The Main Event
Climb of Mount Baker via the Coleman-Deming Route
The showpiece event of this trip was now upon us: a multi-day climb of Mount Baker, where Peter and Markus would be able to put to use all of the backyard rope training and silly snow-sliding we'd done thus far.
Mount Baker is the most northerly of the U.S. Cascade Volcanos. It is just south of the Canada-US border, and rises almost 10,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. It is draped with huge glaciers, some advancing, and receives several hundred *feet* of snow per year.
We elect to tackle the Coleman-Deming route, which is one of the two standard popular routes up Mount Baker. Starting elevation is about 3800 feet, with a summit elevation of almost 10,800 feet. Total distance from trailhead to summit is about 13 kilometres, with more than half of that being travel on glaciers and snow slopes. The plan is to spend at least two nights camping out. We have extra days in our pocket and so if it takes longer, we'll be able to handle it. The weather continues to be absolutely perfect with an unbroken string of perfectly cloudless days behind us and a good forecast ahead of us. Hopefully our luck in that area will continue for just a little while longer....
After gaping at the huge spectacle that the mountain presents to us from a nearby lookout, we get busy packing our large backpacks to the brim with all sorts of necessary (and probably unnecessary) stuff. It takes us nearly 2 hours to fully pack up and by the time we are ready it is nearly 3 in the afternoon, and we're a bit concerned about being able to get to a campsite before dark. There aren't any permit restrictions on Baker, and so we are glad that we are starting off on a weekday when there aren't going to be too many people.
The packs are huge and ungainly... wobbling off up the trail is a slow, tiring affair, made a little better by the fact that the trail has good footing. There is one point along the way where the trail makes a crossing of a small rushing creek - no big deal with no pack, but with a big load it becomes quite tricky, but we all make it across safely. We hope to camp at what is called "the hogsback": an above-treeline area of rock and moraines just below the snow/glacier line, at 6000 feet. The trail turns into a climber's path and becomes much steeper, but also breaks out of the trees into open areas with glorious multi-colored wildflowers. Mount Baker and its massive glaciers stand behind, providing excellent photo opportunities.
Surprising ourselves, we manage the 6000' campsite by 6pm, and thankfully there are many spots available. In the clear calm evening light, Mount Baker's summit looks so close as to be touchable.... but we know that many hours of toiling remain.
Camp is made, food is eaten, and Markus hand-blows his deluxe rubber-line air mattress up, and we are ready for bed, nice and early, hoping the weather will hold.