Mount Baker 3 Day Climb

Climb Mount Baker With Alpine Ascents

Our expedition was, from start to finish, expertly managed. From the gear check to the summit and back to the trail head, our guides were extremely knowledgeable, kind, calm, and motivating; the logistics went smoothly; the group was awesome, the pace felt good, everything was absolutely completely amazing. I would give twelve stars if I could, and I can’t imagine a better introduction to mountaineering. -2023 Climber

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Key aspects of Alpine Ascents Mt. Baker Programs

  • 35 lbs. pack weight – typical climbs of Mount Baker use 55 lbs. packs
  • We utilize preset camps on Mount Baker
  • Meals provided (we cook meals at each camp and rarely use freeze dried)
  • Our climb includes round trip transportation between Seattle and Mount Baker
  • We have been leading climbs on Baker for over 30 years and is the primary location for our mountaineering school
  • 3:1 Climber to Guide Ratio

The quintessential glaciated Cascades peak, Mt. Baker, originally named Koma Kulshan or simply Kulshan, provides a fantastic climbing experience for both the novice and developed mountaineer. Unlike the geographically-lonely Rainier, Mt. Baker looks into the heart of the Cascade Range for tremendous views of endless steep, snow-capped peaks. Mt. Baker offers the perfect introduction to mountaineering, and is often considered the best glacier training venue in the US. A true wilderness outing, climbers carry gear to camp, spend a full day training, and summit via the beautiful Easton glacier.

Guide Ratio 3:1
Team size is 9 climbers with 3 guides. With one guide for every three climbers, you have more individualized instruction, great assistance on summit day, and overall success and risk management are increased. Our guides will be teachers and impart knowledge throughout the program.

This three-day instructional course/summit climb teaches you the basics of glacier mountaineering, including proper ice axe use and self-arrest skills, glacier travel, and basic rope techniques while aiming to summit. Successful completion of this program gives you the required skills for some of our more advanced expeditions.

Alpine Ascents is clearly the real deal. Even though we did a “beginner” climb on Mount Baker, we were treated with the best guides and equipment, making us feel that this was an attempt on Denali. It motivated us to look toward the next level of expedition. Perfect in every respect.

Mount Baker

Mt. Baker, the highest point in the North Cascades, is a heavily glaciated and active but quiet stratovolcano. The 12+ active glaciers of Mt. Baker cover an area exceeding 20 square miles. Mt. Baker is unique with respect to its great mass of snow and ice and easy accessibility (requiring less than one day of hiking). This combination creates a perfect alpine training ground. This climb of the ice-king of the North Cascades via some of the largest and most scenic glaciers in the contiguous US will be conducted by our experienced guides in what will be an unforgettable adventure.

Tents Equipment & Meals

Provided: All group climbing equipment, including climbing ropes and technical hardware; meals (except lunch); and tents.
Not Provided: Personal equipment and lunches. You are responsible for all items on the Gear List.

Note: If you are a beginning climber, we strongly advise renting as much gear as possible. Alpine Ascents and other local retailers provide quality rental equipment at reasonable prices. We also offer a 10% discount at the Alpine Ascents Gear Shop located at our offices. We conduct a mandatory gear check at our Seattle offices the day before your climb.

Trip Profile

DAYROUTE SEGMENTELEVATION
CHANGE(FT.)
HOURSMILESPACK
WEIGHT (LBS)
1Schriebers Meadow – Sandy Camp2,775 ↑3.5-53.7535
2Sandy Camp to Mt Baker Summit4,680 ↑5-7315
Summit to Sandy Camp4,680 ↓4-6315
3Sandy Camp to Parking Lot2,775 ↓2.5-43.7530

*Estimated numbers

Please note: Climbers must be able to climb at a rate of 1,000 vertical feet per hour. Those who are unable to maintain this pace on Day 1 to camp may not be permitted to attempt the summit on the final day.

Will I summit Baker?

Climbing Mount Baker is a great first time mountaineering experience.   While it is an excellent first glaciated climb it is still a big and challenging mountain.

Personal fitness, weather, and route conditions are the three most crucial elements that determine success on the climb.

