Mt Baker attempt

Three of us headed down to Mt Baker for a weekend summit attempt June 14-16. Weather forecasts the preceding week proved unfortunately accurate and the weekend ended up rainy and cloudy. An earlier plan to go the traditional approach up Coleman-Deming on foot was scuppered with predictions of 8-12" of fresh snow. The weather was made more annoying having seen a cloud-free Mt Baker from my office window the day before we were due to leave. But such is mountaineering!

We arrived in Glacier at the ranger station on the Friday around noon, and the weather was just beginning to turn. With some time to spare before a Saturday morning start, we decided to head up to the ski resort - on the side of Shuksan - for some leg-stretching. We parked at the top of the road and hiked up to the base of the cinder cone for a few ski laps in the mixed rain and sun.

That night we drove up the Heliotrope road to the ridge access parking lot to spend the night in the driving rain before a morning start. We were thankful to have cars to sleep in given the conditions, waking up to sleet on our windshields.

Non-plussed by the continuing rain at 6am, we nevertheless pushed ahead with a 7:30am departure for the trailhead, planning to go until “it no longer made sense”.

By 10 we had made it to the Hogsback camp in what was becoming a white out. Guided groups were setting up camp and working on glacier skills.

We decided to press on as “you never know” (although we had a good idea it wasn’t getting better). On skis we ascended onto the Coleman glacier and began an ascent in a driving snow/sleet combo. From what we could tell we were the only people on the glacier, which while peaceful suggested conditions were not ideal.

We reached the Black Buttes and the high route up the Glacier. After pushing a bit further on, until maybe 8000’ (perhaps 3 hrs from the summit), we paused to re-assess. At this point, confronted by increasingly poor conditions and unfamiliarity with the terrain, we made the decision to pull the plug and retreat.

The upside to this decision was some decent skiing/boarding as we rapidly descended 800m in about 10 minutes, with only the odd face plant as we struggled to make sense of speed and position in our white world.

A short walk down the trail and we were back at the trailhead. Naturally, as we drove out the sun re-appeared, although only for a short time. Fortunately Mt Baker is not going anywhere and we will be back.

Nice trip report Neil~! Good on you for the attempt. It is really odd weather this year with late snow, but of course it can snow at any time of the year on Baker. I hope you get a chance to try again.