FKT: Alex King - Mount Baker - 2021-07-24

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Total time
3h 41m 0s


Ascent time: 2:21:31

Round Trip: 3:41:00


Trip Report: 

A humbling experience indeed. I sit down to write this quickly after I finish so as to fully remember the reality of this outing and to do my best not to glamorize it as time tends to do with experiences in the mountains (and really just physically hard efforts in general).

The day started sluggishly, with getting out of my warm cocoon of a sleeping bag being the first challenge of the day. My alarm went off at 4:45am. Snoozed. 5:00, snooze. 5:15, snooze. 5:30, snooze. At 5:45 I finally managed to sit upright and put a pot of water on for coffee, still wrapped in my bag of course. I ate a blueberry pop tart while making coffee, dilly dallied around for a while, hit up the bathroom, got my gear ready, and finally started off running from the Heliotrope trailhead just before 6:40 am.

I had on Salomon SLab Sense 8's and was carrying Black Diamond Z-poles, a Petzl Gully ice axe, microspikes, a pair of Julbo sunnies, and 1 liter of Fluid filled water.

Once I was moving my body kicked into gear and immediately felt energized. I made pretty good time up the cruiser trail and made it to Hogsback Camp in no time. Passing by a group having their morning powwow , I hopped onto the snow and found it to be in fairly good condition with quite a good boot track. After 10 or 20 good minutes on the snow, conditions started deteriorating. The boot track disappeared (or maybe I just lost it?) and the crevasses got scary. Most of the crevasses were easy to hop over but some of the larger ones that required crossing snow bridges were on the brink of being idiotic to be doing solo. And with only a few footprints here and there to follow, there was no confidence-boosting 'follower' mentality to be had. I never felt like I had totally crossed the line into the realm of just plain dumb but I was undoubtedly tiptoeing closer than I would've liked. I took the entirety of the Coleman Glacier pretty slowly.

At the top of the Coleman, there was a short yet steep icy section to gain the ridge between the Coleman and Deming glaciers. I took this bit nice and slow and it didn't cause me any issues with my microspikes on the way up, but I was sure as hell not looking forward to coming down it.

The ridge was dry and the loose scree was a welcome relief from the crevasses. I cruised up it, finally being able to push again. Unfortunately, the cruising was short lived. Once the ridge spits you out onto the upper section of the Deming, I found shit-covered ice (the shit being small pebble shit, glacial dust shit, small water filled runnel shit, big falling rock shit, loose ice on solid ice shit, small yet still scary crevasse shit, but fortunately enough no shit shit). Once again, going up this wasn't all so bad but I wasn't hyped for the descent. There was a short rockband of more loose shit before topping out onto the summit plateau. I hoped and prayed that I would not knock any rocks off on the two climbers below me while summoning my inner.. mouse (?) to make it through this section.

Once on the summit plateau I jogged across to the true summit, reaching the top of the mini scree mound in a time of 2:21:31. I was quite surprised to find a number of people hanging out there after not many people on the CD route, maybe 4 or 5 total. There were about 15 ish people snacking and snapping photos on the top. One of these nice folk snapped a few pictures of me, I took a short minute to take in the view, and started off back across the flat bit.

There were more people coming up so, not looking at my track and not thinking that I hadn't seen all those people on my way up just a few minutes ago, I headed towards them. I started descending and found a lovely boot track with numerous people on it before quickly realizing I was descending the wrong route.. I was headed down the Easton Glacier route. It did look lovely though. A mumbled a quick, "...fuck...", turned around, and headed back up a short bit to get back on the proper route. A group coming up Easton asked me what I was doing (a very fair question after probably looking very lost), I muttered some grumpy half-response, and moved along. I guess this explains all the people.

The descent back down to the scree ridge was slow but not terrible, the scree ridge went quickly, and I started down the steep icy bit to get back on the Coleman. I made it a few steps down before the thin layer of snow I was trying to kick into gave way and I went for a short yet quite uncomfortable ride. I arrested myself, got back up, took a few more steps and promptly did it again. On the bright side, two short falls meant I was at the bottom of the shitty section, just with about a square inch less of skin on my hand than when I'd started. I used part of my now-torn sleeve to try and wrap up my hand as best as possible (turned out to be a waste of time ...and fabric). Back on the glacier, I was happy for better snow conditions and not happy for more crevasses but thankfully the downhill makes the jumps much more manageable. I made it back to Hogsback Camp without any more hiccups, took off my microspikes, and put my axe on my back. I got my groove back flowing down the trail, making it to the trailhead for a round-trip time of 3:41:00.

There have been people who have done Mt. Baker faster car-to-car using skis, namely the current record holder Peter Butler in a time of 3:15 and precious record holders Nick E. and Eric Carter in 3:37, but I believe this is very likely the FKT (both ascent and round trip) for Mt. Baker on-foot. (If you happen to know of someone who has done it faster, please let me know!)

Even now, just an hour or two after I finished what turned out to be much more of a mission than I was expecting, typing out this trip report at Joe's Coffee while drinking an iced americano and chowing a veggie breakfast burrito, I look back on the experience and can't help myself but to think, "What a god damn lovely way to spend a morning".