My big mountaineering goal for this spring was to climb and ride Mt Baker, Mt St Helens, and Mt Adams. I've been sitting at 2 out of the 3 for the past month, but am finally done! After 2 unsuccesful attempts, Zak and I finally hit a good stretch of weather and our patience paid off with a fantastic weekend.
The first time we tried Baker, way back in early May, it looked like this:
The highlight of that trip was practicing crevasse rescue work, and getting lowered into one. An eerie, but very cool experience.
The second time, in mid June, it looked much like the first time, with low clouds everywhere:
The highlight of that trip was this little guy, who spent about 20 minutes flying and hopping around inside the mid before taking off for elsewhere:
Between those two trips, we perhaps saw the upper mountain above 7,000 feet for maybe a cumulative hour or two. Needless to say, we didn't have the best luck with weather. This weekend, with temperatures raging in Seattle, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and not too much wind to deal with either. We left town about 9:30 Saturday morning, and started skinning about a quarter mile past the cars around 1PM. One of the cool things about having failed twice before, is that we keep coming back to the same place and get to see how much it changes as the snow melts. It was also a bit bizarre skinning in and actually being able to see the mountain:
We skinned up, and onto the moraine just west of the toe of the Easton Glacier, then roped up to cross to the east side to camp. By camping on the east side of the Easton, we were much more secluded (only 4 other folks on that side), further away from the snowmobiles, and set up to climb/ride the Easton/Squak Glaciers. We camped at 6,500 feet on this really cool rock promontory, that drops about 100 feet on all but the uphill side. Nice dry flat rocks to sleep on, plus running water. My bivy:
The camp from above (if you look closely, Zak's sitting on the left edge on a rock):
While lounging around camp, a group of 5 skied off the summit, down our planned climbing route, and out. We watched them pretty much the whole way, including skiing below this icefall around 7,000 feet with Lincoln Peak in the background:
We left camp about 7pm to go for an evening ski, climbed about 1,200 feet, and rode down as the sun was setting behind the Black Buttes. We crossed 4 or 5 little baby crevasses that will open up as summer progresses. All the little black strings in the bottom right are actually ice worms that live in glacial ice:
Zak skiing out of growing shadows and into the waning light:
Looking east at sunset to the Cascades:
Looking west at sunset past the Twin Sisters to the San Juan Islands:
We had a beautiful clear night, able to see the lights of Seattle, Everett, and of the San Juans. Could also see other groups start their climbs around 2-3am. We woke up at 4am for a 5:15 departure just as the sun was coming up. Skinned up the Squak Glacier, which is still in great shape. Route finding was super easy (especially following the skier's tracks from Saturday). Only one snow bridge to cross too.
At the snowbridge, where I took over the lead:
A quick break at the crater:
We booted up the Roman Wall, though we probably could have skinned all of it. Also passed about 5 rope teams that were ascending at a turtle's pace up the wall.
Zak and I on the summit:
Mt Shuksan from the summit:
Zak skiing off the summit:
Skiing the Roman Wall:
Zak on the upper Squak:
Cool snowbridge uphill of the bridge we used to cross the crevasse:
I ended up skiing a little east of our ascent route and dead ended into this crevasse. Rather than traverse above it, I crossed a solid bridge where the crevasse necked down to a few feet wide:
Zak skiing below the icefall that marks the toe of the Easton Glacier:
Sorry there aren't actually any splitting shots. When I get some from Zak I'll put them up. After 8 days on Baker, it feels so good to finally have had great weather, and a chance to summit and ski. I couldn't have asked for better weather, and the views were astounding the whole weekend.
_________________ - Kyle
"Oh man, that's like releasing a pack of wild baboons onto a keg of Icehouse next to a tied-up and gagged Lindsay Lohan." - Luca Brasi on TGR