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Trip Report    

Basic Glacier Climb - Mount Baker/Coleman Glacier

A beautiful day for the ascent, challenging weather on the descent.

  • Snow and ice on road
  • Icy above 9000', good conditions below. Road is snowed in about 0.9 to 0.5 miles before trailhead. Snow on approach trail. See Trip Report for details.

We parked about 0.9 miles before the trailhead due to snow and ice on the road, but it's melting rapidly and was probably open to about 0.5 miles before by end of day Sunday when we left. It may be a while until it's completely melted out, though--still 4' of snow at the parking lot. We left the cars around 11 AM. The trail is still snow covered with many treacherous spots where people have stepped through into deep postholes, and the Ranger had told us that someone broke their leg there last week. We reached the Hogsback camp at around 2:30 PM. Some sites are melted out but still lots of continuous snow; there's running water at one of the lower camps (approx. 5800') to the right of the route as you approach the main camp area. Spectacular sunset, with scattered high clouds and very little wind as we fell asleep. 

We headed out around 3:45 AM. We set a slightly later start time to allow the snow to soften up a bit; we had heard from descending parties that conditions were very cold and windy on the summit, and the Roman wall area was very icy.  The crevasses are mostly covered, with only a few exposed near the top. Many people were skiing the route.  We reached the saddle before the Roman wall around 8 AM, as winds started to become stronger. The Roman wall area was somewhat icy but soft enough to get good crampon purchase and some good ice ax placements. We reached the summit around 10:20 AM with strong winds but glorious blue skies, overlooking a sea of clouds in the valleys below. As we were enjoying the views, we noticed the first faint fog trails  forming above us, and within minutes we were engulfed by what we believe was a lenticular cloud, with fog so thick that we could barely see each other. We hurried to start our descent, as the winds became even stronger and sleet/freezing rain started encasing everything (including our sunglasses) with a sheet of ice.

We carefully descended in a complete white-out, wearing our summit parkas to stay warm, and relying heavily on our GPS track we managed to stay on course.  The snow had softened enough to make the descent relatively easy, although it was disorienting to not be able to see any landmarks or even our feet :-). We broke free of the fog just below Black Buttes camp and arrived at our camp around 3:30 PM. We headed out of camp around 5 PM. The trail out seemed longer than it was on the way in--funny how that works! We reached our cars around  7 PM as the rain started. A true NW spring weather experience.