May 8th-9th Mt. Baker North Ridge
May 8th-9th Mt. Baker North Ridge
I've been wanting to do a trip like this for quite awhile now. Splitboards are great fun, everyone knows that.Climbing makes a man out of you quickly. It's kind of like the army, except you get to make your own decisions.
Even though I have done many mountaineering trips with a splitboard, they have all felt like more of a backcountry run more than an alpine climbing experience. This time, I wanted to switch it up and do a technical climb, with a splitboard as an approach tool.
We started 2.7 miles from the trailhead at a large snow drift. We contemplated trying to dig it out for a bit, but decided to just hoof it. After a 1/2 mile of road walking we were able to skin up and start skiing. I believe this was at about the 2,700 ft. level.
All pictures c/o Ryan Irvin
TLT-5's and mohair skins. I cannot go back to g3's or voile's. Gotta have the glide!
The mountains are a special place. They are as healing as they are dangerous.
We made it into our glacier camp around 7pm. We relaxed and took the oppurtunity to take in a nice view of the route from our alpine loungers.
The north ridge is the left sky line, with the ice step about 1/2 way up, and the final serac wall near the summit. Coleman headwall is the steep face in the middle of the mountain. The CD (coleman-deming) descent is the right side sky line.While sitting on the glacier we felt it shift about 1 inch. I've felt glaciers move before, but each time it gains your attention.
We started the climb a bit after 4 am on firm neve' that was perfect for cramponing. We weaved in and out of crevasse fields, roped up with rescue coils over our shoulders. Crossing the glacier did not take too long, and we unroped at the base of the gully heading up to the north ridge.Ryan expressed some concern about the bergschrund crossing at the bottom. We decided not to belay it mostly because we didn't bring pickets, and it wasn't hard enough for ice screws to be reliable.
Ryan popped his leg through and dangled from firmly planted axes for a quick minute.
When we crested the north ridge, we met the rising sun. A full-on view of the ice step commanded our attention. After discussing the logistics for a minute, we decided Ryan would lead the first section, that included a 35 foot vertical section, cresting over left with a pseudo heel hook, and then continuing up a 55-60 degree glacier ice slab to a belay at a small ledge.I would follow 1st pitch, clean and rack the gear, and lead the 2nd pitch, for a combined 100 meters of hard frontpointing.
Each belay consisted of the scariest, but most comfortable moments of the climb, hanging belays off of ice screws.
We didn't get too many photos on the technical portion of the climb for all the usual reasons, too pumped or scared to let go of your axes, or it was too cold to take gloves off for a long period of time.
Following the 60 degree ice slab.
At the belay contemplating the next pitch.
The next pitch went fairly easy, except the bulge immediately above the belay. I quickly made my way to the last reliable ice patch and set up a three screw belay, hung back into my harness, and brought Ryan up.From there one pitch of easy simul-climbing with occasional ice screws on unreliable ice blocks brought us to more mellow terrain leading up to the upper serac wall.
Storing the rope after the simul-climbing pitch.
At the upper serac wall you have three choices. Option #1, go left under the seracs and traverse around them, this is the preferred method. Unfortunately, the snow was fresh wind slab, and with no protection a small pocket sliding would send you over a large ice wall 20 feet below, to sure death. Option #2, go right around the seracs and traverse above the coleman headwall, a few thousand foot drop down to the coleman glacier. Option #3, climb the seracs.We chose option 3 mostly because we knew there would at least be solid ice to anchor us to the mountain.
I anchored in, downclimbed into the crevasse and set up a belay on the serac on the other side. We would climb right up this ice feature. Alpine ice bouldering at 10,000 feet!
Ice arch and view of north cascades from the belay.
Ryan led the ice boulders, stemming from one serac to another, and mantling out onto a final ridge that revealed the summit. I followed with ice cold hands, and got the screaming barfies after the mantle move to get on top of the serac wall.
The belay at the top consisted of two planted ice axes, and skis x-ed up and shoved in the snow with webbing slung around them. Just like Aspen Extreme!From here there was only one more obstacle. A 30 foot wide, 100 foot deep bergschrund sat about 50 vertical feet down from the summit plateau. There was a snow bridge though, about 10 feet thick and 10 feet wide, that spanned the giant void.
Ryan belayed me across on the ice ax-ski anchor, and when I was safely above the crevasse I set up a similar anchor and belayed him up.
AAHH the summit. Now for the fun part!
We didn't get too many photos on the descent of the coleman-deming for all the usual reasons, too much fun too stop, or the snow was too good to stop.
Slashing on the glacier.
Airing off of a serac.
We made it back to camp stoked. After taking our time packing up camp, we traversed back to the Grouse Creek drainage. We enjoyed a long run through open alpine terrain, over an old avalanche swath, into thick trees to the trailhead, and finally down the snowed over road to the snowline.We reached the car, replaced a flat tire, and started the 5 hour drive back to Portland.