North Ridge, Mount Baker

This moderate ice climb leads to the summit of Mount Baker. The route is approached from well-maintained logging roads and a good trail leading to the glacier's edge. As is true with all volcano climbs, a relatively easy descent can become treacherous with icy conditions or poor visibility. This is a popular climb, though certainly not as busy as other routes on the mountain.

The climb requires little in the way of special gear, though parties should carry six ice screws or so, and some parties also carry pickets along with their other glacier travel and crevasse rescue gear. Parties have become lost in white outs, and crevasses may present a navigation problem. GPS (or strong navigation skills), alpine mountaineering skills, and a self- contained party may be important components to a successful climb.

  The climb starts at Heliotrope Ridge trailhead, about 8 miles up the "Glacier Creek" logging road from the Mount Baker Highway, WA State Route 542. The Glacier Creek turnoff is about 2 miles east of the town of Glacier, Washington. Good trails lead to timberline, though creek crossings can be troublesome early season and a right fork must be taken at approximately 3 miles. (If you miss the turn the trail soon ends at an overlook providing a good view of the lower part of the Coleman Glacier.) Good campsites can be establised below the edge of the glacier, at about 6,000 feet, or higher up on flat snow at about 7,000 feet.

  The route up and accross the glacier is relatively straight-forward in winter and into the early part of the summer, though you will still have to wind around and climb in/out of crevasses. Later in the year, it may become necessary to follow the "standard" Coleman/Demming Glacier route nearly to the col between the main peak and the Black Butte's, to the SW (leaving it at approximately 8,500 feet), and then traverse left and downward, passing shortly below the foot of the Coleman Glacier headwall. Even with this detour, you may have to climb in and out of a few crevasses to gain access to the steep slopes heading up to the North Ridge, shortly below the ice cliff. Some parties will climb the lower part of the North Ridge partly on the east side of its crest while others head up more steeply and directly on the west side of the crest.

  The icecliff itself is not difficult. One can make a near- vertical 80-90 foot pitch out of it, but it is also possible to avoid the major difficulties and, even in late season, climb very little high-angle ice at all. Either way, you'll know you actually climbed something, and you'll probably be happy to be on your way again, above the icecliff. As you climb higher, the North ridge becomes less distinct and crevasses or seracs may force some detours (mostly to the right). By mid-summer, there will be some ice climbing here, but you should be able to avoid climbing anything much over 35 degrees on this upper portion. The route tops out on the summit plateau at its west end, and a short walk leads to the actual summit, perhaps 100 feet higher.

  Descend via the "regular" Coleman-Demming route (recently replaced by the Easton Glacier Route as the most popular route on the mountain). To do so, climb south and southwest from a point near the southwest end of the summit plateau, keeping right, and locate the col between the main peak and the Black Buttes, rocky towers to the southwest (the col is about 800 feet below the summit plateau, and this descent can be icy; it may involve a crevasse crossing or two). From the col, drop westward down a steep but short headwall, where crevasses may force a detour out right, and descend the Coleman Glacier. As you descent, more large crevasses may force additional detours, generally to the right (north), but the overal descent trends lefward until you reach the flats at approximately 7,000 feet (the campsite option described above.

From the flats at 7,000 feet,drop diagonally down and right and then trend diagonally left to the bottom of the glacier and the trail at approximately 6,000 feet elevation.



Note: This route is amply described in the following guidebooks: Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume III, Fred Beckey; Select Climbs in the Cascades, Volume I, Jim Nelson aond Peter Potterfield, 2003.