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This page documents our attempt to climb the Boulder Cleaver route on Mount Baker in northwestern Washington in July of 2009 (July 27,28, and 29, to be precise). This outing was part of a larger 10-day trip to the west coast (click here to read the general narrative for the trip).

Brian and Caroline were accompanying Jenn and I on this Baker adventure. I had already been in the Vancouver area for several days, so our first order of business was to head to the airport to pick them up. We arrived with pretty good timing, managing to snap a picture of their Westjet 737-700 as it came in for a landing.
Brian and Caro Arrive
After picking them up shortly after noon, we immediately headed south towards Mt Baker. The day was clear and very hot -- like the majority of days that summer on the west coast -- and we had the air conditioning cranked. We had an annoyingly long wait at the border, but even so, we had enough of a time buffer to make it to a grocery store (for Brian) and to a ranger station, where we got the latest climbing reports, obtained our 'blue bags', and purchased a Northwest Forest Pass (needed for pretty much all trailhead parking in the US northwest).

After a tasty dinner at Lorenzo's Restaurant in Sedro Woolley, we headed east on Highway 20, then north on Baker Lake road, eventually shacking up at the Panorama Point campground on Baker Lake. We chose that spot because it was only a few kilometres from the start of the Boulder Ridge Trail -- the beginning of our route up Mount Baker. Just before reaching the campground, we crossed a muddy, turbulently-flowing Boulder Creek, and were treated to an impressive, looming view of Mt Baker and our route. Looked big and steep!
Gateway to the North Cascades
First look at Baker
Panorama Point Campspot
Before I continue onwards, let me give a quick overview of our plans. As you may already know, Mt Baker is one of the so-called Cascade Volcanoes. The list of Cascade volcanoes contains numerous entries, including more famous ones like Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier, and they dot the western edge of North America from Northern California to British Columbia. Mt Baker is one of the larger of these volcanoes, and is notable for being heavily glaciated. In fact, it has more ice volume than Mt Rainier, even though it is a fair bit lower.
Baker, Aerial View
I had already climbed Baker in 2002 with Markus and Peter Krug (click here to read that report). Jenn and Brian had both indicated a long-held interest in climbing Mt Baker, so we had arranged this climb. Not wanting to re-do the Coleman-Deming route -- a route I had already done -- I picked something a little more interesting on the other side of the peak: the Boulder Cleaver route. This route is a little steeper and a little harder than the Coleman-Deming route, and on top of that is less busy. It climbs up Boulder Ridge and Boulder Cleaver (a radial ridge separating two major glaciers on the mountain), and then near the top climbs on the Boulder Glacier up to the summit.

Given that we (our little informal climbing group) don't get to do glacier climbing that often, I debated whether or not we should do this route or the easier Easton Glacier route. I spent many hours during the month leading up to this climb carefully monitoring online climbing reports. Conditions seemed good, and the way seemed relatively clear from photos. The only little concern in the back of my mind was the very hot weather and forecast the northwest was experiencing during this summer. Would the snow conditions on the glaciers be good enough, I thought?

I waffled back and forth, but in the end it seemed like the Boulder Cleaver would be doable for us, and so here we were, at the Panorama Point campground, making the last packing preparations for an early morning start on the Boulder Ridge trail.

The hot weather made for a buggy and sticky stay at the campground, but fortunately later during the night it cooled down sufficiently to get a decent sleep.
Shuksan and Baker Lake
Quick swim for Jenn
Morning at Baker Lake
We were up with the sun the next morning, putting our packed packs into the car and heading off for the Boulder Ridge trailhead. We again stopped at Baker Lake road's crossing of Boulder creek to snap a few more impressive shots of Baker. From this angle it looked positively towering -- not surprising considering that the road here was at about 1,000 feet, and the summit was way, way about at almost 11,000 feet. Looking at a 10,000 foot gain up close like that is very impressive.
Boulder creek and Baker
Baker from Below
A Purple Cascade
We then proceeded to head up the [very nicely maintained] gravel forest roads to the Boulder Ridge trailhead. The road switchbacked up the lower part of Boulder ridge, eventually reaching the 2800-ish foot level in a nice large and very empty parking lot. Looks like we would be the only people on this side of the mountain today!
Closer look at Route
Boulder Ridge Parking Lot
Boulder Ridge Trail
Sweating profusely even though it was not even 8am, we readied our packs for departure. We were looking forward to getting up above treeline, as the bug situation was fairly annoying. It was mostly an infestation of what looked like regular houseflies - tons of them. Although they didn't bite (much), there were so many and they buzzed around so much and landing on everything that they were as annoying as heck.

We made off somewhere around 8am, heading into the relative coolnes of the lush forest at the Boulder Ridge Trailhead.
Ready to go
Beautiful Forest Path
Beautiful Forest Path
The trail starts off at only a slight grade, and is mostly flat through the first few kilometres. This part of the trail is maintained and is in excellent shape - uneroded, not muddy, very even. It was substantially better than I expected, actually. A nice start to our adventure.

The trail headed north, traversing some distance below the crest of the still-forested Boulder Ridge. From my examination of various trail reports, I knew that the maintained portion of the trail ended at a marshy meadow, at which point we'd downgrade to a 'climber's path'.
Brian on the go
A quick break
Wilderness Boundary
The trail's nice grooming and good footing gradually fell away as we made progress, become muddier and rootier. Shortly after crossing into the Mt Baker wilderness (marked by a sign), we arrived at the marshy meadow (and it was indeed quite marshy, despite the long bout of recent dry weather). We got a few limited views of the white summit of Baker getting closer, and wondered when the trail would start to climb.

We squished our way across the meadow, and, shortly afterwards, the trail finally started to do some serious climbing, heading almost straight up the flank of boulder ridge to get around a deep ravine. The trail is still in forest at this point.
Marshy Meadow
Steep and Rooty
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