Mt Baker - Coleman-Deming route
(postholin' our way to the top)

21-22 Jun 2004 - by Marcin Porwit

We left Seattle early on Monday morning, and reached the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead at 10 am. Cruising up the mountain, we reached the base of the Coleman glacier in a couple of hours. At that point, rather than following the tracks of most other parties straight up the glacier to the south, we headed west and then east in a V-shaped path that brought us up along the Thunder glacier. The snow was slushy but well consolidated, and it was easy going.

All that changed around 8000 feet. Baker had gotten a pile of new snow a week before, and it had been very sunny and warm since then, so the snow was soft. With temperatures in the mid-80's during the day and the freezing level above 10000 feet even at night, the trip turned to sheer misery as we trudged on up towards camp. The postholing was very draining. We made camp at a hair over 9000 feet, on the saddle between Baker and Colfax peak.

A little after 4 am the next day we started for the summit. The night had been relatively warm, so the deep loose slush we had faced the night before was still there, only covered by a thin yet strangely annoying layer of breakable crust. We roped up and put on our crampons, hoping that the snow would get firmer on the way up. It was not to be. It wasn't until we reached the summit plateau that the going got any easier. From there it was a short dash to Grant peak, the actual summit. We spent a few minutes enjoying the 360 panorama from the top. It was somewhat hazy, but we could see Rainier to the south. On the way down we passed a party of four, trudging to the top. A little lower we encountered three skiers aiming to drop down from the summit. It looked like they definitely had the right idea, as the unconsolidated snow wasn't bothering them at all.

We broke camp at 10 am. This time we went down the direct route on the Coleman glacier. There were many crevasses, and although they looked deep they were very narrow, no more than a few inches across and easy to spot. Making good time, we reached the car around 2:30 pm and headed back to Seattle, stopping by the North Fork Brewing Company and Wedding Chapel in Deming for a pizza and a pint.

The weather had been very good for the entire trip. It was sunny and warm, with a nice wind to take the edge off the heat. The route wasn't very crowded at all. It would have been a perfect trip if not for the postholing.

Participants: Ross Fleischman, Marcin Porwit

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