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Entries from North Cascades

Mt. Shuksan: Beren & Team Summit via Fisher Chimneys

RMI Guide Jake Beren and team reached the summit of Mt. Shuksan via the Fisher Chimneys route this morning around 10 am PT.  Jake reported clear skies with a light layer of clouds below and light winds. The team enjoyed some time on the summit today all on their own, although the route was busy they were on the summit alone.  The team safely returned to high camp where they will spend their final night of the trip.  Tomorrow morning they will hike out to the trail head.

Congratulations to today’s Mt. Shuksan Team!

Mt. Baker: Davis Recounts Climb of the North Ridge

The low pressure system plaguing the North Cascades cleared the area before we began our approach to the Hogsback Camp on Mt. Baker under clear blue skies. It is a relatively short hike compared to other North Cascade objectives and we endured sweaty backs for only three hours to our upper camp. We spent the first afternoon relaxing in the warm sun looking across a long glacier towards our climbing objective the following day.

We woke at 2:00 a.m. to a waning crescent moon and began the traverse across the Coleman Glacier, navigating the crevassed field of soft snow and ice by headlamp to the base of the North Ridge.  Two and a half hours of walking brought us to the bergschrund guarding the access couloir and soon we were kicking and swinging our way up 50 degree snow onto the North Ridge. We climbed in the shadow of the Ridge as the sun lit up the terrain to our left and promised its warmth just as soon as we were ready to crest the Ridge facing Canada.

The real climbing begins halfway up the route on a feature known as the ice step. Our team climbed onto the step swinging left onto the face and climbing the sun baked ice for two pitches. The sun was in full effect as we gained the steep slopes that continue unbroken for 1,500 vertical feet under Mt. Baker’s final serac band. Just below the summit, we shed clothing wet from the dripping ice. Four more pitches of 55 degree snow brought us to the serac jungle guarding Mt. Baker’s summit and we entered the jungle with eyes overhead to watch for falling ice. A large smoke canister marked the entry to the jungle passage, dropped from a helicopter a few days prior staining the snow a bright red. A two person party had been caught in whiteout conditions and abandoned their gear just below the summit. We came across two packs with clothing, rope, and some climbing gear which we shouldered and carried up and over cleaning the mountain of unnatural detritus.

Soon, we stood on top Mt. Baker’s broad summit plateau and ventured over to the other side to begin the descent down the Coleman-Deming route to our camp on the Hogsback. All told, we spent 12 hours climbing the North Ridge of Mt. Baker. We arrived at camp as large clouds built up to the south and basked in the late afternoon sun, falling into a deep sleep satisfied with a great adventure on a great route.

RMI Guide Leon Davis

Mt. Shuksan: Fisher Chimneys Team Unable To Summit Despite Impressive Effort

Day one on a Mt. Shuksan Fisher Chimneys trip is a big day, maybe the biggest day of the climb. Most guided parties take eight hours to reach high camp perched at the edge of the Price Glacier above the Chimneys. So when the team drove to the trail head in a heavy wet cloud we needed to make a decision about hiking in those conditions. We stood in the parking lot in our gore-tex, gathering large beads of water that collected from simply standing in the cloud. We drove back down the mountain hoping the forecast for better afternoon weather would prove true. It did not and we decided to try again in the morning.

The following day, as clouds started to pass over the area, we began the approach in a drier cloud and took every bit of the eight hours to climb the Chimneys to high camp. The plan was to set up camp, rest for a few hours and continue towards the summit unburdened by heavy packs. At 4:30 p.m. we began the journey upward, traversing the Price, climbing the steep Hell’s Highway and cresting onto the upper Sulphide Glacier. A cloud followed us up the Sulphide, hiding the summit pyramid but we were able to climb on instruments towards its base. At 7:00 p.m. the clouds parted long enough to show us the pyramid and in what condition it lay.  A steep snow traverse gained the lower rock band where it usually is a low angle scramble and we spotted a few teams descending in the early evening light. So far, we had been moving for 12 hours and now we were looking at summiting around dark and descending complicated terrain under headlamp. We made the conservative call to turn around and made our high point the base of the pyramid, just 600 vertical feet shy of the very top. Disappointing sure, but the team put in an extraordinary effort to climb all day and we were satisfied with the decision to leave the summit for another day.

RMI Guide Leon Davis

Mt. Baker: Beren Recounts Climb of the North Ridge

Mt. Baker did not fail to impress our small team this week! We set out from Glacier, WA to make an attempt on Mt. Baker’s mighty North Ridge. Our approach put us at camp at the toe of the Coleman Glacier where we reviewed relevant climbing techniques and relaxed ourselves to sleep.

