It was the wee hours of Sunday morning and I was on the side of Mount Baker on the Easton Glacier, doing the final climb in my Basic Climbing and Mountaineering class. We had started on Saturday from Schreiber's Meadow, and hiked in about four miles and 3,000 feet to get to base camp. We shouldered very heavy packs, crossed streams, and saw lots of ptarmigans and marmots.
|Another large group camped below us|
|Ropes, ice axes, and prusiks ready to go|
|Westward view of the San Juan Islands from camp|
|Camp is still and quiet at 6pm|
It was a really mild night. I started hiking in only a long-sleeve base layer. It was so surreal, watching this evenly spaced line of headlamps going up the side of the mountain. Part of our class was doing the Squak Glacier route, and they later reported that they could see the northern lights!
Of course, the higher we got, the colder it got, and I slowly added more and more layers. Clouds rolled in, cutting visibility, and it got chilly. It was a pretty slow climb as we had a large group in a train of rope teams, and ended up waiting for any group in front of us that was pausing. When we were moving, I felt good. But standing on snow, and not knowing how long we'd be stopped, was torturous. My fingers and toes got cold. But you are roped together, and and at the mercy of every one else in front of you moving first.
caldera. And... that brings us back to the stinky part. That is when I started to feel more awe for where we were- it was light out, jagged outcroppings rose up behind us, and steam was rising up from the caldera below. It was other-worldly.
|Leaving the caldera|
-Mount Baker is 10,781 feet, making it the 3rd highest mountain in Washington state
-After Mount Rainier, Mount Baker is the most heavily glaciated of the Cascade Range volcanoes
-The volume of snow and ice on Mt Baker is greater than that of all the other Cascade volcanoes (except Rainier) combined
-It is one of the snowiest places in the world- In 1999, the Mt Baker ski area set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season.
|Going up the Roman Wall|
With that, we reached the almost-top. There is a big flat section before the last little bump up to the summit. We unroped, hydrated, sunscreened, and ate homemade cookies (thanks Jen!) before the grand finale.
We were floating in a sea of clouds, with Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens the only things visible. It was magical.
|Our rope team and friends on the summit! (Alice's photo)|
|Summit selfie epic fail|
|Looking down to the flat|
Some dude once said that getting to the top of a mountain is only half way. Some other guy said that getting up a mountain is optional; getting down in mandatory. Besides the Roman Wall and the freaky gaping crevasse, the descent was not that technical, and I was feeling good about getting down.
We took off crampons near where we had put them on, and started post-holing in the deep, soft snow. That was slow-going, but not bad. Then the white-out rolled in. I was leading our rope team, and we could no longer see the team in front of us, so I lead us carefully from wand to wand. I had to walk a little ways from one wand before the next fleck of hot pink tape became visible.
We finally made it back to camp sometime after noon. Luckily, there were more home-baked goods, and here are my awesome team mates resting up and eating brownies.
Some of the faster groups had time to take naps, but by the time I coiled the rope, melted snow, and ate a bagel, it was time to start packing up camp. The clouds lifted, and a bright afternoon sun came out. We hiked out, which to be honest, was probably the hardest part of the day for me. My pack was really heavy, the sun was hot and relentless, and I was tired of walking on snow. But we did get to do some glissading on the way out, which sure beats walking.
That night back in Seattle, I hung my wet stuff to dry, texted my mom that I was okay, slathered on the aloe, and drank a bunch of water. Then around 10:30 I finally crawled into bed after being up for 22.5 hours, and on my feet almost the whole time.
I don't think I have to tell you how well I slept.