My 2nd summit of Mt Baker - this time from the Southern route over the Easton glacier.
It was unexpected - it was the last outing of the Skagit Alpine Club's basic mountaineering course. We were on Baker to practice crevasse rescue skills and camped at below 6000 feet on the southern side, coming from the Park Butte trailhead.
Due to the unseasonably warm May, there was far less snow than usual and no good places to have realistic crevasse rescue practice, so we had to settle for steepish slopes. The instructors, lead by J-Fro, understood that practicing on the Easton glacier would be too dangerous with the number of hidden crevasses, but that we could possibly make a summit attempt to make up for it if we had an early start.
He warned the class that it would be a long haul as we were starting at a lower elevation than usual & as such we'd have to start around midnight to reach summit before turnaround time of 7AM. The return would take about 5 hours for a total of 12 hours!
After hiking to camp just off the Railroad grade trail, we setup then spent the afternoon practicing crevasse rescue - setting up anchors and building the z-pulley. We had dinner then most people went to bed around 8. I didn't expect to be able to sleep so stayed up a bit until 9:30 or so. "Slept" until alarms started going off close to 11PM and rope teams got ready. Had some coffee with Andrew & Malia, my rope partners and enjoyed the warm night & v bright moon.
Got started sometime after midnight & all left as a group up the Railroad grade trail to the glacier. Cramponed up & got on our ropes - we settled on me as the lead climber, with Malia last as she figured she would need a lot of pee breaks. All made good time on the snow - no visible crevasses, relatively warm & clear skies, though the moon obscurred most of the stars. A few hours in we were following a couple of our rope teams & J-fro realized we were off course! He got us headed back towards the correct approach though it involved going through some sketchy terrain and even had to backtrack at one point when we were too close to giant serac/crevasses traps.
Marine layer flew in super fast and quickly obscurred moon & most headlamps - it was eerie but also very cool looking. I assumed we were on the right track though couldn't see too far to any side of me with headlamp. Eventually discovered the ultrabright setting on the headlamp which made me feel better about seeing potential dangers.
Passed a couple rope teams as the marine layer cleared and the dawn approached. I kept a slow & steady pace as we approached the crater and took in the views whenever we stopped for a quick pee or snack break. Once we reached the crater it was just after sunrise & we had amazing views into the crater. Took picks v quickly & snacked on hard bobo bar at our rest stop - the wind there was v strong & chilled us all quickly. I threw on a puffy and we made our way towards the Roman Wall for the final push to the summit. I was worried about reaching it before turnaround time, but turned out we made it within 10-15 mins of cutoff. Enjoyed spectacular views from the summit then headed back down.
Long slog and quite tiring hike back to camp - took ~ 4 hours. They gave us 1 hour to rest/eat then we broke camp and hiked back to the trailhead for a final BMC graduation meeting, which I missed while I was in the bathroom. We met up at the Birdsview Diner for tasty treats then back to the Chuckanut Park & Ride.
- Unplanned summit
- Huge number of tents nearby for some kind of mass crevasse-rescue training