We awoke under the full moon and set out at dusk to begin the climb. A few hours of casual glacier travel found us at the base of the route. The forbidding clouds to the west stood down and we began our ascent. We gained the ridge and with some steep snow climbing and we were in business! Soon it was time to get into the meat of the route, the ice pitches. Under the snice (snow+ice) there was quality ice, so it didn’t take too much excavation to find good placements for our tools. As we topped out the ice pitches the clouds returned and soon we were relying on instruments to find the top. After a bit of thought-provoking route finding we navigated the jumbled glacier that guards the cumbre (summit) and celebrated efficiently before descending the Coleman route back to camp.

It was a great day with good company - all you can ask for in the mountains! Standing on top doesn’t hurt either.

RMI Guide Jake Beren

Congratulation Jake + team..Thx again support on Rainier ‘12
..Walter / IN

Posted by: Walter Glover on 7/26/2016 at 5:13 am

North Cascades: Frank & Team Change Plans Due to Weather

June 22, 2016 - 2:33 pm PT

Hey gang,

Here’s a soggy hello from just south of the Canadian border. Caleb and I are sitting in a coffeeshop in Bellingham pouring over radar maps and weather forecasts, while our boots dry in the parking lot.

Yesterday we were suppose to have climbed Mt. Buckner, but both the weather and route conditions shut that down. On Monday we made it to one of our potential camp locations after eight hours of climbing only to find that it was buried in snow.  We had to dig for 20 minutes to make snow platforms for our tents. It started raining later in the night and by the time we woke up at 3am to launch, everything was rimed over with several inches of ice. Because the first hour of the climb requires scrambling on six-inch rock ledges and the use of bare hands, we knew it wasn’t an option.

After checking the weather every 20-30 minutes until 8am, we gave up and went back to bed. The wind continued to blow and spit light precip. Around 10am, there was a clearing and we decided to capitalize on the opportunity by making a quick trip to the summit of nearby Sahale. From the top, we had incredible views of our camp and the surrounding peaks before the clouds obscured them again.

In the early afternoon we packed up camp and started the trek downhill. As a group we decided to focus our efforts of the next objective, Mt. Shuksan, and take a full rest day in Bellingham to dry our gear and prepare. 

Wish us luck and a drier next few days.

RMI Guides Eric Frank and Caleb Ladue

Mt. Shuksan: Walter & Team Have a Soggy Finish

It poured rain all night. It was still pouring this morning when we woke up. It took us awhile to work up the courage to get out of our tents and pack up but we did it. We packed our gear and booked it down the trail to find somewhere a little less wet. Now we are back in town, still soaking wet, but oh so happy to know we can finally start getting dry. Despite the soggy finish to our trip, we had a great time training on Mt. Shuksan.

RMI Guide Mike Walter and team

Mt. Shuksan: Mike Walter & Team Drying Out on the Sulphide Glacier

It rained hard all night last night, and we are currently in a very humid cloud with intermittent showers. We decided not to climb today because of the weather. Instead, we did some training and hanging out in our cook tent. We’re currently taking siestas in our tents in order to warm back up from the penetrating dampness and cold. Hopefully, if it clears up this afternoon, we’ll be able to take a climb up higher on the Sulphide Glacier.

RMI Guide Mike Walter

Mt. Shuksan: The Seminar Spends the Day Practicing Technical Skills

We had a good day of technical training yesterday on the Sulphide Glacier, with mostly sunny skies. We woke this morning to rain and snow, so we are still lounging in our tents before breakfast. Hopefully it dries up soon so we can continue our training today.

RMI Guide Mike Walter

Mt. Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys: Blais & Team Descend Through New Snow

We got back into cell service late last night after an exciting day of climbing on Mount Shuksan yesterday. New snow in the Fisher Chimneys made it prudent to wear our crampons all the way down to the talus field below the Chimneys. Our team had a great time descending this tough terrain and came away from the trip with an excellent experience. Fun climbing in this wild September weather!

Thanks for the inspiring attitudes everyone.

RMI Guide Zeb Blais

Mt. Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys: Weather Thwarts Summit Attempt

The guide team monitored weather conditions throughout the night, only to find snow and poor visibility each time we looked out of our tent. With our time frame and weather forecast, our plan for the day is to pack up camp and take as much time as we need to get down the Chimneys safely. We’ll send another dispatch from town.

Until then-

RMI Guide Zeb Blais & Team

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