Fitness: This is one of the most important and controllable factors of summit success! Using our training recommendations and focusing on sport-specific training will drastically increase your likelihood of summiting. If you have not been training regularly, consider hiring a personal trainer who specializes in mountain fitness. To summit Baker, climbers must be able to travel 1,000 – 1,200+ vertical feet per hour, over multiple hours with a 30 – 40 lb pack.

Weather: In mountaineering, we have four meteorological factors that can prevent us from reaching the summit – visibility, wind, precipitation, and temperature. Often, we will still climb when just one of the meteorological factors is working against us (depending on the severity). When multiple factors stack up, we err on the side of caution. Poor weather such as high wind coupled with precipitation can bring higher risk to the climbing team compared to moderate or favorable weather. Throughout the climb, guides will be assessing the weather to determine the viability of moving to Sandy camp and later the summit. We always look to mitigate risks on the mountain.

The Route:  Probably the least understood of the three elements, the route to the summit may change 25 times or more per season from small variations to major adjustments. When the route no longer connects to the summit, we refer to it as “the route going out”. This can happen for many reasons, such as crevasse bridges opening. Our guide team, will work to find a route variation or new route. While we are quick to respond (the response time is also weather-permitting) there may be multiple teams that do not reach the summit while the route is out even if the weather is favorable. Like the weather, we don’t know when the route will go out and how long it may take to repair or find a new route. We have often repaired the route in 1-2 days, but longer outages are not uncommon.

Keeping the Pace While Climbing Komo Kulshan (Mount Baker)
Kulshan is physically demanding climb. You must be prepared to travel with your team at a speed of 1000 vertical feet per hour.

  • While many may climb at a faster pace, we feel setting a team pace is important to manage expectations and offer the chance for more climbers to summit when conditions permit. We understand this may be a slower pace than you are used to, but we believe this is the best approach and provides a more team-oriented experience.
  • Please note, there are times when we may have to move more quickly through certain terrain, such as under areas of possible overhead hazard. Coming to the climb with the expected fitness level, helps us navigate the mountain and “speed up “ when needed.
  • 1000 vertical feet per hour is a reasonable fitness level for climbing and obtainable for climbers who give themselves ample time to train and focus on sport specific training for mountaineering.
  • Traveling very slowly on a climb like Kulshan (less than 1000 vertical feet per hour) makes each section of the climb longer, putting a greater overall demand and fatigue on the climber.
  • We do not have fast or slow rope teams – our teams keep a steady pace and move together for risk management purposes.
  • Traveling very slowly on a climb like Kulshan (less than 1000 vertical feet per hour) makes each section of the climb longer, resulting in greater overall fatigue for the climber, including physical stress

We encourage you to use our blog posts to keep updated on climbing conditions.  We do not cancel trips due to potential weather situations or while the climbing route is being rerouted.

See Cascades Climbing Blog at: https://www.alpineascents.com/cybercast/mount_rainier_cascades_blog/

 

 

Well, climb them both of course! But a legendary mountain author weighs in:

BY PETER POTTERFIELD

As the author of “Selected Climbs in the Cascades,” both volumes 1 and 2, I get emails daily from adventurers coming to the Cascades for the first time wanting some insight into the best climbing routes in the range. And who can blame them? When it comes to alpine climbs, the Cascades offer arguably the best routes in the lower 48.

None of the peaks in the Cascade Range is more unique or appealing than the Cascade Volcanoes. Draped in glaciers, studded with fearsome rock spires, and all rising above 10,000 feet, the volcanoes offer a climbing experience unrivaled outside of the Alps, or Alaska, or the Himalaya. There are six of these giants in the Northwest: Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, and Mount Baker. But for most climbers seeking a world-class route on a big mountain, access, quality and climbing routes mean the choice comes down to just two: Mount Baker or Mount Rainier.

I was faced with that very dilemma when I first moved to the Northwest after a decade of climbing in the Rockies. I was stoked to get up on those big, ice-clad ghostly white mountains floating on the horizon in all directions, but frankly, I lacked the skills. Crevasse rescue, ice climbing, glacier travel, reading avalanche conditions—these were all skills I needed to acquire. But where to do it? On 14,410-ft Mount Rainier, lord of the range, rising above Seattle like a papier-mâché stage prop? Or the more remote and aesthetic 10,781-ft Mount Baker in the far north, monarch of ineffably beautiful North Cascades?

