Well, for some reason, the weather does hold - again, for the 9th day in a row. I was told the Northwest was supposed to be a rainy place.....
The first order of the day, before doing any glacier travel, is to do one last refresh on technical skills. We practice setting snow anchors. Markus and Peter do as much as is humanly possible to convince themselves that, yes, a little stick of metal in the right kind of snow will save your bacon if you slip above a yawning crevasse. This is followed by a practice setup of a crevasse rescue pulley system.
Snow and Glacier school 101
By 11pm we are all roped up and are off on the Coleman Glacier. The snow is in great condition, and the kick stepping up the first steep snow onto the Glacier goes well. The day seems hot - a clear and bright day in the middle of the summer with snow everywhere is a recipe for a massive sunburn, with bright sunlight reflecting from everywhere. I repeatedly warning Markus and Peter that any bit of exposed skin needs to be treated and retreated with sunscreen, and that if not then the result won't be pretty. Nostrils especially seem to get neglected, I note.
At around 7000 feet we reach the first potential campsite, which is empty. After a quick mull, the consensus is that it would be nice to have a shorter summit day with less elevation gain, so we elect to push on to a campsite at 9000 feet (the downside being that we have to carry all of our camp gear up to there). However, the day is young and the snow, though more mushy now, is still not too bad.
The upper part of the Coleman glacier is more heavily crevassed, and there are a few spots where iffy-looking snow bridges span deep chasms. In one spot, the route crosses close (well, not that close, but closer than I like) to the base of a icefall area, with chunks of recently fallen glacier strewn about. Although tired, we hurry through this area.
Now that is a snowbridge.
Finally, around 6pm, we reach a saddle at 9000 feet and the small area where camping is possible. There are already two other climbers there, tucked away into their bivy sacks. Off to the northwest, Vancouver, the straight and Vancouver island are clearly visible. It is weird to be in this rugged and inhospitible place within sight of a major metropolitan area.
Markus crossing the bridge
Setting up tents at this location involves getting out the snow shovel and making a level platform for your tent. Now you must understand that Markus is not a very heavy sleeper, and he takes all possible measures to ensure that he gets a good campspot to help his sleep. One of these measures has always been to pick the most level spot - and apparently a spot that is even a fraction of a degree off of horizontal results in a horrible, torturous evening for him. Kind of like the Prince and the Pea (or is that Princess??). This is his first time camping on snow, and I figure that he will be happy enough being able to create his own level spot by leveling off a bit of snow. Nope. Being the good engineer that he is, Markus carefully crafts a sleeping surface by using his water bottles as levels, creating a flat spot that would probably be sufficient for the Queen herself. And then the rubber-coated air mattress is carefully inflated and placed into position.
Lit up here, dusk down below
We're all feeling a bit bushed, and the temperature is pretty chilly up here, even though it is August. We examine the last bit of the route to the summit, which looks fairly steep but straightforward, and Peter expresses his reservations about the route. In all fairness, I understand - he has no point of reference, and from this point of view to someone who has never done this kind of thing before it does look somewhat scary. We go about our camp chores, have as much food as we can, and hit the sack early, before it is dark. Although there is some disagreement about get-up time, we settle for around 5:00am.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day 2 Climb - click map to view
Climb Data - Mt Baker, Day 2
* : +/- 75 feet
Day 2 - Elevation over distance
Day 2 - Elevation over time