Experimental video using Go Pro footage from my June 2013 climb up Mt. Baker’s North Ridge ice cliff (trying to make a bunch of boring Go Pro footage interesting). This climb was a new level for me - it was an unforgettable experience.
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Following Piotr up Baker’s North Ridge ice cliff this past June with a skis on my back. This is the first of two steep pitches on the eastern side of cliff proper. Climbing the second pitch left me with some of the most heightened feelings I’ve ever felt climbing. The climb’s difficulty (for me), the shenanigans we had to go through on the approach, and the ski descent all came together to make this among my most memorable climbs yet. Perhaps only Stuart’s Complete North Ridge later this year would eclipse it, but both are very different.
I tried to climb Baker’s North Ridge in July 2011. A climbing partner’s crampon mix-up from halted that (story/pics here).
I tried again with a strong team in May of 2012, but a storm turned us around at the base of a section of the ice cliff none of us were going to climb anyway, causing quite the epic (story, pics, and video here).
I tried again in August of 2012, but we couldn’t seem to find passage onto the ridge due to late season conditions. We spent too much time trying a different route up the extremely broken up Roosevelt (story, pics here).
Everyone knows that the fourth times a charm I think, so me, Catalin, Piotr, and Alin tried again in June 2013 and we finally got it. It was one of the best, most intense climbing experiences I’ve had yet.
A washout/road closure added 16 miles of boring fire road walking to the approach (round trip). I somehow convinced Piotr, Catalin, and Alin that I could pull them on a bicycle attached to my dirt bike with some static rope as a way of overcoming the approach difficulties.
Cut to me in ski boots on my Husqvarna 450 with full overnight pack and skis on, pulling Piotr in the dark, eight miles up a bumpy fire road at 15-20mph, with zero communication between us to the bike’s noise and no way for him to stop. At first he said it was so fun he might pay to do something like that, but after a couple miles and rougher roads it became pretty precarious. I kept looking back, expecting to see him dragging along with the overturned bicycle, his pack caught in the spokes. Thankfully he made it unscathed.
I dropped him at the Heliotrope trail head, put the bicycle on my shoulders with a sleeping pad as buffer, and hauled ass 8 miles back to beginning of Glacier Creek road to pick up Alin/Catalin. Alin would ride on the back of the bike (it’s not really made for 2), and I’d tow Catalin the same way I did for Piotr. This worked out fine until I needed to stop at a bridge and Catalin kept going until the static rope pulled taut and sent him flying over the handle bars, hitting his helmet on something hard. Miraculously he was not injured so we kept going.
By this time it was pretty late so we opted to sleep, then haul overnight gear up to a basecamp on the Coleman to make sure we did the climb with maximum daylight. The original plan was to do it in one push with lighter packs, but we wanted to give ourselves the maximum chance for success - what with this being the fourth attempt for Alin and me
This was the first real climb I’d done since my ankle injury (bouldering accident) that incapacitated me for 5+ months, so I wasn’t overly excited about a heavy pack plus skis, but oh well. I also didn’t really know how to ski very well yet, but I knew enough it turned out.
Anyway I’ll let the pictures and captions tell the rest of story, but this was a really special climb for me and one of the highlights of my year. I ended up skiiing both Rainier and Mt. Adams solo after this after realizing how much fun it is to ski these big volcanoes.
Piotr ended up breaking his wrist while riding his bike back in the dark. He did some impressive leading of both ice cliff pitches and some sketchy route finding around the large schrund area up top. I remember coming out of the chimney on the second ice pitch and being shocked at how much further I had to go on what felt like vertical terrain. I don’t think I could’ve led that - nice work Piotr.
Someone also broke the window on my rig and stole only my favorite pair of jeans, which were so hard to find due to my height. They took my jeans and left my Ipad mini. If you ever see someone in the town of Glacier with cool jeans that look way too long on them, please let me know. We rode the whole way home exhausted with a missing window, so I’d like to have a few words with the a-hole who did that.
Note: Almost all pics are Go Pro video stills. I did bring a DSLR up and over, but didn’t really use it.
