Mt. Baker | North Ridge
Considered one of the best snow and ice routes in the US, the North Ridge is a must do for climbers seeking a true alpine experience on a big mountain.
It’s a steep and committing climb that is well suited to those who are ready to take their mountaineering experience to the next level – with 40-50° snow, ice climbing up to 70° using two tools, complex glacier travel, and a longer summit day.
This route is sometimes compared to Mt Rainier’s Liberty Ridge, scaled down slightly, more accessible, and “in” condition for a longer season.
We guide the North Ridge at a 2:1 ratio with a maximum group size of 4 climbers and 2 guides.
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 glacial moraines. Here we’ll place our camp next to the Coleman Glacier, at around 6,000’.
After setting up camp, we spend the rest of the afternoon reviewing climbing techniques necessary for this route. We eat dinner on the early side, finalize our preparations for an early start, and head for bed.
DAY 2 – Climb
After a quick breakfast and final preparations, we set off from our camp with a pre-dawn alpine start.
It’s a long traverse through a maze of crevasses to get to the base of the North Ridge, and once there we’ll select one of two variations onto the ridge proper. The lower North Ridge is relatively broad, and depending which line we choose can be 40°+. At around 9000’ the ridge narrows and steepens. Above this point is the defining feature of the route, a 65-70° step of alpine ice, which we climb in 2-3 pitches (longer late season). From here it’s sustained 50° snow and ice – dramatic exposure in an unbelievable setting. We cross the big crevasse at the top of the ridge and from here it’s a short walk to the summit.
On top we’ll snap a couple summit photos, take a short break, and prepare for our descent. Rather than down climb the steep terrain of the North Ridge we’ll return to camp via the Coleman-Deming route.
Back at camp we enjoy a nice dinner, relax for the evening, and reflect on a big day.
DAY 3 – Walk Out
Depending on team energy levels and motivation, one option for the morning of the last day is to do some ice climbing using one of the nearby crevasses.
From camp the descent takes about 3 hours. On the drive out we stop for a celebratory lunch and wrap our climb.
In addition to the items on this list, participants will be given a portion of the group equipment to carry.
PACK & SLEEPING SYSTEM
☐ Backpack: 50-75 liter internal frame pack (ex: CiloGear 60L WorkSack or Black Diamond Mission 75).
☐ 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 with leash: 50-70cm mountaineering axe (ex: Petzl Snowalker, Summit, or Sum’Tec). A leash is required for this program. RENT
☐ 2nd Ice tool: 50-55cm hammer recommended (ex: Petzl Sum’Tec Hammer or Quark Hammer). RENT
☐ Crampons: 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 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. RENT
☐ (2) Locking carabiners: Pear shaped recommended (ex: Petzl Attache or Attache 3D).
☐ (1) Non-locking carabiner: Wire gate recommended (ex: Petzl Ange S or Ange L).
☐ Double length sling: 120cm length (ex: Petzl Fin’Anneau).
☐ 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
☐ 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. RENT
☐ Goggles: Preferably with low light lenses (amber or rose) and UV protection.
☐ 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) 1L Water bottles: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles).
☐ Hydration system (optional): Should have an insulated tube. If you choose to use a hydration system, bring at least 1 regular water bottle in addition.
☐ 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 2). 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
We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.
- Previous mountaineering experience is required for this program.
- Steep snow climbing experience is recommended.
- Ice climbing experience is helpful but not mandatory.
- 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
- 2:1 ratio
- Group equipment including 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
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.
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.
- 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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