On April 17th my friend Dan Probst of Cascade Mountain Runners and I made an early season summit of Mount Baker. We saw a brilliant weather window and decided Saturday night to give it a shot. I slept 2 hours and we got up at 2:00 AM and started loading packs in a sleep deprived haze.
Miraculously we didn’t forget any essentials. We started hiking from the Ridley Creek trailhead at 4:45 AM hiking up through the forest.
We put on snowshoes as soon as we hit the snow a little below treeline. When we hit the Easton Glacier above Schribers Meadows we roped up for crevasse fall protection even though there is a ton of snow and no cracks showing. We switched to crampons at that time although we probably would have been better off keeping the snowshoes in the soft fresh snow until the mountain gets steep around 10,000 ft at the Roman Wall. There were cool ice formations on Sherman Peak as we passed the crater. There was bits of steam and some sulfur smells coming from the crater.
We summited around 1:30 PM with spectacular 360 degree views of Ranier, The San Junas, and Canada.
I carried my paraglider to the summit but waited until we were off the Easton Glacier on the way down to fly. The crevasses were well covered with snow but I didn’t want to send my climbing partner down the glaciers alone without someone on the other end of the rope.
I launched in East wind from the top of the Railroad Grade Trail. I had to go up on a little knob to get out of the catabic flush that was coming down the snowfields even in the middle of a sunny day. After launching I dove downwind into the Deming Glacier canyon which was sinky but not too turbulent. I was surprised to find nice organized thermals over the huge rock walls on the west side of the canyon and soared there with great views of the Deming Glacier.
My plan was to land in the Deming Creek wash by the trail head which was a small bouldery space. I was on the lookout for sky high thermals that would allow me to follow ridges out over the LZless areas to civilazation but those were not forthcoming at 4:00 PM on a high pressure afternoon. I tries a couple other peaks for thermals and when they didn’t deliver I headed over to land in a solidly east wind.
Fortunately the east wind made the wind down slope in the creek bed. That meant I could land going upslope and get on the ground quickly in the small space between the trees. If I had needed to land downslope I would have been very apprehensive about overshooting the gravel bar.
At least I landed within a 5 minute walk of the car. Dan hiked down and showed up a couple hours later. It was great for a spontaneous 1 day trip. The route below shows all but the first bit of our hike up.