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Mt. Baker as first climb?
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Eric De Paoli
(EricD) - F

Locale: EricD
Mt. Baker as first climb? on 06/22/2010 10:51:12 MDT Print View

Hello everyone,

This summer I'm looking to make a start into my developing passion of mountaineering, along with some of my friends who are looking to start. We all have little to no mountaineering experience, but have been snowshoeing, backpacking, and climbing multiple times, and are fairly developed climbers.

We talked recently and decided that Mt. Baker would be a good first climb for us because it is close to home, not that it really matters but saves us gas money... It is also not too elevated, so the chance of HAPE or HACE would be low, It is a fairly populated route, so if things do go wrong, there is lots of help available.

My biggest concerns are the glaciers and the possibility of getting altitude sickness. Because we have no experience with either really, we were going to take a few day courses over the summer to learn the basic skills, and then when it came to the climb we would spend an extra day on the mountain to practice those.

In addition, my climbing partners don't really wish to pay for a guide, which might be needed. I thought that it might be possible to go with the alpine club... just a thought worth mentioning.

So, what does everyone think about doing Mt. Baker as our first climb?


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Mt. Baker as first climb on 06/22/2010 11:26:47 MDT Print View

How about trying Mt. Adams.

No crevasses on the standard route, no ropes needed. But there are plenty of snow fields, lots of glissading, it can get windy, you need an ice axe, and it's pretty high.

Note that many years ago, in a similar situation, my buddy and I climbed Mt. Baker for our first adventure. Subsequently we did Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Adams (so I didn't follow my own advice!).

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Mt. Baker as first climb? on 06/22/2010 12:33:53 MDT Print View

Hi Eric,

Baker was my first climb and it went splendidly (except for the worst sunburn of my life). But, we had a guide and I'd strongly recommend one for an inexperienced group. We roped up and had to cross several crevasses, in some cases leaping over while belayed.

In addition, you must have ice axe, belay and self-arrest skills, as you'll be on steep icy slopes with hundreds of vertical feet to slide down in the event of a fall.

Definiitely not a beginners' trip, but with some training and leadership, it can certainly be done.



Eric De Paoli
(EricD) - F

Locale: EricD
Mt. Baker on 06/22/2010 13:12:04 MDT Print View

Thanks for the quick responses,

I kind of figured that it would be more difficult than we had expected. My other friends seem to have the mindest that we could just drive up and give'r and all will be fine, which is really very wrong. They aren't ones to consider the risk and danger, something that they should do more often...

What would the dangers be on Mt. Adams comparably to Mt. Baker? Seems like a more reasonable option as of now.

The biggest problem for us right now is how far away it is. We all are from Vancouver, and are students, so we don't exactly have alot of cash to get there and back.

Edited by EricD on 06/22/2010 13:25:32 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Diamox and Mt Adams on 06/22/2010 14:09:36 MDT Print View

I'd recommned going guideless on a route that can be done without glacial crevasse issues.
Guideless is more adventuresome, and you won't have to worry about lacking technical skills if you choose a crevasse free route. (although you should practice some self arrest skills no matter what you do).

If Mt Adams can be done without glacial crevasses I'd recommend Adams over Baker as a first climb.
(I've done Rainier twice but never been on Baker or Adams).

Skills are required for glacier/crevasse issues.
But all that's required for altitude is a little intelligence and prudence.

for altitude, 3-4 days of acclimating is always best.
but last year I used Diamox for the first time and it worked wonders for someone going from sea level to 11,000 feet in 36 hrs.

Edited by asandh on 06/22/2010 14:17:52 MDT.

Eric De Paoli
(EricD) - F

Locale: EricD
Mt. Baker on 06/23/2010 16:09:57 MDT Print View

Thanks, though I think we will be spending an extra day on any mountain to acclimatize anyways.

Seems like my other group members are fairly set on doing Mt. Baker. While I know this is a dangerous thing to do, Im constantly looking for ways to make it safer, and I won't do it unless it is.

Regardless, which route should we take? We're looking for something easy, but something beautiful, and not one that the snowmobilers could just drive up...

We've been looking into doing the Coleman glacier route.

Edited by EricD on 06/23/2010 16:36:05 MDT.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Mt. Baker as first climb? on 06/24/2010 11:33:54 MDT Print View

First, I would not recommend Mt. Baker for anyone not familiar with glacier climbing. But if you insist, for inexperienced climbers, I would certainly recommend the Coleman Glacier route over any other easily accessible route on Mt. Baker. There are a few crevasses to cross; more of them later in the season and it is not a particularly steep route. You can avoid some of the crevasses if you keep to the right of the glacier and work your way to the saddle but most parties just go straight up the middle. Once you reach the saddle between the Black Buttes and Mt. Baker the climb steepens as you ascend a cleaver and some glacier slope to the summit plateau. The summit is to the NE side of the summit plateau.

