Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

Overview

A climbing team near the summit of Mt. Baker.

A guided climbing team approaches the summit of Mt. Baker. Don Enos

Mt. Baker has long been noted as one of the most glaciated peaks in the Lower-48. In addition to the vast glaciers, it is also one of the most beautiful and accessible mountains in the country. A guided ascent of Mt. Baker is an experience of a lifetime. 

If you are a new to mountaineering, we will introduce you to the essentials of glacier travel and climbing. We'll cover the use of an ice axe, crampon techniques, effective rope procedures, and we'll introduce you to baseline route finding skills and hazard evaluation. For those with previous glacier experience, we will use the lead up to the climb to review and advance your skills in glacier travel technique and self-rescue.

We offer a three and a four day option on both the north and south side's the mountain. In either setting, the high camp is among the most beautiful alpine sites in the United States. From there, we enjoy exceptional views of our route, the hundreds of alpine peaks surrounding us, and the San Juan Islands on Washington's inland Pacific waters.

On summit day, we'll start climbing well before dawn to ensure the best snow conditions on our way to Mt. Baker's 10,781-foot summit. Climbing the glacier is as varied as the views, and you'll have the chance to apply all the skills you mastered during the first part of the trip.

Groups on this program are kept small (usually three to five climbers with one guide or six to ten climbers with two guides), and throughout the trip you will enjoy a rich learning and climbing experience.

If you are training for independent unguided climbs in the future, we recommend the 6-day Alpinism 1 - Introduction to Mountaineering program. But for those who wish to experience a high mountain environment and a classic alpine summit in a shorter period of time, this memborable ascent is perfect for you.

If you lack the prerequisite backpacking experience, you can combine this course with a two-day Introduction to Backpacking program.

Some mountaineers also choose to enhance their glacier navigation skills before or after a climb by combining this program with either the three-hour Backcountry Navigation Essentials class, or the one-day Backcountry Navigation Comprehensive program.

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Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

Route

The Mountain - Itinerary and Route Description

Mount Baker from the Fisher Chimneys route on Mount Shuksan.

Mount Baker from the Fisher Chimneys route on Mount Shuksan. AAI Collection


Conditions in the mountains and on the roads to the mountains are constantly changing. Historically we have used the north side of the mountain for this program, and that is usually the plan. But occasionally, due to conditions, we go to the south side. If you have concerns about which side we will climb on this program, please let us know and we'll provide an update.

South Side Option

The south side of Mt. Baker is dominated by two broad glaciers that connect in the middle. These are the Easton and the Squak glaciers. We will ascend the most obvious line given the time of year (the Easton breaks up as the season progresses and we tend to climb the Squak after mid-July).

Following an equipment check at AAI's headquarters in Bellingham, we will drive approximately 1.5 hours to the trailhead on the south side of the mountain, at 3,200-feet. From there we will make a five mile hike up to a stunning high camp at 6,000-feet.

Ascents of the mountain tend to start in the pre-dawn hours, often between midnight and 3am, to have the most firm climbing conditions. We will ascend a gentle slope for several hours, navigating between crevasses to the crater (9,600-feet), situated between the upper mountain and a satellite peak, Sherman Peak. From there we will be able to look down into the active steam vents below.

The final push up the mountain ascends a 35-degree slope for just under one thousand feet. We crest the summit and make a short jaunt across the flat top of the mountain to the high point at 10,781-feet.

North Side Option

The Coleman-Deming Route is found on the north side of the mountain. This route is also referred to as the Heliotrope Ridge route, as the approach to the glacier follows that geographical feature.

The trailhead on the north side of Mount Baker is at 3,700 feet, and the hike to camp is about 4.5 miles on a nicely maintained hiker's trail.

After a gear check at AAI's headquarters, we drive to the trailhead and hike to a camp below the Coleman Glacier's icefall at approximately 5500 feet. We spend the afternoon of Day 1 and all of Day 2 practicing skills on the glacier and preparing for the summit climb the next morning. Depending on the preference of the guide and climbers, we may choose to establish a high camp on the glacier at 7500 feet, below the "Black Buttes."

Climbing above our high camp, at 9000 feet we gain a col (saddle) between Mount Baker and one of its subsidiary summits, Colfax Peak. Just beyond the col, we move onto the Deming Glacier, which flows down the southwest flank of Mt. Baker. We ascend Pumice Ridge for a few hundred feet to the base of the Roman Wall, which is the last obstacle on the way to Mount Baker's 10,781-foot summit. The Roman Wall is nearly 1000 feet of 35-45 degree snow and ice that rolls over onto the summit ice cap of Mount Baker. The true summit is a few minutes stroll on level ground from the top of the Roman Wall. From the summit the sights are breathtaking, and we will enjoy sweeping views that stretch from the Canadian border peaks in the north, across the islands in the San Juan archipelago to the west, and out to the hundreds of peaks in the Cascades to the south and east.

More Advanced Routes on Mount Baker

For climbers with an intermediate to advanced level of skill, we can schedule privately guided climbs of more technical routes on Mount Baker. Here are two classics:

North Ridge (Grade 3+, 2-3 days, 85 degree ice)

A climber enjoying the picturesque N. Ridge of Mt. Baker.

A climber enjoying the picturesque N. Ridge of Mt. Baker.  Jason Martin

The North Ridge of Mount Baker is among the most classic ice lines of the Cascades volcanoes. The approach itself can include challenging route finding and ice climbing as climbers navigate the wildly crevassed Roosevelt Glacier to access the base of the North Ridge.

Once on the route, we climb 50-degree slopes to the base of the technical crux, three to four pitches of ice climbing that are typically between 65 degrees and vertical. Above the ice pitches we follow the crest of the ridge. From the summit we descend the standard Coleman-Deming route back to camp.

