Friday, July 22, 2016

The North Ridge of Mount Baker (10,781ft) July 12th-14th 2016

           This trip feels like its been a long time coming and I am so glad we were able to make it happen. Joe and I had talked about doing some sort of mountaineering trip together for what seems like awhile, then he had briefly mentioned the idea of doing the North Ridge of Baker this last winter after I had done some ice climbing for the first time. Then after we had been looking at calendars and trying to find the time to actually make it happen there was a point in time where I wasn't sure if we
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were going to be able to find a window of time to do it, not to mention if the weather was going to cooperate.

Once we had found some days that would work for both of us we started watching the weather. The weather seemed to be giving an opening around the 13th and 14th of July. So the trip was set to leave the afternoon of the 12th and hike up to base camp, stay at camp and go over all the necessary knowledge things on the 13th and head out for the summit on the 14th.

So with that packing and getting gear ready began. Just like anything your new at it can be overwhelming and a bit of struggle to actually get a grasp on what your getting yourself into. Joe started to pull all of the gear out of the closet and I started to realize why weight matters so much and that we were going to be packing all this garb up the mountain. After time spent getting everything together including the rope, gear, packs and food we loaded it up in the car for the next days departure.

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We headed out around one in the afternoon. From the farm to the Heliotrope trail head was about 4 hours. Driving through some rain near the end of the drive we were expecting to be hiking through some solid weather to get to the camp. We arrived and though it was raining it wasn't terrible and we decided to head out. We started on the trail and met up with other climbers who were heading down, most of which had summited but were giving us fair warning of the rain we were about to head into. Though ironically enough the rain had stopped since we had started hiking up the switchbacks and the sun was shining. After multiple warnings we were expecting to be drenched by the time we got to camp (6000ft) but happened to arrive at the Hogsback completely dry and with light to spare.

We set up camp with some view of the mountain, the Coleman Glacier and with a tease of the ice wall we were hoping to tackle in just a couple days. My nerves and stomach at this point were starting to feel the excitement and really the unknowing feeling of what was in store.

That night we had quite the visitor when we both awoke to what sounded like a mouse running around our tent. After moving everything around then eventually taking everything out and with no
luck we thought we were going crazy until the little beedy eyes of our rodent friend peeked up around me. After much persuasion he finally left the tent but needless to say it was quite the entertainment for the evening!

The next morning we woke up to a socked in mountain but I was ready to tackle the day and get started fine tuning the skills Joe had briefly taught me the last few months. We started with self arresting which I had done a little bit of on Mt. Ellinor while glissading down a couple months ago. Then went on to work on Crevasse rescue. Which we had done a little bit of on the farm along with watching some videos but honestly I felt like a deer in the headlights and was glad to be able to go over it a couple of times and be able to problem solve with someone who knows what they are doing. Later that afternoon we ended up roping up and
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climbing to the top of the Hogsback as practice for glacier travel. As we were climbing I lead and happened upon our first crevasse which put my stomach in my throat. Once we got to the top we were able to get a pretty solid look at the climb and decide whether we wanted to tackle the traditional Coleman-Demming route or the harder and more technical North Ridge. With all things considered the traditional route almost guaranteed a summit on a blue bird day, where as The north ridge was ominous but would add technical climbing that would otherwise not be contributed.

After climbing down and making Annies Mac n Cheese (a staple for all outdoor adventures) for dinner we decided on the North Ridge. Quite the thought for my first idea of mountaineering but I think my saving grace was the fact that I really didn't know what I was going to see the next day.

We took some melatonin and set an alarm for 2:30 the morning of the 14th. With hopes to make it to the top of the hogsback at sunrise to see the glacier field. We left around 3:15 and made it to the top in about 50 minutes. The sun came up earlier than initially assumed, around 4:00AM. After making
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great time we headed towards the Coleman Glacier with Joe leading. The Snow was hard and made for great Climbing. It was the first time I had used my Crampons (Petzl Lynx) and they were working great. I was nervous but physically felt quite good for my lack of training prior to the trip. We were stepping over crevasses and I was definitely starting to get a feel of my sea legs. But as the crevasses got larger I tended to not look in them especially the ones that could easily swallow a car. We ended up following some tracks that headed across the Glacier field and came to a fork at a massive crevasse. We went right uphill around and were walking between what seemed like the hole to the bottom of the earth after realizing that we had made the wrong decision we back tracked back down to the the fork and went left. But first Joe had drawn an arrow for future climbers to help them not make the same decision. We started climbing and finally came to the point where we got to the ridge prior to the Ice Wall. You could only see the first steep part and beyond that was behind rock and ice fall. Joe looked
at me and asked how I was feeling, physically great but mentally I was intimidated but ready to go. We got to the first quite steep part which was probably around a 60 degree angle. The snow was great for climbing so it made foot placements pretty solid.

We made it to the top of our first steep hill and could not really tell where to go from here. The ridge was now to our right but the bridge to get there was steep, at an angle and something that I don't think I could mentally undertake at this point in time. We decided to keep going left of the ridge. After walking through old avalanche debris we started up our next grade. This is where it really sank in for me. We traded our trekking poles for an Ice Tool and started up. It was steep, and I didn't look down once. My body at this point was most definitely getting tired and mentally I knew that I was climbing pretty well but it probably wouldn't last for long. Joe had pointed out two other climbers that were now ascending the Ice Wall, and I knew that we had quite a climb to still get there and I was getting tired. We got to the point where we were able to see where the route headed back to the ridge and needed to decide whether or not to keep going. I knew that I could make it to the Ice Wall but what I didn't think I could do was be able to climb it successfully once we were there, and with that we decided to turn around. We made it to about 8500 ft.
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Going down the grades was no easy feat, Slow moving we made it safely back to camp and I sat down and was completely exhausted. But with the fact that we still had two hours of hiking still ahead of us just to get back to the car in the back of my mind. And honestly the hike back down was probably the most brutal part of the whole trip. Tired and aching feet I had yet to have the feeling of complete absolute muscle pain to the point of tears until this point. By the time I had gotten to the car I had made solid note of not to hike in mountaineering boots and leave them for the climbing of ice and mountains and leave the hiking boots to do the trail walking.
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Needless to say there are a few things I have learned from this trip.
 One being that fitness matters, not only physically but mentally.
Knowing your strong suits and trusting the person your with.
 I know for a fact there was no way I was going to be able to make it up that Ice Cliff that day but sure as hell doesn't mean I wont ever make it up..
 Taking a deep breath and taking one more step is always a good idea.
Crevasses are fucking huge and not to be messed with.
 And finally Im completely stoked on the sport of mountaineering and trying to better myself at it.

Im relatively new still to the sport of climbing in general. I had climbed for the first time ever the spring of last year, ice climbed for the first time this last winter and just ventured out and did my first trad climbing just a couple of weeks ago, then topping it off with the first mountaineering experience this last week. Needless to say its pretty awesome in a lot of ways, and Im stoked to learn more.

So grateful to my boyfriend Joe, who was beyond patient and willing to let me tag along on this trip. Thanks to him I'm hooked and ready to do it again! Hopefully one day there will be a trip report on The North Ridge with a summit picture!
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