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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



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Happy Curmudgeon
PostWed Oct 30, 2019 6:49 am 
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I've been considering for some time whether to add yet another trip report to the many here which have been submitted by those more accomplished hikers (and photographers) than I. Particularly given that I failed to accomplish what I had set out to do, and that was to summit Mt Baker. However I often tell those whom I'm teaching belay and basic climbing skills that you can learn more by failing, and trying again than by accidentally getting it right the first time. So, the main purpose of this report then is to offer encouragement to others who might have doubts about attempting a seemingly difficult goal. That and to provide a reference to me as I look back on what went well and what did not.

I've had Mt Baker on my mind for quite a while, and this summer I decided that I had the time to do it. I contracted with IMG (my "go-to" guide service in Ashford, WA), and set the date, and the Easton Glacier route was going to be "it".

Gear check the morning of departure was completed and the two guides and the four clients piled into two vehicles for the drive to the trailhead. Once there, we changed out of shorts 'n sandals to proper hiking apparel, and headed up through the fog and the mist (and occasional light rain) to high camp via Park Butte trail and Railroad Grade trail.

trailhead
trailhead
trail to camp
trail to camp

Each of these trails I considered to be easy enough, although both are listed as "moderate/difficult" on the WTA website. I'm not a particularly strong hiker, but I didn't find either of these trails to be challenging. The Railroad Grade trail did require paying attention to foot placement, but wasn't at all difficult.

We arrived at high camp, and there were far more people spread out in the general area than I've collectively seen in ALL other high camps I've visited put together. That makes it more interesting, and more noisy when they are getting ready to head up, and we're trying to sleep. Oh, well...

Easton Glacier terminus, clouds rolling in
Easton Glacier terminus, clouds rolling in
many camps
many camps

Following setting up camp, we walked over to a snow covered slope for the required glacier travel and fall arrest training. I've done this a few times previously, but a refresher is always a good idea.

Baker at sunrise
Baker at sunrise
Baker from trail
Baker from trail
Camp view from trail
Camp view from trail

Following a welcome, and leisurely dinner, the clouds began to lift. That view of the mountain is really spectacular. The peak, the glacier, the seracs and crevasses really are a wonderful view! Some down time with hot tea or chocolate and just visiting prior to early to bed was great, and I didn't have any of the pre-climb jitters that I've experienced on past climbs. One note of interest though - I've seen no mice on Mt Rainier, or Mt Olympus, or Mt Adams. But both peaks that I've visited in the North Cascades (Shuksan, and now Baker) have mice in camp. This means put everything in the tent - packs, poles, and especially boots. What a nuisance they are!

On summit day, we arose around 2 or 3AM, had breakfast, then geared up and started up the glacier. The night sky was clear and bright. the moon was out, the north eastern sky was beginning to lighten, winds calm and temperature was slightly brisk. I was ready for the ascent ahead, to get a closer view of all those crevasses and seracs, and the view from the summit. This is what I had been waiting for. And now I discovered mistake number 1: In my overzealous attempt to not bring so much clothing along on this trip in comparison to past trips, I'd left my softshell jacket behind. Well, the down vest and puffy jacket would just have to do. It wasn't long before I was getting warmer than I liked, but unzipping the jacket and the vest a bit helped. I would have preferred to have the softshell over the vest, and put the puffy on when we stopped, and this will be a good thing to remember for next time.

So up we went. Each peak that I've been on has been a fine experience, but the Easton Glacier approach was particularly noteworthy. Crevasses and seracs were plenty, and closeby. Close enough to take good pictures as time permitted during the occasional rest breaks.

Crevasses
Crevasses
ceracs closeup
ceracs closeup
Seracs
Seracs

Now mistake number 2 began to become a problem. The boots, particularly the left boot, were painful. REALLY painful. I had not worn them for 2 or 3 years, and apparently my feet have changed size/shape since then. Age (me) and surgery on each foot in the past must be the cause, I figure. They were comfortable enough when I bought 'em, and they were ok when I last wore them, but not now. When we stopped for a short break near 9000', I thought then about what I wanted to do: continue or turn back. Both feet hurt, a lot! I really wanted to make this summit, and I'm not accustomed to quitting, but this wasn't fun anymore! After a short rest for snacks and water, we continued uphill for maybe 10 minutes when I decided that I'd had enough and I "called it". I announced to my guide that I was done, and why. My tent mate said "you can do this, I know you can". Yes, I could, my legs were strong, no problems breathing, etc, but I was done.

