Mt. Baker (North Ridge) Trip 2 - '88

My Photos of Mt. Baker climb (North Ridge route)

   It was the weekend of July 30/31, 1988.  Erich, Rob, and I set out to climb Mt. Baker (10,778' elevation) via the North Ridge. As recorded in Wayne's Journal, we met at the North Gate Park & Ride in N. Seattle at 7:00 am.  This is basically the same weekend we attempted the route a year ago. We stopped in Marysville and had breakfast. We drove to Bellingham, and then took the scenic Mt. Baker Highway. The Mt. Bakery was still along the highway at this time; I previously had purchased a Mt. Bakery Washington T-shirt there [more about this later]. We registered at the Ranger Station in Glacier, WA. We then drove to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead. We were hiking at 12:15 pm. I had my Koflach plastic boots for this trip w/ inner boot and super gaiters. These boots worked well with adjustable hinged crampons. It was an 86 degree day in Seattle today. The weather was nice on Mt. Baker also. We reached the foot of the glacier at 2:00. It took us an hour to rope up for the glacier.  I prefer an ice axe to be about 67 cm in length for glacier travel. It took us 50 minutes to reach our camp site at 7,500' next to some rocks. 

   Unlike last year's trip, we did not bring a tent with us.  We decided to bivy instead. I had my down sleeping bag I bought from Schonhofen Design (Seattle) in '86 for $460, which I knew would be more than adequate. I used it with a bivy bag.  We soon had dinner; afterward we had some Jiffy Pop. It was a beautiful evening. It was twilight until 10:30 pm. The lights of Bellingham were clearly visible. Climbers passed by our camp between 11:30 pm and 3:30 am. It was quiet except for the sound of crampons on snow. There was a full moon also. I didn't sleep much, but it was a very pleasant evening.

   We got up at 3:30 am and had breakfast. At 5:00 we were roped up and ready to climb. We had to go high across the glacier to get to the "shortcut route" to the North Ridge. We had to back track to get around some crevasses. We reached the base of the "shortcut" at 6:00 am. We took a water break and put our helmets on. We had snow pickets handy in case we needed them.

   We headed up the shortcut route to get to the ridge crest. We traversed left up a ramp of snow…We then headed up angling to our right  on a 40 degree snow field. We reached the top of the ridge crest at 7:15; we took a half hour break to get our ice tools out. We had a rack w/ 10 ice screws and carabiners.

   It took about an hour to reach the nose of the ice cliff. Rob lead the way along this section and placed 4 ice screws for running belays. The ice was solid for a few rope lengths. We chopped a platform when we got to the first belay point. We used ice screws at the belay stations. Rob did a good job of leading up the first pitch of the ice cliff, and set several ice screws along this section. We had a 165' rope, and Rob made it to a nice flat spot close to a cave in the ice. I believe Beckey mentioned this cave in Reference 1 (Chapter 13). We were all at this second belay point at 10:00 am. I was using a 60 cm axe and a 50 cm hammer. Each of us used 2 ice tools along this 65 degree ice cliff section.

   Erich lead the 2nd pitch, which was not as steep as the first pitch. He did a good job leading along this section. One needs to be careful here to not get too close to the ridge crest, as there is a potential overhang. We chopped some platforms to stand on at the third belay point. We reached the 3rd belay point at 10:45 am.

   Rob lead up the 3rd pitch, which was less steep than the 2nd pitch; it had a slope of 45 degrees w/ a lot of exposure. We used 24" snow picket(s) along this section. After this it gradually became less steep, so we put the ice tools away, and used one axe per climber. At 12:45 pm we reached a flat bench just below the true summit. We took a 15 min. break and got some food and water.

   We started climbing again at 1:00 pm. We thought about traversing left to get to the false summit, but decided (due to crevasses) that it would be better to take a direct route to the false summit. Rob placed one ice screw for a running belay along this section. We reached the false summit at 2:00 pm. It was windy on top. 

   We continued on and reached the true summit at 2:20pm. I was surprised that we had the summit to ourselves. I wore a poly balaclava [same one I used during a Winter ascent of Mt. Adams] due to the wind. It seemed really nice to have good visibility on the summit. The previous time I was on Mt. Baker's summit it was white-out conditions. This time some of the surrounding mountains were in the clouds (e.g. Mt. Shuksan), however, Mt. Baker was in the sunshine!

   We took several pictures on the summit, but didn't talk much because of the wind. We headed down at 3:00 pm. Part way down we took our crampons off because the snow was soft. In some places there was a thin layer of snow on ice.  We reached the saddle at 4:00 pm; we stopped for 5 min. and had some water.

   It was hot descending the glacier toward camp. When we got to camp we were in the clouds. We had a snack. Then picked up camp.  We were roped up at 6:00 pm.

   We reached the foot of the glacier at 6:20, and unroped. We reached the trailhead at 7:45 and found 3 Classic Cokes waiting for us in the cooler. I put on my "Mt. Bakery Washington" T-shirt, which I thought was appropriate (see photo)!

   We signed out at the Ranger Station and found out there was a party that turned around because one of them broke a crampon.

   We got back to Seattle at midnight.


1. "Challenge of the North Cascades", F. Beckey, 2nd edition, 1977

Note: Trip 1 of this set of slides can be found at Sitemap->States(US)->Washington->Mt. Baker (North Ridge) Trip 1 - '87.

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