Mt. Baker | Easton Glacier
An aesthetic route of moderate difficulty on the south side of the Mt Baker, the Easton Glacier is one of the least technical routes on the mountain. It still poses significant challenges, including steep snow, crevasses, high alpine weather, and over 7500 vertical feet of elevation gain between the trailhead and the summit.
The Easton makes for an excellent introduction to mountaineering, offering the opportunity to climb on big glaciers and summit the third highest peak in Washington State (10,781′ feet).
We spend 3 days on this program, establishing a high camp around 6000′ feet, focusing a full day (day 2) on mountaineering skills training, in preparation for the climb.
DAY 1 – Approach
We meet at 8am in Sedro Woolley at the Park and Forest Information Center for introductions and gear check. After securing our permits, we drive to the trailhead (about 1 hr 15m), finalize any packing and preparations, and begin the approach.
The climb to high camp takes about 4 hours as we ascend through meadows, old growth forest, and onto a moraine that parallels the glacier known as the Railroad Grade. On the approach we use the opportunity to practice various climbing efficiency techniques that will become essential for the following day.
Somewhere between 6000′ and 7000′ feet we establish our camp, prepare dinner, and relax for the evening.
DAY 2 – Training Day
Skills training is the goal of this day, and we further expand on topics covered on the approach. These will include snow climbing techniques, ice axe arrest, cramponing, companion rescue, running belays, and roped travel.
In the afternoon we discuss our summit day ahead and make final preparations. After an earlier dinner we head for bed.
DAY 3 – Summit Day
With an alpine start we begin our ascent. After a short stretch we pull out the rope as we step foot onto the Easton Glacier. The route maintains a consistent angle and we’re able to find a good rhythm, climbing for an hour or an hour and half at a time, taking 10 to 15 minute breaks between stretches.
On our summit day we climb almost 4000 vertical feet, and the last 800 or so feet to the summit plateau follows the west side of Sherman Crater. This is the steepest section, with slopes
On top we take in the spectacular views of the surrounding North Cascades, the Olympic Mountains to the southwest, Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier to the south, and the always impressive neighboring Mt Shuksan.
The descent back to camp takes 3-4 hours, and once there we take a good rest break. In the early afternoon we pack up camp and resume our descent back to the trailhead. We wrap up with the program with a celebratory meal in Sedro Woolley.
In addition to the items on this list, participants will be given a portion of the group equipment to carry.
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.
☐ (1-2) 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: 60-70cm 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: 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.
☐ (2-3) Water bottles (1 Liter): Should have a screw top (no bike bottles).
☐ Hydration system (optional): Should have an insulated tube. If you choose to use a hydration system, be sure to have at least 1 regular water bottle as well.
☐ Water purification tablets: Small bottle of Iodine tablets or similar (ex: Potable Aqua). Avoid tablets that are light sensitive or require more than 30 minutes purification time.
☐ 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).
☐ Compact camera
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Chemical hand warmers
☐ Book (lightweight)
☐ Journal w/pencil
We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.
- This program includes a mountaineering 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 at a 4:1 ratio
- Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, ropes, and technical gear
- Permit and insurance costs, guide’s expenses
- Lodging and transportation before and after the trip
- Personal equipment and food*
- Park entrance fees
*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
Park and Forest Information Center in Sedro Woolley, WA. On the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) approximately 5 miles east of I-5.
From Seattle: 1.5 hrs
From Bellingham: 45 min
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.
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.
Mt Vernon has a good selection of hotels and is the closest option to where we meet, about 20 minutes drive from Sedro Woolley. Bellingham is also a good option, about 45 minutes away.
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your program. Note that many plans require you purchase insurance within 21 days of your initial deposit.
- Selected Climbs in the Cascades: Volume 1 by Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield
- Cascade Alpine Guide Volume 3: Rainy Pass to Fraser River by Fred Beckey
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