Mount Baker – North Ridge – WA. (10,781′)
“Your righteousness is like he mighty mountains; your judgements are a great deep: O lord, you preserve man and beast. ”
I put a verse to start off the post because when I remember, I’d like to put life into perspective. Ahh… Okay. May we always remember why we do what we do.
The reason why we climbed the North Ridge of Baker was for two reasons. The mountain had become of great significance to Laura during her stay in Canada and it would mean the world to her if she was able to stand on its high point. Secondly, the Coleman-Deming is not much of a challenge for anyone that has the ability to hike, and having never thrown ice tools before and having a friend willing to teach us, it would only seem logical to climb a formidable Cascadian classic route!
There is something about throwing ice tools that is different than placing a cam. I think it has something to do with fighting the mountain using the same primordial instincts that were used by our ancestors to fend of hungry animals. Now without those wild lions roaming around our city streets, the mountain becomes our new adversary. I really never once thought that placing a cam was gladiator-esque, even if I were to swing them at a mountain. I would be even more incensed if I had to punch a rock face to get where I wanted to go. But given my excuse for the North Ridge being my first ice climb and the realities of the lower end of a learning curve, I had all permission to grossly struggle up the ice with no hope for technique or semblance of grace. Oh, let me tell you, it was a delight! I was completely captivated by this strangely new blue medium that was only previously familiar to me in cold beverages. And to imagine that with some more experience, it would be possible to lightly lift yourself over these vertical blue expanses. After all, I still am utterly convinced that I’m a rock climber at heart, but being introduced to Alpine Ice was no less similar to gaining a small understanding of the significance of π to a student of mathematics since it really opened my mind to endless possibilites. So I went out and I picked up the very seminal book, Chouinard’s Climbing Ice to read through before I venture onto icy cliffs again!
Quick “TRIP REPORT”, which probably will be void of all critical details that you are looking for. Again, the main reason I write this blog is cause it’s my journal. Which is not optimal for reader comfort.
-We tried to go up and around the toe to the left. We got closed out because it was so heavily crevassed and there was no way to cross. So we thought we were screwed because the sun was starting to cook the face. We ended up deciding to take the variation that everyone else was taking and it turned out to be a bowling alley for those under us. I am glad that rocks that were dislodged due to sun melt didn’t kill anyone. But… although it is a potential bowling alley, it supposedly isn’t too much of a danger route even late in the day (as per Beckey’s 100 favorite climbs book). Got to the ice pitches, and there were 10 people trying to climb at the same time!!! And 7 out of the 10 were newbies to ice climbing! You should’ve seen the amount of cordage strewn across the wall, and the amount of screws employed similar to a construction site. The perfect weather and the disaster of a situation made me smile as I humored myself at the less than ideal situation. Luckily for our party, we had the most experienced climber on the mountain, John Mark (also known as on this blog and this blog entry only, DJ Master Mix (Climber) who did brilliantly using his fairy-like 220 lb frame to slither up the mountain where I later arrived at … HIS HANGING BELAY!!! on snow!!! how exciting. Thennnnnn….. we got to the summit, ate a lot of Candy and descended and celebrated our partner Kim’s second Alpine climb, only having done Shuksan’s North Face the year before. That’s right. Two climbs her whole life.. and these two were it. haha…
To sum it all up? GREAT FRIENDS on a CLASSIC PEAK in utterly AWFUL STYLE!
Doesn’t get better than this; except for when we rolled out to Wendy’s drive through and ordered everything on the menu. And didn’t feel guilty even one bit.