Me on way back down glacier
Me on way back down glacier

Now the main point I'd like to make for anyone who thinks they've failed because they didn't complete their goal is this: be thoughtful and honest, did you quit for the right reason? And will you be "ok" with your decision later? I did, and I am.

The other guide and I went back down to camp, leisurely, and stopping often for photographs. I had the opportunity to learn a bit about glaciers and how they move, how to read the cracks, the snow bridges and so on. All considered then, I got more out of the day's climb by not continuing to the top than if I had "toughed it out"

crevasse with climbers in distance
crevasse with climbers in distance
Crevasse plug
Crevasse plug

And, one upside to the trip back to camp early is that I got to practice self arrest, successfully! About 3 steps after this picture, a crampon spike snagged the other boot and down I went! I slid a few feet, got the pick firmly planted and stopped well before my rope went tight. Good, now I know how that *really* works!

self arrest two steps later
self arrest two steps later

A few hours later everyone arrived after a successful summit. The following morning we hiked back to trailhead, then drove back to town, and dispersed.

A couple months later, I bought a new pair of boots with a wider fit, so am going to be ready to go again next year. There is always something to be learned on each of these trips to further ready myself for each successive excursion. I just love those mountains!

Now an update: I visited the surgeon who did both prior foot surgeries and learned that I have a partial tear in a tendon and a fractured bone in one toe. Well, no wonder it all hurt!

Until next time, don't get lost! :-)

exit
exit

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"Out, OUT you demons of Stupidity"! - St Dogbert, patron Saint of Technology
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Brockton
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PostWed Oct 30, 2019 7:10 am 
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Quote:
All considered then, I got more out of the day's climb by not continuing to the top than if I had "toughed it out"

I like that way of thinking about it.

Also, I enjoyed your photos, thanks!
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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



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Happy Curmudgeon
PostWed Oct 30, 2019 7:48 pm 
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Brockton wrote:
Also, I enjoyed your photos, thanks!

Thank you. And the one that I liked most was the "exit" painted on the rock next to the trail. No possible way could anyone miss the trail, but someone had to label it!  lol.gif

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"Out, OUT you demons of Stupidity"! - St Dogbert, patron Saint of Technology
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RichP
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here and there
PostThu Oct 31, 2019 7:17 am 
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Gear issues sometimes don't become evident until we are in the thick of it. Best of luck with the new boots, healing up and bagging this one next year.
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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



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Happy Curmudgeon
PostFri Nov 01, 2019 4:52 pm 
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RichP wrote:
Gear issues sometimes don't become evident until we are in the thick of it. Best of luck with the new boots, healing up and bagging this one next year.

Yeah, I'm learning, slowly. Thank you, I'm already making plans for next summer.

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"Out, OUT you demons of Stupidity"! - St Dogbert, patron Saint of Technology
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Hikerman77
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PostSat Nov 02, 2019 10:50 am 
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Great pictures and adventure. In 1983 I was just started climbing. My first climb was Mt. Baker on the boulder glacier route in early July. on the approach, I was fatigued, even though I trained hard for the climb. The next morning as we headed up the glacier , I lacked energy and coughed a lot. We stopped at the top of the boulder cleaver and the lead climber asked me how I was doing. Resting I was fine.
So we discussed the options, continue on, someone return to camp with me or I could wait for the group at the top of the cleaver on a large rocky area. I was my decision and since when I wasn't climbing I fine, I chose to rest at the top of cleaver as the rest summited.
Turns out that I was just at the beginning of bronchitis and that was why I struggled that day.  Hard decision, but it was the right one as Mt baker will always be there and I would climb it again.
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Sculpin
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PostSat Nov 02, 2019 1:44 pm 
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moonspots wrote:
this wasn't fun anymore

Keeping fun at the top of the priority list, a skill worth cultivating!   winksmile.gif

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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Brushbuffalo
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 9:57 pm 
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You used good judgement in stopping when you did.  Every trip where you arrive home safely is a good trip in my opinion.

moonspots wrote:
a crampon spike snagged the other boot and down I went! I

Tripping on one's crampons while descending is all too common. To help avoid this, I tell learners to imagine walking like a toddler with a 'load' in the diaper...feet laterally 8-12" apart. With that image in mind, they seldom miss-step. rolleyes.gif

The reason where you camped ( Sandy Camp) was so crowded last summer was that by late June the other most common route, the Coleman-Deming, was essentially 'done' due to a glacier-wide crevasse at about 8800'.
And yes, there are mice on Rainier too!