For most Seattle-ites, Mt. Baker is considered a weekend climb; few bother with acclimatization. They just go climb it and are back at work on Monday. I am not familiar with there having been altitude related problems on Mt. Baker but I am sure that there have been some.

As others recommend, if you are not familiar with crampons, ice axe technique, self arrest, crevasse rescue technique and roped climbing you should probably cut your teeth on something less glaciated. Mt. Adams is a good suggestion.

To your friends, you might point out that "Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from using bad judgment."

Edited by Rincon on 06/24/2010 11:38:36 MDT.

Eric De Paoli
(EricD) - F

Locale: EricD
Re on 06/24/2010 12:06:35 MDT Print View

Thanks for the insight Charles,

I knew it was a long shot with our abilities... Now I just need to convince them to do something else.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
First climb on 06/27/2010 23:11:39 MDT Print View

Baker is considered the most glaciated peak in the lower 48, I would not recommend it to those without glacier mountaineering experience.

You might consider Sahale Arm, there you would get to play with an ice-axe and crampons and scramble to the summit. No crevasses though. Colchuck Peak via the Colchuck Glacier rout, and Stewart via the Cascadian Coular would also be good options.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 06/27/2010 23:24:10 MDT Print View

do you climb? How much experience have you had with that? If you know partner and self rescue then you have many of the tools you need. I'd go up to Whistler and practice glacer and self rescue for a day with a book, maybe get someone who has done so to help you out.
Its not rocket science but it is alot to learn (do you know how to ice climb; ice climbing, knowing how to rescue a partner from a multi-pitch route, and a lot reading might mean you the tools you need). If you are learning how to arrest, walk on a glacier, navigate one, avoid falling and pulling everyone down into a cravase, and pulling someone out of one, while trying to climb a mountain might be a bit much.
I'd say practice before you go.
If not, follow close behind, or just ahead, of a large guided party, realize what you did and dont get cocky on your next climb.

Edited by nanookofthenorth on 06/27/2010 23:25:01 MDT.

Matt Allen
(zeroforhire) - MLife
^ +1 on 01/18/2011 14:02:10 MST Print View

Robert has good advice. Follow it.

Take a class, read some books, and get lots of practice. There are a number of things you need to be aware of on a glaciated peak. Baker is an amazing climb, but in order to fully enjoy it you should feel confident in your abilities to travel on the glacier safely.

Also, as previously mentioned, Mt. Adams is a great warm up climb for Baker.

Oh... I am pretty sure the mountain that is the most glaciated in the lower 48 is Mt. Rainier. If I recall correctly, Baker is 2nd.

Edited by zeroforhire on 01/18/2011 14:05:51 MST.

stephan q
(khumbukat) - F
"so if things do go wrong, there is lots of help available" on 01/18/2011 14:16:47 MST Print View

This attitude will surely lead to trouble. Please learn the basics before venturing out, and remember, other parties are there to climb, not to save you.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Mt. Baker as first climb on 01/18/2011 14:42:37 MST Print View

There are no crevasses on Adams on the standard route, just a long hike, sometimes on somewhat steep snow (usually with good runouts). Bring an ice axe. I didn't use crampons, but I understand conditions can require them. I went in late summer so there was no ice.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Cascade volcanoes on 01/18/2011 17:02:56 MST Print View

The volcanic peaks of the Cascades are no place for the inexperienced, unguided. There is ample opportunity on all of them for an inexperienced climber to get into serious trouble. If you do not know how to use an ice ax and crampons and, equally important, when to use them, go with a guide or get instruction and make at least your first few trips as part of an experienced party. This advice also applies to routes like the Cascadian Couloir on Mt. Stuart. There is a small, innocuous, low angle stretch at the top of the Couloir that is often icy and has been the site of two very serious injuries that I know of personally to highly experienced climbers who took it lightly in the euphoria that accompanies coming off the summit after one of the more challenging routes on Stuart(the Couloir is the standard descent route off Stuart for most routes). Do yourself,and SAR, a favor by reconsidering this project.

Edited by ouzel on 01/18/2011 17:50:45 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Cascade volcanoes on 01/18/2011 17:34:57 MST Print View

Tom makes a good point. It is often the sheer youthful strength that gets a person to the top of one of those volcanoes. Then it is the lack of experience that gets them into trouble on the way down.

Many years ago, I did a first solo snow climb on Mount Shasta. I had to learn how to put crampons on at 10,000 feet on the way up, and I had to learn how to use an ice axe at 13,000 feet on the way down. It's a wonder that I didn't break my neck. But, we're immortal at that age.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Cascade volcanoes on 01/18/2011 17:49:14 MST Print View

"But, we're immortal at that age."