The decision was easy: Baker. This, the third highest peak in the Northwest, wears its heavy mantle of ice with exceptional beauty. Its high altitude and position west of the Cascade Crest—Baker is only 35 miles from tidewater—place it to receive the full blast of wet winter storms, feeding its glaciers. That becomes ever more important as climate change threatens Cascade glaciers farther south. Baker is snow white and pristine in its ice clad beauty.

“Really outstanding, very structured in the right way, methodical, I felt safe and well taken care of at all times. The nuances of information John, Bryce and Leland had were damn awesome.”

For any climber wishing to add ice-climbing and steep snow-climbing skills to their resume, Mount Baker is perfect. It’s got everything Mount Rainier has—glaciers, crevasses, ice falls, steep ice, steep snow, craggy rock spires—and more. Situated within the wild North Cascades, often called the Switzerland of America, Baker comes with pristine wilderness and a sense of solitude that is unique among the Cascade Volcanoes. But what it doesn’t have is perhaps its greatest draw: crowds and permit hassles. Multiple routes, from straightforward glacier climbs such as the Easton or the Coleman, to steep, aesthetic ice climbing routes such as the North Ridge, Baker offers a range of routes, difficulties and glacial terrain free of the crowds found on Mount Hood or Mount Adams or Mount Rainier.

A final consideration: altitude. For those of us who live at sea level, a trip above 14,000 ft comes with tiresome, debilitating effects of altitude, and the real possibility of high-altitude sickness. Now Baker is a big mountain, and at almost 11,000 ft, it is not immune to that danger, but acclimatization is easier and quicker. Altitude problems are far less of an issue on this peak. And the lower High Camps and shorter summit days on its routes make climbing and learning on Mount Baker more fun and less stressful than doing the same program on Mount Rainier. Let’s be clear this is an equal climb technically but perhaps a better intro into glacier climbing and one of the pearls of the mountains every climber should attempt.

It worked for me, that’s why I ended up writing the climbing guide to the Cascades. Within a year of my tutelage on Baker, I climbed all the Cascade Volcanoes: Mount Hood at night under a full moon (never turned the headlamps on) for a dawn summit; remote Glacier Peak via the Rabbit Ears route; and Rainier, for the first of a dozen summits via the Emmons with my friend Scott Fischer. I did Adams the first time via the North Ridge (the “mule route” is just too boring). My time on Baker had me more than ready for all of that, and what was to come in Alaska and the Alps.

And the beauty is, gaining proficiency in big-mountain skills on Mount Baker is immediately transferable. Learn your chops here, where you likely will have more fun, fewer altitude problems, and enjoy a rare pristine setting and a genuine sense of solitude, and you are set up for what’s next: Rainier on a technical route, other Cascades climbs, or even Denali or Aconcagua.

Tribal Lands

We acknowledge we gather upon the ancestral lands of the Nooksack, Nlaka’pamux, Lummi, Upper Skagit, Salish, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes. These communities have lived on and stewarded the lands surrounding Koma Kulshan since time immemorial, and continue to do so today. We recognize that this land acknowledgement is one small step toward true allyship and we commit to uplifting the voices, experiences, and histories of the Indigenous people of this land and beyond.

Indigenous History of Koma Kulshan

Ages before the mountain was given the name Mount Baker by European explorers in 1792, Koma Kulshan was an important landmark and resource for the Nooksack, Lummi, Salish, Clallam, and many other indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Through the late 1800’s, Koma Kulshan, or Kulshan, was an active volcano that rumbled and thundered, alive to the people around it. Not only is the mountain an awe inspiring landmark, but it also has deep cultural and historic value as well. Kulshan comes from a Lummi phrase with two meanings: “Great White One” and “Struck by Thunder.” Lummi history shares that the mountain was struck by an angry spirit, leaving a wound that bled, burned, and smoked. The two names demonstrate the two emotional states of the mountain– still and white, and angry and erupting. While this name has gained the most recognition, many different indigenous tribes have their own names for the mountain, as well as their own stories for how it came to be.

