Mt. Baker Climb, Easton Glacier, June 2009

Mt. Baker. View of Easton Glacier. Taken from Mt. Shuksan

Mt. Baker. View of Easton Glacier. Taken from Mt. Shuksan

Mt. Baker is 10,781 feet of sulfur sphewing volcano. It may look sleepy and peaceful, especially sporting it’s popular ski area and owning the title of world record snowfall. But don’t be fooled, as one nears the crater rim the smell of sulfur on some days can nearly flatten a climber. The crater’s fumeralos vent tall columns of sulfuric steam stating loud and clear – I am an active volcano! After Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker has the largest elevation gain (from trailhead to summit) of any Northwest volcano. The Easton Glacier Route is a Grade II (3o degree snow and ice; glacier travel; ice axe, crampons, rope, picket required) climb that gains about 7500 feet of elevation gain.

On June 5th, I headed out to bag this peak. Hiking in we noticed that a lot of snow had melted, so there were a number of stream crossings. Spent some time hiking through a basin before kicking steps up to the Railroad Grade.

Railroad Grade. Mt. Baker.

Railroad Grade. Mt. Baker.

Then hiked along the Railroad Grade until we reached 6354 feet where we set up base camp around little rock islands (perfect for creating a tropical paradise for sunbathing). We spent the evening relaxing and watching the setting sun paint the surrounding peaks pinks, yellows and oranges.

Sunset. Black Butte. Mt. Baker.

Sunset. Black Butte. Mt. Baker.

The Rainbow of Climbing Helmets. Mt. Baker in background.

The Rainbow of Climbing Helmets. Mt. Baker in background.

We relaxed the next day and the rest of our party joined us mid-day. There was a low-lying cloud cover that reached about 7,000 feet, so camp became extremely humid. At, 6am we hit the sack to attempt to get a few hours of shut eye before our 1am alpine start (meaning a midnight wake-up call).

At midnight came the call of “Let’s Go Climb”! After gearing ourselves up and tying into our rope off we headed into the night.

"Let's Go Climb!" Alpine start. Mt. Baker.

"Let's Go Climb!" Alpine start. Mt. Baker.

Once we climbed above the cloud cover we were climbing under a huge blood red full-moon. There were very few open crevasses this late in the season. The few slivers we came across were easy to step over. At 5:30 am, we reached the steaming caldera. Then headed up the Roman Wall to the summit. Summit -10,781 feet – achieved at 6:15 am. Now came the long slog back to camp, breaking down camp, and then the even longer slog out to the car. 7500 feet up, 7500 feet down. We did not reach the cars until 5 pm.

Rest of Mt. Baker photos

Sunrise over Black Butte. Mt. Baker.

Sunrise over Black Butte. Mt. Baker.

Mt. Baker Summit.

Mt. Baker Summit.

Crater. Mt. Baker. Steaming sulfur.

Crater. Mt. Baker. Sphewing sulfur.

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~ by Genevieve Hathaway on March 16, 2010.

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