Mount Baker

Summit: 10,781ft

Native land of the: Nooksack, Coast Salish and Nlaka’pamux

14.5m 7,500ft gain

Mount Baker is an active and glaciated stratovolcano less than 15 miles from the Canadian border. It’s the third highest peak in Washington, fifth in the Cascades and after Mount Saint Helens it’s the second most thermally active. It’s also one of the snowiest places on Earth and known natively as Koma Kulshan “the white sentinel.” The Mt Baker Ski Area set the world record for snowfall in a season at 1,140 inches! All that snow and glacial ice is greater than that of all the other Cascade volcanoes combined not including Mount Rainier. Safe to say Mount Baker is a beast of a mountain but with good conditions and proper preparation you can avoid most crevasse and avalanche danger. On those good days the Easton Route and Coleman Deming route are somewhat walk ups, but roped glacier travel is still a must. There are actually five peaks on Mount Baker and the summit is named Grant Peak which gave me yet another reason to climb this mountain!

I’ve centered many hikes around looking at Kulshan, here’s a few of those sights.

Ruth Mountain
Mount Pilchuck
Winchester Mountain
Heliotrope Ridge next to the Coleman Glacier on Mount Baker
Huntoon Point
Yellow Aster Butte
Park Butte
Looking at the Easton Glacier (our route)
Mount Pugh. White Chuck Mountain in front.
Del Campo Peak
Poo Poo Point
My first view of Baker from Artist Point

1st Trip: 7/11/2020

Ben, Ryan, Steven and I set off on a Friday night to the south side of the mountain to take the Easton route starting from the Park Butte trailhead. We slept for a few hours at the trailhead before starting the ambitious day hike just after midnight. By 2:30am we were walking along the narrow railroad grade trail with a steep drop off on our right into a frozen glacier fed creek. The entire mountain was laid out before us, lit up only by the stars!

We went up the railroad grade trail until it ends, and the Easton Glacier starts around 6,800ft.

Two thirds of The Black Buttes: Seward and Lincoln Peaks
Right before roping up for 4,000ft of glacier travel.

Sunrise started at 4:45am and it was lovely! The north cascades were surrounded by color while the Baker Lake and Skagit River Valleys were flooded by clouds.

Glacier Peak
White Chuck Mountain, Mount Pugh, Mount Stuart and Sloan Peak
Mount Rainier and Mount Pilchuck just below it

Making our way up to the western base of Sherman peak on the right.

We had to stop to appreciate the cotton candy color over the Twin Sisters range.

Colfax Peak

The sun finally hit us around 7am.

Mount Olympus!

Crevasses were easy to identify and avoid.

From the base of Sherman, we headed up the eastern side of the Roman Wall and a section of steep snow until reaching the large summit plateau around 9am.

Sherman Peak

The summit was the size of a football field and we had to cross it to reach Grant Peak! Much of the snow was stained yellow but not from pee, from the sulfuric gas coming from the Sherman Crater just below the summit.

It was very windy so after a few pictures on the true summit we found a spot with less wind exposure to take a short break.

Baker Lake
Mount Shuksan
Sherman Peak and Rainier in the distance
Elephant Butte, Jack Mountain and the southern Picket fence
Mount Logan, Goode Mountain, Buckner Mountain and Eldorado Peak
The Border Peaks
Glacier Peak
Mount Rainier
Honoring my ancestors on another volcano!

How small Mount Shuksan and the rest of the Cascades looked was mind blowing. We didn’t stay up there too long so as we descended, we looked for a safe place to take a big break.

The Sherman Crater spewing Sulfuric gas

It ended up taking longer than expected to find a safe spot to rest. I had to pause though after the sulfur finally got to me. I was surprised it took so long but the strong winds helped keep the gas at bay. I was fine as we continued to carefully descend the Easton Glacier.

Roped glacier travel is slow going so it felt nice to unrope and really start moving.

Small cracks
A pretty tarn which would make for a great camp spot.

Back on the Railroad Grade trail.

A curious marmot bid us farewell.

We made excellent time and beat the rain by minutes. We were all too tired to drive home so we cooked up what we had and passed out at the trailhead one more night.

It was a stellar trip with some stellar gentleman!

2 thoughts on “Mount Baker

  1. Grant, when roped for glacier climbing, what is the distance between partners? Also, if climbing in possible avalanche territory what is distance between partners?

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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, there are many things to consider when deciding what the distance should be between climbers but here’s the main thing to ask yourself: Is the space between climbers far enough apart so that as the rope team crosses a typical crevasse only one person at a time is at risk. Usually around 5-6 arm spans between partners.

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