Further, indigenous histories show connections between the many peaks of the Cascades. A Lummi story tells us that the mountain Kulshan had two wives. One wife, Dŭh-hwähk, became jealous of the other and threatened to leave if he would not choose her over the other. Kulshan called her bluff, and pride alone forced a heartbroken Dŭh-hwähk to go. She went far away, but continued to look back at the mountain she loved as she left, straining to grow taller and taller as Kulshan became harder to see– this is why the peak of Takhoma, later given the European name “Mount Rainier,” is visible from the peak of Kulshan.

History of Western Washington Tribal Lands

Since time immemorial, native tribes of Washington have inhabited the land on and around Koma Kulshan. The Nooksack, Lummi, Upper Skagit, and Coast Salish tribes are some of those that call the areas surrounding Kulshan home today. These tribes were forced out of the area in 1855 with the The Treaty of Point Elliott, in which much of western Washington was exchanged to maintain a small number of rights and practices, and confined to reservations. A large number of these people chose to resist and stay. Many of the Nooksack and Upper Skagit refused to go, with the Upper Skagit assembling in order to prevent settlers from claiming their land. The Nooksack were to join the Lummi reservation, but many stayed by Kulshan. Eventually they were able to stay in homesteads on very small portions of their traditional lands, but they were not granted the same freedoms they had before, or the same political powers of reservations. They were not recognized as a tribe by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and could not vote or organize. In 1970 the tribe gained federal recognition, and reclaimed additional fishing rights. Today, fishing remains an important cultural and economic resource for the many of the area’s indigenous tribes. Both the Lummi and Nooksack work to restore salmon and other fish populations, with fish hatcheries and efforts to rebuild past fish ecosystems. Throughout the early 2000’s, tribes such as the Lummi and Upper Skagit began reclaiming their homelands, slowly buying back the land that had been sold to non-Indians throughout the early 1900’s.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

Selected Climbs in the Cascades
by Jim Nelson, Peter Potterfield, Mountaineers Books
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills
Don Graydon (Ed.), Kurt Hanson (Ed.), Mountaineers Society, Mountaineers Books
Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Selters, Mountaineers Books
The Illustrated Guide to Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue
Andy Tyson, Mike Clelland, Climbing Magazine
A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest
Robert H. Ruby, John A. Brown, Cary C. Collins

If this is the year you’ve decided to dip your crampon-clad toes into the world of mountaineering, there is no better launch pad than the quintessential glaciated Washington peak – the iconic Kulshan (Mount Baker). Located deep in the heart of the North Cascades surrounded by endless steep, snow-capped peaks, Kulshan is arguably the best glacier training venue in the Lower 48. If you’re signed up for this ultra-classic climb this summer or are contemplating it for a future season, check out the recording for our Kulshan webinar hosted by lead guide Brooke Warren. During the webinar, she covered trip logistics, route details, and essential gear considerations to set you up for success. As always, we left time to make sure no question went unanswered. You can watch the full recording below:

I am constantly impressed with Alpine Ascents. Everything was top notch and higher quality then I even hoped or expected. Every single detail was accounted for, right down to the food being the most delicious camp food I’ve ever had. I felt very safe and secure with expert guides that made sure safety was the […]

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Photo taken by Tatiana Van Campenhout
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Photo taken by Tatiana Van Campenhout

Mount Baker | Koma Kulshan — 3 Day Climb BLOG

  • Kulshan (Baker) Webinar

    If this is the year you’ve decided to dip your crampon-clad toes into the world of mountaineering, there is no better launch pad than the quintessential glaciated Washington peak – the iconic Kulshan (Mount Baker). Located deep in the heart of the North Cascades surrounded by endless steep, snow-capped peaks, Kulshan is arguably the best […]

  • Baker Botany 101

    by Brooke Warren People often ask if it’s boring to climb the same mountain over and over again. Honestly, it doesn’t get boring, because the route is constantly evolving and it’s amazing to witness the life cycle off the flora and fauna throughout an entire season. While summiting a mountain is a laudable goal, it’s […]

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