P.s.  For Baker my score is me 79 summits, Baker about 30 (did not summit).  But actually  it's a win- win. I 'win ' when we all get home safely, and the mountain 'wins' because we don't change it a bit.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Doppelganger
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 7:49 am 
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Last time I was up Railroad Grade we stayed down with the outflow of the Easton Glacier instead of climbing out with the trail to the N / NW ridge. Some tiny fumaroles and nice fat sulfur crystals near the glacier terminus (or the former terminus position in the late 90s anyways), probably still sitting there today!
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the1mitch
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 8:56 am 
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A few years ago, my kids and I got turned around in a white out on Glacier Peak. My altimeter, my map, and the terrain all agreed on where we were. My pesky compass was the only dissenting voice. We had gone 180 in a foggy basin and were climbing away from the summit. Needless to say that day became a lesson too. When I did Baker the year before that trip, everything was perfect and that experience may have led to overconfidence on my part. Good job in calling it! My nephew is an internationally accredited guide and he has stories of clients who are not as sensible as you or worse, guides who push clients into reckless situations. Keep hiking!

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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



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Happy Curmudgeon
PostThu Nov 07, 2019 9:27 am 
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Brushbuffalo wrote:
You used good judgement in stopping when you did.  Every trip where you arrive home safely is a good trip in my opinion.

Too bad it's taken me so many years to learn that!  hockeygrin.gif But, I now get to try again next summer.  up.gif

Brushbuffalo wrote:
moonspots wrote:
a crampon spike snagged the other boot and down I went! I

Tripping on one's crampons while descending is all too common. To help avoid this, I tell learners to imagine walking like a toddler with a 'load' in the diaper...feet laterally 8-12" apart. With that image in mind, they seldom miss-step. rolleyes.gif

Yeah, I *try* to do that, just like snowshoeing, but one instance of slight inattention.... Anyway, I got to learn firsthand how the self-arrest can work. Not that I am (by any metric) an expert at it now, but I'd say I'm a bit more knowledgeable.


Brushbuffalo wrote:
The reason where you camped ( Sandy Camp) was so crowded last summer was that by late June the other most common route, the Coleman-Deming, was essentiallyl 'done' due to a glacier-wide crevasse at about 8800'.

George Dunn (IMG) mentioned that, and that the Park Service apparently wasn't comfortable with a ladder across the crack. Well, that and the road to the trailhead was closed due to road repairs that particular weekend.

Brushbuffalo wrote:
And yes, there are mice on Rainier too!

I missed 'em! Little buggers must be everywhere! Which I guess ought to be expected wherever people leave bits of snacks.

the1mitch wrote:
Good job in calling it! My nephew is an internationally accredited guide and he has stories of clients who are not as sensible as you or worse, guides who push clients into reckless situations. Keep hiking!

Right, it's taken me a few decades to learn the wisdom of not having to have/do it all "right now". So I get to keep conditioning, and add another year to my activities, and we'll see how it goes.

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"Out, OUT you demons of Stupidity"! - St Dogbert, patron Saint of Technology
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Matt
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PostFri Nov 08, 2019 12:15 pm 
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moonspots wrote:
Now the main point I'd like to make for anyone who thinks they've failed because they didn't complete their goal is this: be thoughtful and honest, did you quit for the right reason? And will you be "ok" with your decision later? I did, and I am.

Excellent point, and very well stated.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Triciaann777
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PostTue Nov 12, 2019 9:37 pm 
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Great report.

1998 seemed to have alot more snow linger longer through the summer months.  We climbed it with 8 people from BCC.  Only big issue was sinking deep into a crack or crevasse up to my hip.  After a year of numbness in the thigh nerves, no regrets.  It was beautiful, and mesmerizing.  Glissading down was fun too.

I'm not a peak bagger, just want to see as much as possible before sunset.  Good for you that you learned to read the cracks!
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