Ice Climbing the Coleman Seracs

Ropes setup and everyone enjoying what we came for.
Mount Baker

It’s fall and the glaciers have lost most all of there snow. What does this mean? Well if you live in Washington State and want to ice climb it is one of the small windows we have in this state to do so. Since our winters don’t always get cold enough to produce great waterfall climbing routes, the next best thing is to climb the Serac of an opened glacier. These are formed when crevasse intersect each other usually just before or at the higher points of a steep slope.  This allows them to form tall pinnacles that although dangerous in nature, make for a great ice wall to climb.

The naked northwest face of Mount Baker in September, and where we would be climbing.
Coleman Glacier

The plan was to hike in and stay the night so we could climb both Saturday and Sunday.  Following the Heliotrope trail it was a fairly easy short hike to camp where we set up and get our gear out and ready for climbing that day. Because the glacier has cut into the mountain so much we had to hike down a short ways to get to the base and work our way back up to the open seracs. There was something surreal about seeing and walking on such a large sheet of ice.

The views of my favorite mountain looking almost naked this time of year. Although there was little snow left down low the Baker poses some impressive glaciers. As we got closer and the ice got steeper we decided it was time to put crampons on.

Kashan leading a climb.
Setup

As we climbed closer to the bottom of what were crevasses we began to access the best area we though we could comfortably and safely climb for the day. There was a few other groups climbing in the area. Although not as many as we had anticipated given the great weather window and time of year. It was still fairly early in the day so the four of us were excited to get almost a full day in of climbing. Our fearless leader Kashan decided to lead a climb up medium size wall in hopes to setup a good top rope that we could use.

One of the large challenges we faced was the amount of glacier water that was at the base of all these walls of ice, the cracks per sae. However this just means another fun obstacle to contend with. We decided to traverse climb on the east side of the crevasse then as it closed up turn 180 degrees and transfer to the opposing wall and work our way up. This made for a pretty fun little circuit to get some good practice on.

Rob attacking the wall!
Ice vs Rock

As someone who has climbed both rock and at indoor gyms. Climbing was not new to me. With ice climbing there seemed to be just as many differences ans similarities. Swinging the ice axe with good form and keeping your feet down all to conserve strength as you move on the ice seemed to carry a lot of weight. It took a lot of practice, the bad ice breaking away mostly in your face. Causing you to compensate with your other arm and feet to carry the load as you try to swing again took more energy out then I had expected.

It made you appreciate a good swing into the right spot. Resulting in a what seemed like beautiful popping sound of the axe and ice joining comfortably together. Only the last inch of the tip of your crampons would hold your feet to the wall to support you. Trusting your gear never felt so important as it did at this moment. The successful completion of a route on some hard ice was worth the effort.

Rob and Kashan in the early chilly morning on the north side of Baker.

Saturday turned out to be a success with some great climbing and learning for myself. With our blue sky fading dark and the sun dropping behind the mountain. We decided to pack up and trek back to camp for the night. The timing worked out great as we exited the glacier the Alpenglow on Baker was stunning. Back at camp we spoke about past and future trips we each are planning.

Sunday Morning

Sunday we headed back early, the ice being much harder then the afternoon before. We found an even larger wall to try and challenge us. This one even had a slight overhang to it. The wall was taller and it made for a more challenging but fun route. Most of us struggled with the top section for sure.

Being early morning the sun was unable to reach us. This made for a chilly time if you didn’t stay moving. The flip side was our protection would not melt out as fast and that was worth it to me. We had two more people join our group that day. Everyone seemed to have a great time. We managed to get multiple ropes set up so everyone could be climbing. All the guys had been ice climbing before with myself being the only noob on the trip. I decided I would make up for the lack of experience and couching with some photos of the guys climbing.

Rob able to catch a shot of me while also belaying me!
Aspiring Adventure photographer

I have been slowing working towards doing more adventure photography and this had been a great opportunity to do so. To experience something I have wanted to do for so long and then be able to capture some of those moments. This made the weekend a great success in my book. A special thanks to my friend Rob for the last minute invite. And to Kashan for being our fearless leader and pushing us to climb at our bests.

Kashan working an overhang.

I value feedback and would love to hear your thoughts. Also ideas on an adventure you would like to see.

 

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