The climbing on the North Ridge is never overly difficult but is constantly and delightfully exposed and provides a big mountain feel.

The Coleman Headwall (Grade 4, 90-degree ice, 2200 feet)

The Coleman Headwall is the largest ice face in the Cascades Range. Rising over 2200 feet from the base of the wall to the top, this route offers climbers an almost unbroken line of steep snow and ice climbing right to Mount Baker's summit ice cap.

The climbing on the headwall is mostly in the 55-degree range, but there can be a number of short, steep sections requiring steep ice climbing technique. Because of this route's committing nature, climbers need to have experience with high angle snow and ice climbing, be very physically fit, and be capable of ice climbing with a pack on.

The Roman Mustache

The Roman Mustache is more of a variation to the standard route rather than a different climbing objective altogether. Below the saddle at 9000 feet, the Mustache route heads to climbers' left and negotiates an icefall before blending into the upper part of the Roman Wall described in the standard route description. This route is a great choice for climbers who are well versed at moderate glacier travel and who would like to spend a little time on steeper, more complex terrain during their ascent of Mount Baker.

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Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

Dates

Three vs. Four Day Summit Options

In 2023, all three and four-day programs on Mt. Baker will take place on the south side of the mountain. A road washout on the north side makes that approach unrealistic for three and four day programs.

The south side, while not harder, does have a longer approach. 

Many choose the four-day option so that they do not have to climb the mountain and hike out on the same day. Those on a four-day itinerary will make their summit bid on day three, and hike out on day four. This option has a higher summit success rate, a less stressful summit day, and gives climbers the opportunity to spend more time dialing in skills as well as an extra night in the Mt. Baker backcountry.

Three-Day Programs

  • May 11 - May 13, 2024
  • May 25 - May 27, 2024
  • May 31 - June 02, 2024 - Womxn's Only
  • June 01 - June 03, 2024
  • June 08 - June 10, 2024
  • June 18 - June 20, 2024
  • June 22 -June 24, 2024 - FULL - Waitlist Available!
  • July 06 - July 08, 2024
  • July 16 - July 18, 2024
  • July 20 - July 22, 2024
  • July 30 - Aug 1, 2024
  • Aug 02 - Aug 04, 2024 - Womxn's Only
  • Aug 03 - Aug 05, 2024
  • Aug 13 - Aug 15, 2024
  • Aug 17 - Aug 19, 2024
  • Aug 27 - Aug 29, 2024
  • Aug 31 - Sept 02, 2024
  • Sept 10 - Sept 12, 2024
  • Sept 14- Sept 16, 2024

 

Four-Day Programs

  • May 18 - May 21, 2024
  • June 04 - June 07, 2024
  • June 13 - June 16, 2024
  • June 29 - July 2, 2024
  • July 11 - July 14, 2024
  • July 25 - July 28, 2024
  • Aug 08 - Aug 11, 2024
  • Aug 22 - Aug 25, 2024
  • Aug 27 - Aug 30, 2024
  • Sept 05 - Sept 08, 2024
  • Sept 19 - Sept 22, 2024
  • Sept 26 - Sept 29, 2024

 

Variations throughout the season...

While all of these courses run during what we consider the "summer season," there is a large amount of variability in the weather and conditions that a climber could experience throughout this time. We recognize that most of our participants sign up for our programs weeks or months in advance, and although we can never be fully certain of what we'll encounter in the mountains that far out, you can click here for a description of what can typically be expected throughout the summer as well as a guide on picking the timeframe that is best for you

 

Private Mt. Baker Climbs
In addition to the dates we publish for this climb, we can also easily set up additional dates for groups and/or individuals as they are requested. We have almost unlimited availability throughout the summer but at certain times our schedule does book up. To make sure a particular date range is available please call (800-424-2249) or email our office.

 

Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

Cost and Details

Max Ratio - 5:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 10

Three Day Tuition - $995

Four Day Tuition - $1295

Prerequisites

  • Good physical fitness
  • Ability to carry a 45 - 55 lb backpack for multiple hours
  • Stamina to hike for over 8 hours (including breaks, and with lesser pack weight)
  • Ability to cook for yourself on a backpacking stove
  • Overnight backpacking experience

NOTE: If you lack overnight backpacking experience, you can add a 2-day Backpacking and Wilderness Skills program at a discounted price. 

Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Tuition for the program includes the guide's fee, transportation to the mountains (except on private trips), and all group climbing equipment (ropes and hardware). Personal equipment is not included in the program cost, but may be rented from our equipment shop. A complete list of recommended and required equipment will be sent to you upon registration.

We also offer porter services for individuals who require physical assistance. Contact our office by phone or email for more information.

An AAI team descends Pumice Ridge after a successful climb of the Easton Glacier route on Mt. Baker

An AAI team descends past the Sherman Crater after a successful climb of the Easton Glacier route on Mt. Baker. Ryan Slaybaugh

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Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

Testimonials

"My guide and I connected perfectly right off the bat. It felt as if we were climbing partners and had known each other for a long time." 
Carter Fowler, Chatanooga, TN

"The course curriculum contained excellent content including crevasse rescue, route finding, weather interpretation, and equipment." 
Jerry Mills, Maumee, OH

"In spite of this being a "summit climb", my guide turned it into a classroom. I learned far more than I expected in 3 days." 
Patricia Hegagard, Chicago

"[Our guides] had a laid back, calm attitude that allowed those of us struggling to keep our dignity and feel good about what we had accomplished.  We also appreciated their interest in the people they were guiding. It made a nice atmosphere for the whole team to get to know and enjoy each other."
Erin Tremaine, Lynden, WA

Mt. Baker Skills and Climb

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