Earlier in 1998, Houston residents Kathy and Drew Cartes asked me to climb Mt. Baker with them. Kathy is an old friend and climbing enthusiast from Seattle, and a couple years ago, the three of us climbed Mt. Rainier.
I had climbed Mt. Baker twice before from the standard Coleman-Deming route, so this time I insisted on a different route, the Easton Glacier. Although not much more difficult than the standard route, the Easton Glacier route is a little longer and more aesthetic with more glacier climbing and a view of the summit crater.
Then a few months ago, Doug Jones announced his wedding plans for the end of July, and our mutual good friend, Rod Sly, made plans to fly up here from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rod, Brad Canady, and I founded The Way Too High Alpine Society in 1982 when we climbed Mt. McKinley. Shortly after the Denali climb, Rod moved to Albuquerque.
It turned out that the Baker climb was a perfect time for a Way Too High reunion climb. Rod, Brad, and I hadn't climbed together since Denali. Although Brad was a little reluctant at first, it didn't take much for Rod and I to convince him that now was the time for the founding members of the Way Too High Alpine Society to climb their first peak together since the triumph on Denali 16 years earlier.
Then DJ, in an act of final independence before the responsibilities of wife and child take effect, decided to join in to make it a team of six.
Saturday morning, we all met at Alexander's, the traditional WTHAS breakfast spot for climbs heading north. We drove to the trailhead at the northern end of Baker Lake, and took off for the Schreiber's Meadow and Railroad Grade trails that would lead us to the snout of the Easton Glacier.
The "Railroad Grade" is a lateral moraine that is ascended the last mile to the glacier camps. It is so named because of it's near-perfect 6 percent grade. As we neared the glacier, we began crossing paths with climbers making their way down from summit attempts that day. The first people we ran into had been turned back by crevasse problems on the Easton Glacier. The glacier was pretty broken up and impassable in places. However, we talked to other climbers later who had success going up the east side of the glacier instead of the traditional and more direct west side.
When we reached the glacier, we discussed our strategy. We decided to rope up, cross the glacier, set up camp on the east side, and make our ascent along a good looking line on that side of the glacier to the base of Sherman Peak. We would then traverse to the west past the crater to the Roman Wall that would lead us to the true summit atop Grant Peak.
We found a great camp site and were later joined by a couple other parties who camped nearby. We got up at 3 AM and began climbing in the dark. We had two rope teams of three consisting of Rod, Brad, and DJ, and me, Kathy, and Drew. Rodney took the lead picking his way around the dark crevasses, and after a few hours we witnessed a beautiful sunrise.
There were some pretty spectacular crevasse crossings as the snow bridges were gradually disappearing as summer progressed. But the ropes gave us the necessary security and confidence.
We took a short break at the crater rim, then continued up the steep Roman Wall to the flat summit that lead to the small mound that was the true summit. We reached the top at about 10 AM in perfect weather. The descent was hot and uneventful.
The next week leading up to DJ's wedding was full of fun and partying with Rod staying at my place. But the Baker climb was a definite highlight and brought back great memories.