been part of a crevase or else a melted out pocket over a large rock which was then covered. It was on a very steep slope and there was no evidence at all of crevasses in the area. I caught myself at the armpits and yelled "falling, falling, crevasse, falling!". We were a full 60m rope length apart in preparation for climbing the ice wall, not really positioned to set up a z-pulley or easily escape the belay. Josh immediagely dug in his picks and kicked in feet, but I did not crumble in the rest of the way and so things were fine. The hole appeared only 6ft deep and did not continue in any direction as would a typical crevasse. Once I reached Josh at the base of the cliff, we discovered I was missing all but one ice screw off the ice clipper. They probably fell off when I fell in. A guide leading a party next to us at the base of the ice cliff noted the obvious lesson here: don't use ice clippers to rack gear while not climbing vertical ice. they aren't secure at all. This is the second time I've lost gear off one.

Josh, who turned out to be the much fitter climber despite missing a significant portion of his calf muscle from a run-in with an excavator, led 99% of the ascent and descent. I took over lead just for one pitch to lead the ice cliff, the technical crux of the climb, since I had not led this portion with Mark when I did the route the year prior. Josh would have been the better candidate for leading this part of the climb as well, but I was determined to give it a go. Although a WI2- variation existed, I decided for various reasons to attempt a harder line: it looked for fun, and it began directly above where Josh decided to put our anchor. I think my line was solid WI3 (with a small overhanging section to negotiate but otherwise a short pitch of technical ice). The line I picked turned out to cause me some difficulties, as I was compelled to hangdog on screws and my pick twice. Although I lead long WI3+ pitches confidently in Hyalite Canyon this winter, I believe I struggled on the Baker north ridge pitch for several reasons: 1) gyms have been closed all winter and I have lost signifcant fitness despite a volume of top rope soloing. I simply cannot keep up with the fitness I attained in the rock gym next door. It is impossible. 2) I was carrying a backpack with 2L of water and gear, maybe 10-15lb total. 3) the ice quality was very challenging: both bullet hard and aerated without plasticity or security. Perhaps it was not so much challenging as it was different than what I got used to in Montana, so I did not mentally feel as secure. 4) I was a bit of a wimp. 5 I committed to a harder line, not the easiest path up the ice. 6) I only had 3 ice screws left to finish the route and built an anchor for a 60m pitch. So I had to run it out a bit. I did eventually make it onto terrain where it was possible to bang in pickets with little rope to spare, though I half destroyed the aluminum picket heads in the process. All in all, leading the crux was a memorable experience, though not a redpoint. I don't really care now, writing this. It was very good experience and a fun day which I survived unscathed thankfully.

The rest of the route before and after the ice cliff was amazing. solid snow-ice the whole way up and most the way down. the sky was blue but with some clouds to keep it interesting. The temperatures were just warm enough to wear two layers (under-armour and hoodie) for most of the way up, and one layer much of the way down. there were not even so many parties on the route, since it was a Monday. I can only imagine if it had been a weekend: a traffic jam for sure!

It was fun to do the route again. It was great to be able to see more this time, since it was socked in in 2019 and also it was much safer this time around, since the last time the conditions were quite treacherous with rapidly melting glaciers, collapsing seracs, and a mandatory rappel into a crevasse to escape the descent route. I am also 2:2 for falling into crevasses (or holes?) on the north ridge. So be careful!

We talked about climbing colfax and I would have liked to have done so, but it was smart enough to avoid it, since there appeared to be some wet slides coming off that mountain and we were moving moderately quickly but not fast.

On the drive back, I was in awe of the beauty of the valley I was driving through: the north and south forks of the nooksack river and farmlands and sub-rain-forest foliage under full summer sun with the various hills and sometimes mountains (south sister) rising above to either side. I've lived here almost all of my life and though I've also lived in many other states for short periods and been fortunate to travel abroad in many places, I have yet to find a more beautiful place than my own home here in Washington.
Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:WI3
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:sunny and moderately cold (good!)
Ascent Statistics
    Route:north ridge
Descent Statistics
    Route:coleman deming



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