Trip Report    

Mount Baker (Koma Kulshan)/ North Ridge

My first climb of the 50 Classics. Definitely lived up to the name.

  • Thu, Jun 17, 2021 — Fri, Jun 18, 2021
  • Mount Baker/North Ridge
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road rough but passable
    • Water running at both Gargoyle Rocks and Hogsback Camp
    • First creek crossing is fully covered which may be scary to cross later
    • Second creek crossing is melted out. 
    • Coleman Glacier is very covered and we did not have to cross any snow bridges
    • Very bottom of the North Ridge had some traversing on loose rock but the exposure was not bad. 
    • Walky talkies were crucial in communicating and sped up our climbing as we were able to do full 60m pitches. 
    • We passed the summit shrund  by going climber's left and over  steep snow. 
    • Lots of wind loaded snow right near the summit which could have the potential to be wet slides later when things warm up. 

Having done the Coleman Deming route as my first glacier climb, then skiing the Easton route earlier this May, Chris and I put to test the skills we learned in Hyalite by attempting the North Ridge this week. 

We made the drive to Heliotrope Ridge Thursday morning, passing by 4 cops all together catching what seemed to be single drivers in the carpool lane. As we arrived at the trailhead we were very surprised to see it very full, looks like there were other people taking advantage of the great weather window. Leisure hiking for 3 hrs led us to Gargoyle Rocks a campsite about 200 ft higher from the Hogsback Camp. We were the only ones at this camp and it was fun seeing the city of tents and people below practicing snow skills. 

We scouted the beginning of the approach to the north ridge and found two boot tracks across the glacier, one that traversed low and one that went higher. Since the higher route seemed more broken up,  we decided to go for the lower route. 


While we were scouting, we actually saw people on the north ridge itself, provided this was around 3pm we were quite surprised. We could see them on the ridge till 5 past. 

I  think the hardest part of day one is that it's a super short day. I tried to go to sleep early but found it to be too warm. Listening of the Sharp End helped past the time and provided for some good points to ponder on. 

After hearing people having 13+ hr days. We decided on a 1:45am wake up time. Kinda helped as I wasn't getting much sleep. Funny enough we saw large groups of people starting at the same time towards CD. Although it was above freezing, the snow firmed up nicely for travel across the glacier. The tracks from the people who went late in the day yesterday made it super easy to attain the ridge. The bottom of the ridge went under a really chossy cliff so we hastily traversed underneath. The sunrise coupled with low clouds flowing over the ridges behind us made the rests quite scenic. 


Moderate snow slopes gained way to the beginning of the ice cliff whose base was guarded by a big crevasse which we bypassed on the left. 



note the wet slide on our right. 

From watching the people yesterday, we knew that the right variation through the rocks went. However we opted to go the left variation as that was closer to the actual ridge and the climbing seemed more fun. I read trip reports saying people pitched out  to get to the base of the climb so we did as well below the rocks. Turns out the new snow covered most of the ice and it was just a steep snow climb to get to the base. I guess it doesn't hurt to be safe when there's a gaping crevasse below you. 



Now the fun part. I haven't climbed much glacial ice so I forgot what that was like. Besides some small fracturing, climbing where other people went helped. Bringing lots of screws and some interspersed rests helped to slowly gain the wall. What sucked was that I brought along my super comfortable backpack with super large hip belts, as I couldn't fit everything in my smaller pack ,which often prevented me from smoothly retrieving my rack. Also  foot technique suffered but once I was on cruiser AI2 terrain above the steep pitch, things were pretty fun. We block lead which helped us keep ourselves consistently warm. The pitch above the ice cliff had slowly had more and more snow on top and soon it became time to put in pitches which was a challenge as there were places were the snow was transitioning to ice so the even though the snice was bomber to climb on, it was difficult to place either screws or pickets. 


Chris topping out on the crux pitch


Digging out some snow to place my girth hitch ice anchor. Fast and simple, easy to untie. Please ignore how I attached my ATC


Steep snow climb that was the second best climbing  on the route

One place we could have improved on was transitioning to simul climbing instead of pitching things out. However with radios thing went pretty quickly. Just note to be able to switch your radio channel or you will be sharing channels with ones that send morse code every 15 minutes or some logging operation. 


Just 600 ft below the summit and below the summit bergshrund, the snow transitioned to wind loaded stable snow. We again utilized the tracks from yesterday and assessed whether to go right or left of the summit bergshrund. We went left and went up a steep snow slope which could have been the snow bridge that over people were taking earlier in the year. 

After doing ski mountaineering for two seasons, I forgot how much of a slog walking roped glacial descents could be. We considered bringing along skis but since this was my first ice climb, we didn't want to have additional complications. Still it sucked looking down to camp knowing that it was going to take another 30 minutes or so to get down. 


Got back to camp, met couple of climbers attempting the North Ridge tomorrow. Pretty happy that we were the only ones on route today which added to the already awesome climb. 

Trip Statistics:

- TH to Camp: 3hrs

- Camp to North Ridge Base: ~ 2hrs, 4:45 am

- Camp to Base of Ice Cliff: 4.5 hrs, 7:20 am

- End of Pitch 2 of Ice climbing: 6 hrs, 8:50 am

- Base of Summit Bergshrund: 8 hrs, 10:50 am

- Summit: 9 hrs, 11:45 am

- Back to Camp: 11.75 hrs, 2 pm

- Back to Cars: 13.5 hrs, 4:15 pm