Things couldn’t have gone better for the first 2017 Baker climb! With a very good forecast of clear sky, warm days and freezing temps overnight we were happy. We walked in our first day and set up camp and had great views of Mt. Baker from the Hogback camp. With plenty of running water nearby and dry tent sites we were happy campers. We did some training on campsite selection, how to keep a clean and tidy camp and went over some knots all while gazing up at the mountain and our intended climbing route. After dinner we went to sleep in preparation for a fun day of training higher up on the mountain. We rose in the morning to more beautiful weather and great snow conditions, soft around camp and firmer up high for good cramponing. We spent the day going over efficient walking and climbing techniques, rope handling and management, self and team arrest as well as some fun facts about glaciology, navigation and weather. Still being early in the afternoon we decided to take a walk up higher on the mountain and see our entire climbing route as well as take in the beauty of Mt. Baker along with the impressive Black Buttes. We put all of our newly acquired skills to use in roping up and climbing up steep terrain to the Black Buttes camp at around 8000ft. We made a hasty descent back to camp with plenty of time to play a couple rounds of Mountain Bocce ball with rocks and discuss the plan for our climb early the following morning. With a planned climbing time of around 2:30am we cooked an early dinner and tried our bast to sleep with the sun in the sky, never and easy task!
As planned, we woke up around 2am, had a quick breakfast and prepared for our summit bid. The morning was moonless and beautiful as we slowly began our ascent, each of us finding our rhythm in our breaths, focusing on the beams of our headlamps. Around 5am the sun began to rise allowing us to trade our headlamps for sunglasses and sunscreen and see how far we’d come. Only a few other climbing parties were climbing and it was a treat to feel a bit of solitude on the mountain. At around 7am we climbed to the top of the Pumice Ridge and traversed out onto the Roman Wall, the final steep headwall before the plateau of the summit. We hustled our way up the 1000ft headwall and it gradually eased off giving way to the lunar like summit plateau. With not a breathe of wind we strolled across the plateau to the small bump called Grant Peak that is the true summit. With all the up over with, all we had left was the down, we celebrated cautiously knowing we had to come back all the way we’d climbed up and knew the warming temps were going to make for mushy snow. After summit photos, hugs and some water and food we headed back down. The descent went as smoothly as the climb and with only 2 short food and water breaks we found ourselves happy and tired back at our tents where we relaxed and drank more water with our cheese, salami, crackers and apples. That night we slept like baby giraffes as they would say on Mt. Kilimanjaro! The next day we leisurely packed up our things and started our final stretch, back down the trail to our cars where we could truly celebrate a successful trip. As we changed out of our climbing clothes and into the clothes of flatlanders we drove home feeling tired but accomplished in a well executed climb. It was great.
Mountain bocce at our camp
Skier hiking up
Final steps up the Roman Wall