Mt. Baker Climb – Coleman-Deming Route
Mt. Baker’s Coleman-Deming route is one of the two standard routes on the mountain, offering interesting, moderate climbing on the third highest peak in Washington State and the second most glaciated peak in the Lower 48. This is an excellent route for developing experience on crevassed glaciers.
On a clear day, the Coleman-Deming route offers spectacular views of the surrounding North Cascades, the San Juan islands to the west, and even Mt Rainier over 100 miles to the south.
This program is 3-days in length. Day 1 we approach our high camp via the Heliotrope Ridge trail. Days 2 is focused on skills training and review in preparation for the summit ascent of Mt. Baker the following day. Day 3 is summit day, and the descent back to the parking lot.
DAY 1 – APPROACH
We meet at 8am at the Glacier Public Service center in Glacier, WA for introductions and a gear check. After securing our permits we drive up to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead where our approach begins.
The approach takes us through old growth forest, sub-alpine transitional zones, and up onto moraines where we’ll place our camp below a lobe of the Coleman Glacier around 6,000’. We’ll be carrying 40-50 lb packs and climbing efficiency will be a theme of skills taught along the way.
We’ll construct a solid mountain camp, eat dinner, and relax for the evening. This is usually a 5-6 hour day.
DAY 2 – TRAINING
The focus of this day will be learning and reviewing foundational mountaineering skills. This area is a prime venue – right out of our camp we have access to glaciers, allowing us ample opportunity to practice snow climbing techniques, ice axe arrest, cramponing, and roped travel.
In the afternoon we discuss the climb ahead and begin our preparations for the following day. In order to maximize our rest for the following day, we eat dinner on the early side and head for bed well before dark.
DAY 3 – CLIMB
With a pre-dawn alpine start we begin our summit day. From our camp the route climbs steadily onto the Coleman Glacier, where the angle eases slightly and becomes more consistent. We climb towards a saddle between the upper mountain and Colfax Peak, a sub-peak of Mt Baker.
Our goal is find a steady rhythm that allows us to climb with maximum efficiency. We move for 1-2 hours at a time, stopping for 10-15 minute breaks between stretches.
Once above the saddle we encounter the steepest section of the route, the Roman Wall. Here the angle steepens to a sustained 35°+ for close to 1000’. Above the Roman Wall it’s a short walk across the summit plateau to the actual summit.
Depending on weather conditions we’ll spend 20-30 minutes on top, ample time to snap a few summit photos, have a snack, and take in the view.
It’s about a 3 hour descent to camp, and once there we take a short break and pack up our overnight gear. It’s another 3 hours or so back to the trailhead from here.
On the drive out we stop for a celebratory lunch where we wrap up our program.
MT. BAKER CLIMB – COLEMAN-DEMING ROUTE
PACKS & BAGS
☐ Backpack: 50-75 liter internal frame pack.
☐ Sleeping bag: Rated between 15° and 30°, down or synthetic. Keep in mind that manufacturer’s temperature ratings are subjective and serve as guidelines. RENT
☐ Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ (2) Sleeping pads: We recommend bringing one closed cell foam pad, and one inflatable pad. One of your pads can be a 3/4 length and the other a full length (ex: REI Blue Foam pad & ¾ length Thermarest Prolite).
☐ Ice axe: 50-60cm mountaineering axe (ex: Petzl Snowalker, Summit, or Sum’Tec). No leash is required. RENT
☐ Crampons: 10 or 12 point steel mountaineering crampon. Avoid waterfall ice crampons with fully rigid frames and vertical front points, as well as older crampons with leather straps. Make sure that your crampons are compatible with your boots (ex: Petzl Irvis or Vasak). RENT
☐ Harness: Alpine harness with adjustable leg loops (ex: Petzl Adjama). For safety reasons, your harness needs to be less than 10 years old and in good condition. Be sure to check the fit of your harness. RENT
☐ (1) Locking carabiner: Pear shaped recommended (ex: Petzl Attache or Attache 3D).
☐ (1) Non-locking carabiner: Wire gate recommended (ex: Petzl Ange S or Ange L).
☐ Climbing helmet: Needs to be climbing specific (ex: Petzl Elios or Meteor III +). RENT
☐ Transceiver: Digital recommended. May not be required for later season climbs (ex: BCA Tracker 2). RENT
☐ Poles: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse). RENT
☐ Mountaineering boots: Boots must be specifically designed for mountaineering (ex: La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX).
☐ Gaiters: Provide a clean interface between our pants, boots, and crampons (ex: OR Flex-tex).
☐ Socks: 2-3 pairs (wool or synthetic) that work well with your boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavy socks. Insulation comes from your boots. If your boots are roomy choose a heavier sock, if they’re more of a snug fit choose a lighter sock.
☐ Sunglasses: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair (ex: Julbo Dolgan). RENT
☐ Goggles: Preferably with low light lenses (amber or rose) and UV protection (ex: (ex: Julbo Around Excel or Down).
