Dates: June 25, 2022 – June 29, 2022
Leader – Doug Laidlaw
Co-Leader – Mike Lafleur
Team – Jessica Coady, Cesar Hernandez, Alex Laidlaw, Rick Laidlaw, Ryan Laidlaw, Vaughan O’Neal, and Chad Pickering
Objective – Mount Baker via the Easton Glacier. The original trip plan was to ascend via the Coleman-Deming Glacier, however due to a road closure almost 4 miles from the trailhead due to a washout, the decision was made to ascend via the Easton Glacier instead.
Day 1 (June 25): Team members arrived in Seattle by Saturday afternoon, although not without some last-minute drama – The flight for Jessica, Chad, and Vaughan was canceled on the day of departure, requiring them to make an overnight drive to New York City in a rental car in order to catch an alternate flight early Saturday morning from JFK! In the meantime, Alex, Cesar, Mike, and I arrived from Boston late in the morning, and the team united at baggage claim before heading to the rental car counter. A gear check was performed with each team member during the long wait in the rental car line, and before heading to REI in Seattle. Once at REI, another surprise awaited us when we learned that they were completely sold out of stove fuel! On recommendation from the staff at REI, we diverted course to a small outdoor outfitter (Wonderland Gear Exchange) in Seattle where we were fortunately able to purchase the needed amount of fuel. The next stop was the Comfort Suites in Burlington, WA, where we were joined by Rick and Ryan to complete the team. After dinner at Outback Steakhouse, we packed our bags and went to bed early after a long day of travel.
Day 2 (June 26): The day started sunny and warm as we drove from the hotel to the Park Butte Trailhead at Schriebers Meadow in the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area. Over 1.5 hours, we climbed steadily from an elevation of 30 feet in Burlington to 3,640 feet over a bumpy dirt road, thankful to have all wheel drive vehicles with high clearance! We were able to drive to about 0.4 miles from the trailhead before we hit snow that made the road impassible. The hike from the car to camp was enjoyable, with one interesting stream crossing, and the warm weather made for tired climbers by the time we reached the Railroad Grade. At this point, we were very fortunate to encounter two descending climbers who strongly recommended that we stop at High Camp, where they had just vacated, to take advantage of the dry ground and shade offered by the site, rather than ascending to Sandy Camp which was our original plan. This turned out to be excellent beta, as we unpacked our gear and rested in the shade. To complete our day, Jess, Vaughan, and Cesar took full advantage of the warm weather to sleep outside the tents and under the stars.
Day 3 (June 27): Summit day began with a planned alpine start at 3 am, although we left camp a little late at around 3:30 am. We climbed up above Sandy Camp where we took a short break to divide into 3 rope teams of 3 climbers each and roped up. The early season snow cover made climbing uneventful, and the recent weekend crowds had made a decent climbing trail such that route finding was not difficult under the clear conditions. We made steady progress to the Sherman Crater, where we were entertained by a ski paraglider, taking flight from the summit and over our heads while we sat and rested in the warming sun. We then ascended via switchbacks up the Roman Wall without incident, and all members of the team reached the summit between 10 am and 10:30 am. Once all rope teams arrived, we shared congratulatory high fives and enjoyed the views before heading down at around 11 am. The descent was also uneventful, although the rising heat and very soft snow made for a hot and frustrating return to camp. Motivated by the desire to get out of the sun, we all arrived back at camp in timely fashion at around 2 pm. We were glad to see that the black trash bags we had filled with snow on our departure had by then melted into several liters of badly needed water for filtering. The rest of the day was spent organizing gear and relaxing in the shade, sharing crossword puzzles and stories of our times in the wilderness. Fortunately, the weather held overnight, and it only rained at our camp for a few minutes as a front passed through the area and temperatures moderated.
Day 4 (June 28): We again got an early start for our final day on the mountain and our hike out. We were all awake by 5 am and began the hike out around 7 am. The snow was firm, and the hiking was easy back down to the car. The only eventful moment of the hike out was crossing Rocky Creek, which was running high due to the early season snow melt and warm weather. Fortunately, Jess, Cesar, and Chad spotted two small logs that allowed for an awkward but safe crossing for the entire team. Although by the time I, the last person to cross, began the traverse, one of the branches appeared to be very close to its breaking point! From there on, it was an easy hike out and a short drive back to the Comfort Inn and Suites at the airport in Seattle. In the evening, we all enjoyed walking through Pike Place Market (and the “gum wall”), before a celebratory seafood dinner at Cutter’s Crabhouse.
Day 5 (June 29): All team members flew home to Boston, returning to work and family, and dreaming of future adventures in the mountains.
In the end, we were fortunate to have a snowpack typical of early June, combined with late July weather, which made for enjoyable and safe climbing conditions. The group proved to be an incredibly strong and resilient team.
Until we climb again – Doug Laidlaw