Organizing gear 8 miles from the trail head due to a road closure. I had a crazy idea to tow team members on a bicycle from my motorcycle to cut down on the approach. It worked…kind of. Photo by Piotr Chadovich.
I don’t usually wear ski boots on my 450, or do I? Photo by Alin Flaidar.
We didn’t originally intend to take an overnight pack past the trail head, but we got in later than expected and wanted to give ourselves maximum daylight to climb this thing. Good choice in the end. Anyway, I guess all this shit actually does fit in/on a 52L pack. Comfortably though? Not sure I’d go that far. Photo by Alin Flaidar.
From our camp on the lower Coleman - a familiar alpine scene - blue sky, clouds casting shadows on the rock, snow and ice. I haven’t tired of it yet.
Piotr and Catalin fueling up at camp.
Late afternoon stroll on the Coleman in shadows and clouds for some crevasse rescue practice
Skinning over cracks in the lower Coleman looking for some large holes in which to lower ourselves.
The next day. Long morning shadows follow us across the Coleman toward the North Ridge base.
Hole patterns over a crevasse on the Coleman.
Piotr greets the morning Sun. The North Ridge is straight ahead.
Crossing over a 6’ wide snow bridge on the largest crevasse I saw on the mountain. It looked like a cathedral. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but trust me it was massive.
One other party behind us taking the ridge. Clouds move off the West side of Baker as the sun continues to rise .
Me on the North Ridge with some extra weight on my back. Colfax and Lincoln are behind me. Conditions were perfect down here. It got really windy higher up.
Moving higher toward the bass of the ice cliff proper after a steep traverse that emptied into a large crevasse. The exposure left overlooking the Roosevelt Glacier was pretty spectacular.
Piotr getting ready to lead the first pitch of the ice cliff.
Following on pitch one.
Me trying to come to terms with how I’m going to get up and over the cliff’s abrupt corner.
Looking down often to enjoy the view and appreciate this incredible climb.
Setting up getting up and over the corner. It looked like it was going to be tricky.
Relieved to be over the corner, some easier climbing until we get inside the chimney above. More steepness to go past the chimney.
Catalin and Alin probably hated me by now as these chunks probably bounced off of their helmets.
On the edge of the corner. Some nice exposure on the right.
This should be enough to make about 8 snow cones for my belayers. Just trying to be thoughtful.
Might even be enough for 9-10 snow cones, thinking about it more.
Piotr’s anchor in the chimney. My GoPro went dead just before I started climbing the second pitch here which was one of the most elated moments climbing. Ridiculous exposure on both sides and much steeper than the first pitch, seemingly sustained for longer.
Above the ice cliff, relaxing to 55-60 degrees…ish.
My second Go Pro. I also brought a heavy DSLR/lens up and over. I didn’t take it out of the bag once past camp.
Steep but easier on the upper North Ridge. God sprinkled in some high winds and low clouds to add drama to our climb.
We arrive at the serac and crevasse maze on upper North Ridge’s bergschrund-y area. The snow bridge directly ahead was wide and weak, I almost punched through. Piotr did an admirable job of trying to navigate through this thing, which at times seemed a bit unnavigable.
Thin, weak and wide bridge over a sizable crevasse. I punched through past my knees and peed my pants a little.
Broken pieces of ice litter some of the most interesting terrain I’ve seen.
Piotr working his way through obstacles, doing some solid route finding.
I thought this crevasse had much more of an overhanging, weak lip than it actually did so I crossed it pack/ski-less. I didn’t need to do that it turned out, but look I got this picture.
Some really fun, sometimes steep broken up terrain at the final stretch. We had no idea what would be at each turn, and at least I was very surprised we reached the summit plateau without running into several un-crossable serac/crevasse sections. Having to retreat back down the ice cliff would’ve made this a serious epic.
We nodded to the true summit on our way toward the Roman Wall, we’d all been there before (I’m pretty sure).
I skied down a decent chunk back to camp. It was so icy down low I nearly skied straight into a giant crevasse. Everyone punched through the ice but my skis raced across its super slick surface at speeds that easily took up up and over a hill.
Our route up the North Ridge. An unforgettable climb. This was the fourth attempt at the North Ridge for Alin and I. Persistence works.