Monday, May 19, 2014

Baker, Index, Rainier - This is the Life!

These past couple weeks back home in Washington have been just what I've needed before heading back up to Alaska to guide Denali. Baker is a mecca for year round riding but is especially nice in the spring and early summer. In the springtime in Washington it's rare to see more than a couple blocks of high pressure and when you see them you go!

This trip we went up the North side of the mountain, up the Coleman-Deming route. There can be snow on the road up to the trailhead miles out depending on the snow year. I've skinned four miles on the road in prior years to get to the trailhead, this time it was only about a mile in a half. We decided to do a one day push, leaving the car at about 5am. We parked at ~3,000 feet and the summit of Baker is 10,781, making it a pretty big day.

Finally out of the trees, atop Heliotrope ridge.

Drew Tabke photo of me with the Colfax icefall beyond.

Conditions were great for skinning, firm and fast. (Split-crampons are essential for spring touring on the volcanoes). The crevasses were really big, bigger than I've seen them in previous springs and the glacier has changed a lot in the last two years since I had been up the CD. You can easily avoid most big cracks but spring and early summer is the perfect time for those snow bridges to be getting thinner and thinner so a rope, harness, crevasse rescue skills and smart partners are essential. If you don't have basic crevasse rescue and glacier travel skills, I offer courses through the American Alpine Institute up on Mt. Baker.

We rode a variation from the summit linking together the upper section of the Roman Wall and the bottom section of the Roman Mustache. The Coleman/Deming route is a great ride but is a little traversy with a few ups and downs and route-finding to get up to the glacier but it's an absolute beautiful side of the mountain, my favorite.

We made some coffee on the summit and waited for the clouds to clear while getting a nice coffee high. Joe charging down the Roman Wall.

Tabke slashing.

Joe gittin' some under the rhimey Roman nose.

Joe droppin' into the lower section of the Mustache, a really nice kind of hanging glacier ramp.

Joe boosting.

We were tired so we went climbing in the sun at Index.... wait, the Champ never gets tired. Correction, I was tired.

Me, sending most magnificent splitter.

On to Rainier. Not too sure what our objective would be, Blaine and I headed out on the Turtle to camp for a night and practice some rescue skillz before we both take off for Denali. I've had my eyes on some bigger objectives but the snow wasn't right. It hadn't consolidated like I'd hoped so we did a Fuhrer Finger and Thumb lap the next day. Both super nice, sustained 2,000 ft lines. Pretty manky and it felt like 85 degrees booting up.

Blaine crushing the Fuhrer Finger.

Quick booter back up the Finger then dropped into the Thumb. Blaine having fun on the Thumb:

Whelp see ya! Off to Denali. Someone shred some wicked lines on Rainier for me while I'm away!

--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide

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