Devo's Climbs

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Alpine Climb: North Ridge of Mount Baker - July 26-27, 2011

The North Ridge of Baker is a route I'd had in mind to climb for a long time - just needed the right partners and good weather and I found both for a glorious day in the mountains.

Tuesday, July 26:
Chad, Tony and I set out from the trailhead, made easy work of the short approach, set up camp on the Hogsback and spent the afternoon reviewing snow anchors and crevasse rescue skills. The thrill of the day was finding out that my new Hilleberg Jannu - a two person tent - was cozy enough for three!

WOULD YOU CLIMB WITH THESE GUYS?


TONY SCOPING OUT OUR OBJECTIVE


Monday, July 27:
My alarm went off at 4 a.m. but somehow we didn't get moving until 6:00. Travel across the Coleman was pretty straightforward thanks to the unseasonably high snow pack. However, when we started, the upper mountain was obscured by clouds and I had to do a bit of navigation by GPS to hit the base of the North Ridge. I pretty much took a direct line, passing several looming crevasses but always finding bridges that allowed us safe and continuous passage. This was the first of several exciting and enjoyable moments of the day.

CREVASSES ON THE COLEMAN




Over dinner the prior evening we'd scouted the right entrance gully via binoculars and felt we could bypass the bergschrund via the left. As we approached the 'schrund, the clouds parted and we could see old steps from a previous ascent on the line we'd chosen. The snow was quite firm and these buckets eased our passage up the steep snow to the crest of the North Ridge (c. 8,400 ft.) at around 8:30 am.

THE BERGSCHRUND BELOW THE RIGHT ENTRANCE GULLY



TONY ON THE NORTH RIDGE


ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?


High above we could see our objective: the toe of ice where the technical climbing would ensue. It was an impressive sight.

THE ICE STEP


Shortly before 10 a.m. we were ensconced at the base of the ice cliff, building a belay and switching from glacier to technical climbing mode. Around 10:30 Chad began leading the first pitch: a short vertical wall of blue ice that relaxed to 60º whereupon the surface became mostly rotten, though easily climbable, and good screw placements were found with a little chopping.

CHAD LEADING THE STEP


I led the second pitch on more of the same, placing one screw before cresting the arête and another after. As I climbed the surface eventually changed to steep snow and I pounded a picket through it and into the ice below. I climbed another thirty feet and attempted to build an anchor with pickets, but the snow wouldn't hold a vertical placement securely enough for my taste so I eventually down-climbed to my last picket and built a good anchor there to belay Chad and Tony up.

TONY CLIMBING PITCH TWO


Above was another long pitch of easy but exposed snow which we simul-climbed via running belay. Then we skirted our way under a few hanging seracs and made our way across the summit plateau to Grant Peak just before 2:30 p.m. Success!

SUMMIT GLORY


The descent via the Coleman-Demming was accomplished in a swift 1 hr. 40 min. The hike from camp to the car was less than an hour.

GOOD TIMES


VIDEO:


View all my photos: N. Ridge of Mt. Baker - July 26-27, 2011 photo set on Flickr »

View of our route in Google Earth:

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