☐ Warm hat: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ Face protection: Buff® recommended.
☐ Light glove (ex: First Ascent Wind Pro Gloves 2.0)
☐ Medium glove: Should be wind and water-resistant, think ski glove (ex: First Ascent Guide Gloves 2.0).
☐ Extra gloves: Extra medium weight pair.
There are many layering combinations for your upper body that will work well. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer or First Ascent Solarfoil Hoodie).
☐ (1-2) Insulating layers: Fleece, softshell or synthetic/down. Two lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer (ex: First Ascent Sandstone Hoodie, Hangfire Hoodie, or Accelerant Jacket).
☐ Hardshell jacket with hood: Lightweight and waterproof (ex: First Ascent BC-200 Jacket).
☐ Synthetic or down insulated jacket: Synthetic or down (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).
☐ Baselayer bottoms (optional) (ex: First Ascent Midweight Baselayer Pants)
☐ Softshell climbing pants: Lightweight, breathable synthetic fabric. Zip-off trekking pants also work (ex: First Ascent Guide Pants or Mountain Guide Lite Pants).
☐ Hardshell pants: For adverse weather. These must have full side zips (ex: First Ascent Rainier Storm Shell Pants).
☐ (2) Heavy trash bags: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
☐ Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
☐ Lip balm: With SPF protection.
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ Water purification tablets: Small bottle of Iodine tablets or similar (ex: Potable Aqua). Avoid chlorine dioxide tablets as they are light sensitive and require 4 hours purification time.
☐ Thermos (optional): Half-liter size recommended.
☐ Compact camera
☐ Extra batteries: For your transceiver (usually AAA), headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ Headlamp: LED headlamp recommended (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus). RENT
☐ See Details.
☐ Insulated mug
☐ (2) Spoons or sporks
PERSONAL FIRST AID/TOILETRIES
Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
☐ Personal toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and/or baby wipes, gender specific items, small bottle of hand sanitizer.
☐ Personal first aid kit: Band-Aids, blister repair, anti-diarrheal (Immodium), antacid, ibuprofen or aspirin, as well as any personal prescription medications (be sure to discuss these with us).
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Chemical hand warmers
☐ Book (lightweight)
☐ Journal w/pencil
- This program includes a skills training component.
- No previous mountaineering experience is required.
- Previous hiking and/or backpacking experience is recommended.
- Excellent physical fitness is required for this program.
- You should be able to hike/climb for 1-2 hours at a stretch taking 10 minute breaks, for up to 12 hours.
- You should be able to ascend 3000′ in a day carrying 50+lbs on your back, and 5000′ in a day carrying 30 lbs on your back.
- Physical conditioning should not be underestimated – mountaineering is a strenuous activity. Some sort of training/exercise regimen is strongly recommended.
- The better shape you’re in, the more you’ll enjoy the climb, and the better your chances of making it to the top.
- Guiding and instruction
- 3:1 ratio (4:1 max)
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes
- Permit costs
- Lodging and transportation before and after the trip
- Personal equipment and food*
*provided for an additional fee.
Lunch Food: In the mountains, “lunch starts after breakfast and ends before dinner”. In other words, on a given day we generally won’t stop for a formal lunch break, and instead we’ll snack all day long. This is vital to maintaining high energy levels in this environment.
Be sure to bring foods that you like and emphasize variety. Energy bars and gels are great but in limited amounts – real food works just as well and tastes better.
Breakfasts & Dinners: Bring meals that can be cooked with just boiling water. Examples include freeze-dried pouches (Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry), ramen noodles, instant oatmeal, etc. The stoves we’ll use are very efficient for heating water but terrible for actually cooking anything.
WHERE TO MEET
Glacier Public Service Center, just east of the town of Glacier, WA on the Mt Baker Highway (Hwy 542).
Address: 10091 Mt Baker Hwy
From Seattle: 2.5 hrs
From Bellingham: 55 min
Flights: Fly in to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. If you intend to fly out on the last day of the program, be sure to schedule an evening flight departing no earlier than 8pm.
Car Rental: Renting a car in Sea-Tac tends to be the easiest option for ground transportation. Let us know if you’re interested in carpooling with other participants on the program and we might be able to help with arrangements.
We recommend staying in Bellingham, WA for this program. Options for accommodations and food are plentiful and it’s less than an hour drive to Glacier, WA where we’ll meet on the first day.
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your program. Note that many plans require you purchase insurance within 21 days of your initial deposit.
- Cascade Alpine Guide Volume 3: Rainy Pass to Fraser River by Fred Beckey
- Climbing Washington’s Mountains by Jeff Smoot
“My husband and I had a picture perfect adventure with Pacific Alpine Guides on a recent multi-day ascent of Mt. Baker. Our guide taught us more technical skills, led us safely to the summit, and was a real inspiration for us all.”
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