Trip Report    

Mount Baker/North Ridge

Definitely a classic

  • Sat, Jul 4, 2020 — Sun, Jul 5, 2020
  • Mount Baker/North Ridge
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles

July 4:

  • 1210: Leave TH
  • 1500: Hit camp at 6800

July 5:

  • 0245: Wake up, spend a lot of time fiddling with Whisperlite
  • 0500: Roll out
  • 0630: Base of NR
  • 1200: Base of Cliff
  • 1430: Finish belayed climbing
  • 1630: 10k ft
  • 1830: "Summit"
  • 2130: Back to camp
  • 2300: Roll out

July 6:

  • 0115: Back to cars

Ever since Julia got rained out during her AAI course last June, she had been hounding me about this route. We watched the weather all spring and this weekend it finally looked good enough. I hadn't ice climbed since March for Chair Peak, and hadn't descended without skis all Spring so I braced myself for suffering. Kari Vanderbilt graciously gave up her July 4 plans to join us.

I had read a million trip reports earlier on, particularly Sam Chaneles' from May, and opted to go with 8 screws for safety, 1 picket per person, and a single 60 rope for the crux.

The walk to camp was foggy and uneventful. It took 10 mins for blisters to start forming on my heels. We got to a spot ~5 mins away from the flat part of Coleman Glacier and closer to the descent route to scope our path. The glacier crossing looked easy. We planned to leave at 430am and spend the rest of the time melting snow. The clouds cleared up to give us a spectacular view of the mountain. Tomorrow was going to be a good day.





I scheduled to leave at 4am so we could get the sunlight while we were on the glacier, but ended up leaving at 5am. We saw another really fast group ahead of us on the glacier and a slow group in front. The North Ridge looked quite mild from camp, but up close everything was at least 40 degrees. We started simul-climbing from here, stopping to rest every few hundred feet (This was a huge mistake as this route is pretty long). A bit of rock scrambling brought us to the top of the ridge, where the cliff was in full view. Two parties were above the cliff, another at the base, and one more ahead of up heading up.




We met the other group ascending the final slopes to the base of the cliff. Again, the angle looks moderate but is actually ~50 degrees before the base. The other group was pitching out all the steep sections, so we quickly overtook them. Turns out, there were Mountaineers as well who took the Ice Module the year prior. Who said this couldn't be your first alpine ice climb?


Initially I wanted to take the right-hand pitch above the rock, but Julia wasn't keen on potentially mixed climbing, so we climbed the section just to the right of the snout, which seemed to be where everyone was going. The pitch was more than 80 degrees for a few meters before mellowing out to 70 degrees. If I didn't practice a lot over the winter, I'm sure we would have had to bail.


The pitch mellowed to 60 degrees where I built a belay station (1 screw, 1 deadman). It was here I tried to pound in a picket and it just fell in a hole. From camp I thought the angle would be closer to 40 up here, but I was wrong again. I pitched out another half-rope length to where it mellowed to 45 degrees. Here the conditions was a foot of snow over solid  ice. If the snow wasn't there this would have been an even longer day. If you peered over the ridge you could see the chaotic mess that is Roosevelt Glacier. It looked very similar to Adams Glacier so I wondered why no body ever climbs it.

We simul-climbed the rest of the ridge to ~10k ft where it became more of a glacier climb. We followed the footsteps up the secret passage on the right to the summit plateau. Since by then it was 630 pm and we had all been to the summit before, we decided to head down.


I don't miss descending a glacier on foot, and I really don't miss ever step punching down a foot of soft snow. The views of the sunset over the clouds are unbeatable though. Eventually the hours passed and we made it to camp before sunset.

We had not eaten or drank anything for hours at that point, so we hurried to Hogsback to get running water. As we were leaving we saw the last group at the Coleman-Colfax saddle. I thought the day was long for us, it must have been eternal for them. We filled up water and death marched back to the cars as quickly as our legs would move, getting back just after 1am and ready for the drive home.


It was a long, arduous, but incredible weekend. I would definitely do this route again, but earlier season so it can be skied. Congratulations Kari on your first alpine ice climb!

Note: I underestimated how long this climb would be. The Mountaineers say this can't be your first alpine ice climb for good reason. This route is pretty long with almost 10 pitches of steep snow that you need to be comfortable soloing.

Photo credits: Julia Syi