Those of us that survive. ;-]

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
mt. baker on 01/21/2011 16:04:16 MST Print View

Sounds like he doesn't even own an ice axe or crampons. If you haven't practiced self arrest like what to do if you slip head first down slope on your back, you have no place on Mt. Baker. Of course they used to run a race up Baker with hordes of folks who never knew how to self arrest either, nor brought any gear in which to do said self arresting... It got canceled when someone on the easy(Colmen-Demming) route slipped and died IIRC. If you go in June/July, you will be hard pressed to even see a crevasse on said route where you have no choice but to step over it. Later of course all of said snow is gone and the crevasses are wide open. Early season it will be a slush fest route as well. It can be bullet hard ice though if it froze solidly during the night!

Guide Shmide. Its mostly money down a rat hole unless you have no gumption and self motivation. Those sarcastic comments being said: Guides can teach you far faster than you can teach yourself as you feel COMPELLED to learn quickly as you PAID good money to them to teach you instead of doing the teaching yourself.

Book: $15 from
Guide: $400
You still have to buy the same equipment to do it safely. Though you see ppl on Baker all the time with at most ski/treking poles or none at all.

You do the math. As someone up thread wrote its not rocket science(crevasse Rescue). Go to a ski resort parking lot where the snow is piled VERY steeply and "cliffish" and practice there. Also practice your self arrests on a 35-45 degree slope and learn just how amazing fast you accelerate and how long it takes to react to stop yourself. I am not talking slush conditions or fresh snow either. I am talking icy conditions.

Summit can be 30mph winds far below freezing while you are shorts and no shirt down below in the middle of the day.

PS. I find the volcanoes damned boring really. I would far rather go climb mt. Triumph, anything in the Pickets, Geribaldi, Mt. Olympus, Enchantments, Dome Peak, Shucksan(right next to Baker and FAR more interesting IMO)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: mt. baker on 01/21/2011 16:39:32 MST Print View

"Go to a ski resort parking lot where the snow is piled VERY steeply and "cliffish" and practice there. Also practice your self arrests on a 35-45 degree slope and learn just how amazing fast you accelerate and how long it takes to react to stop yourself."

If anybody here knows the Avalanche Gulch Route on Mount Shasta, you probably know Helen Lake (where everybody camps). I used to teach self arrests directly above our camp, because part of it was very steep, and there was a perfect runout. Even if a beginner did everything wrong, he would simply slide a little farther.

One of us would stand at the bottom with the beginners, and doing the talking. Then one of us would trudge up the steep slope and then demonstrate, beginning with a backflip into the air to simulate an unexpected fall. The demonstrator would attempt to fully arrest within a second or two as a good example. Then the beginners would spread out on the slope and try it themselves. With the perfect runout below them, they had little fear. Once they practiced it a few times, they were qualified to go further up the mountain, as a group.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: mt. baker on 01/21/2011 17:58:22 MST Print View

"Also practice your self arrests on a 35-45 degree slope and learn just how amazing fast you accelerate and how long it takes to react to stop yourself."

There has been a lot said about self arrest so far, but one critical aspect of it hasn't been mentioned so far; The ability to self arrest is extremely dependent on the type of surface you fall on. It is one thing to self arrest on most snow surfaces including hard pack, and quite another to self arrest on the hard, brittle snow generally known as "styrofoam", or ice. In the latter case, unless you are a real pro or very fortunate, your chances of getting a solid plant with the pick of your ax are minimal, and you very quickly will reach a velocity where the ax will be ripped from your hands even if you did manage to get it planted. This is particularly true for situations where the person is headed down hill head first on their back, etc. There simply is not enough time to orient for a plant before one is going too fast to execute a successful arrest, even with good technique. What I am leading up to here is that proper technique when navigating slopes under these conditions should be emphasized as much as, if not more than, self arrest. The operative principle is DON'T FALL!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: mt. baker on 01/21/2011 18:24:00 MST Print View

What Tom just stated is very true. If you are sliding on a gentle slope with good snow, you can simply roll onto your ice axe and make the arrest good. That's good practice.

One time I tried to do a sitting glissade, and I couldn't get enough speed to sustain it. So, I kept trying harder and harder to hit the icy slope just right. All of a sudden, the icy slope was there, and I took off like a bullet. Fortunately, I still had the ice axe wrist strap attached. I tried to roll first, and the ice axe kicked out. Then I did a side-to-side reverse and tried to stab the ice axe in to the other side, and it kicked out also. Then I reversed again and stabbed it in. Well, it caught and just about pulled my shoulder out of socket. But, that's OK.

Once in a while, people will try to descend without the wrist strap attached. Well, the ice axe gets yanked out of your hand on the first try, and then you have a long fast fall to the bottom. Not recommended. It is a little like going for a ride inside a food processor.