The majestic Cascade Range of North America is undoubtedly one of the best candidates when it comes to choosing your first mountain climb. It is filled with countless snow-capped peaks. Among these, Mount Baker stands out as the fifth-highest peak in the Range, and the third-highest in the state of Washington. Besides being a stratovolcano (covered with multiple layers of hardened lava), it has a record for receiving some of the most frequent snowfall in the entire world. It is the second-most glaciated mountain in the Cascade Region, meaning that is it is heavily covered with thick layers of snow. There are several factors to keep in mind when attempting to climb this mighty peak.
First off, Mount Baker has not seen an eruption for more than a century and does not pose any imminent threat of eruption. However, there are several other things to consider for your ascent. Even though the path is filled with charming flowers, things like steep surfaces and confusing pathways are a major hindrance. If you are hiking with your dog, you need to be extra careful. As you climb, you need to breathe faster due to the lack of air, and the temperatures decrease to below freezing point. On top of that, snowfall is a very probable event at any time of the year, so you need to be prepared for that as well. Thus, for a safe and well-planned journey, the guide below features all the necessary safety tips and precautions for climbing Mount Baker.
Mount Baker presents three major climbing routes. One of these is the most popular one, while the other two are exceptional choices.
The first one, the Standard Summit route, is the most suited for beginners. It is also the most preferred one by the local tour programs. There are some very beautiful wildflowers throughout the route. However, mostly, the ascent constitutes of deep snow. It is generally a steep climb but is still easily manageable. It requires you to cover a distance of about 12 miles, from the trailhead to the summit.
The second one, the North Ridge, is recommended for those who are looking for a daring and thrilling experience. The routes can be difficult to find unless you have a guide. The ascent to the top is a continuous and exerting steep climb, covering a distance of about 8 miles from the trailhead to the summit.
The Coleman Headwall, the largest face of the Cascades, is only recommended for climbing experts. The route involves almost 2, 500 ft. of ascent, along with a persistent physical and technical effort. The snow is deep, and, in many places, the ascent can be steep enough to require ice climbing. Hence, the overall experience required doesn’t permit beginners to try their luck.
How Long Does the Climb Take?
There are several programs that help you reach the summit in less than two days. However, these include several camp breaks, as well as training sessions to prepare you for the climb better. If you are looking to make the journey as quick as possible while choosing the safer routes like the Standard Summit route, you can complete the journey in less than 10 hours on an average day.
However, if you plan on taking a camping trip, or treading through more difficult trails, it might take you anywhere from 15 hours to a whole day to cover the distance from the trailhead to the summit. The Coleman Headwall, the steepest route, can usually take you to the summit in 3 – 4 hours.
The mountain surface is deeply clad with snow, and the climb is constantly steep. Hence, the trek is not advisable for people with severe breathing difficulties, people with acrophobia (fear of heights) or people who are physically unfit to maintain a continuing and heavy ascent for several hours.
For any of these cases, it is better to hire a private guide or improve your capabilities beforehand by performing minor climbs.
Equipment You Need
Most of the basic equipment can be provided by your tour guide if you have one. Nevertheless, we recommend you have the following necessities whenever climbing a mountain.
- Warm and waterproof layers of clothing
- First aid kit
- Food (small meals with high proteins and carbs)
- Boonie hats
- Extra batteries
- Ice ax
And if you are also planning on camping during your trips, then:
- Dry under-layers
- Sleeping bag
- Tenting gear
- Cooking gear
Remember that, for beginners, it can be too overwhelming to remember every important detail. So, it is recommended to join a certified guide program the initial time, and learn from your first-hand experience.