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North Ridge

WI2-3 Steep Snow, Ice, Snow, Alpine, 3000 ft, Grade III,  Avg: 3.8 from 116 votes
FA: Fred Beckey, Dick Widrig, Ralph Widrig, August 1948
Washington > Northwest Region > N Cascades > Mt Baker

Description

The route ascends the broad ridge enclosing the east (left) side of Mount Baker's north face. It is supposed to be a moderately technical route on Mount Baker but we found it to be committing and long. Negotiating the serac wall several hundred feet to the right from its apex, over the north face (see
Mt. Baker. North Ridge with the overlay topo of our ascent (the route normally does not traverse this far to the right). ) required some WI4 ice climbing.

To access North Ridge cross Coleman Glacier laterally until at the base of the ridge. From here ascend the
Ascending the initial snow slopes towards the ridge. to the left of the ridge (crevasse crossings). In the early season and if the snow conditions allow it, the ridge can also be gained from the right (some rockfall danger). Once on the ridge, continue towards the
Climbing towards the serac wall on the lower North Ridge. . Find your way through the ice cliff and proceed on more graduate ice towards the summit cap. The last few hundred feet consisted of climbing in steep poorly consolidated snow. Later in the season this section apparently becomes solidified and a "secret passage" can be found to the left of the steep section and over the crevasses. From the summit cap the true summit is reached by a ~20min walk.

We now believe the serac walls should be climbed around and to the left of the apex of the ice (the passage can't be seen from the ridge unless the traverse left is completed). We chose instead to negotiate the serac walls on the right at a spot where we saw the wall narrow down. The
Belay over the north face. had little reliable pro and took us well onto the north face. Climbing the seracs there involved semi-hanging belay off two screws and ascending a 50ft section of 70-80 degree ice (WI4-?).

Descent via Coleman-Deming route.

Entire climb, including the approach across Coleman glacier and descent back to our tent, took us just under 18 hours.

References:
Cascade Alpine Guide; Climbing & High Routes. Vol. 3: Rainy Pass to Fraser River , Fred Beckey
Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes , Jeff Smoot

Cascade Climbers website is an excellent source of most recent trip reports and route conditions. Here's a trip report
showing climbers ascending the serac wall on the left, near its apex.

Protection

4 snow pickets
6 ice screws
1 mountaineering axe and 1 technical axe/each

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Mt. Baker. View of the Roman Nose from the North Ridge.
[Hide Photo] Mt. Baker. View of the Roman Nose from the North Ridge.
This route is rad!
[Hide Photo] This route is rad!
Traverse under the serac wall.
[Hide Photo] Traverse under the serac wall.
Belay over the north face.
[Hide Photo] Belay over the north face.
Descending Coleman-Deming route in the late afternoon.
[Hide Photo] Descending Coleman-Deming route in the late afternoon.
Above the Ice Pitch and above the clouds
[Hide Photo] Above the Ice Pitch and above the clouds
Mt. Baker. Henning Boldt on the lower slopes of North Ridge.
[Hide Photo] Mt. Baker. Henning Boldt on the lower slopes of North Ridge.
Beginning of leftmost ice pitch.  Stellar good fun.
[Hide Photo] Beginning of leftmost ice pitch. Stellar good fun.
Climbing the ice pitches climbers right of the large serac near the top of the route.
[Hide Photo] Climbing the ice pitches climbers right of the large serac near the top of the route.
Mt. Baker. Ice slopes just above serac walls. Coleman Glacier below.
[Hide Photo] Mt. Baker. Ice slopes just above serac walls. Coleman Glacier below.
Climbing up to the ridge proper in late season (September) condtions.
[Hide Photo] Climbing up to the ridge proper in late season (September) condtions.
Mt. Baker. North Ridge with the overlay topo of our ascent (the route normally does not traverse this far to the right).
[Hide Photo] Mt. Baker. North Ridge with the overlay topo of our ascent (the route normally does not traverse this far to the right).

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

georgiamike
Hampton, GA
[Hide Comment] sent the North Ridge 5/28/15 via hog's back. camped on Coleman the night before so round trip was about 12 hours in near perfect conditions. descent via Coleman route was very slushy. abundant crevasses on the glacier required careful routefinding. Jun 8, 2015
Brian Mohr
Woodland Park,CO
  WI2-3
[Hide Comment] Aug 1st summit took us about 3 hrs to get to high camp the previous day. We found a nice spot for our tent at around 7000' just past the standard camp. It was around 14hrs tent to tent on summit day. The crevasses on the Coleman took some time to navigate as we traversed over towards the ridge. We went the longer way around the toe of the ridge due to it being late in the season and the schrund was looking impassable. The crux ice pitches were soft and sun baked to where screws weren't very solid. We took 7 screws and 3 pickets. If I climb it again in the same conditions I would probably shed 2 screws and take 4 pickets. Once we made it to the large hanging serac we went climbers right up through another steep section no harder than AI3. I would highly recommend taking 2 technical tools. Overall the route was steep and more committing than we expected. Amazing route that I would be willing to climb again. Aug 13, 2016
[Hide Comment] It seems like a lot of people, including our party, are getting stuck or delayed this season near the top of the route just below the summit plateau. There are three options I know of to gain the plateau:
1. Up the gully over the bergshrund
2. Secret Passage to the left of option 1
3. Far right, one can cut around the major bergshrunds and cross a snow bridge that was still in yesterday. Our team left a picket here to protect the downclimb onto the snow bridge. Aug 22, 2016
Chris C.
Seattle, WA
  WI3
[Hide Comment] I don't know what route the folks who are rating this as WI2 are climbing, but the 2 ice pitches felt pretty clearly in the WI3 range by Banff standards. Maybe I hit it during very hard and steep conditions? Maybe we were slightly off route? Regardless, ultra-classic!! Nov 13, 2016
Kyle Tarry
Portland, OR
  AI3 Steep Snow
[Hide Comment] Seems like there can be quite a range of options and variations for the ice pitches, which change the difficulty, time, and commitment level. On June 4th 2017, our party split into several different groups, and one group found a short AI2 pitch to the right of the ridge, while the other group found 2 pitches of AI3+ just left of the crest. Options may vary seasonally as well. Jun 5, 2017
Nick Sweeney
Spokane, WA
  AI2-3
[Hide Comment] Take six screws and 2-3 pickets. Two ice tools worked great! Jun 7, 2017
Mountainhumper
South Jordan, UT.
[Hide Comment] We climbed the Mount Baker North Ridge upper ridge start and right WI2 option (described below in the previous thread) the morning of the 4rth of July, 17. We overnight camped on the flats of the lower Coleman. There was an obvious boot pack traversing the Coleman to approach the steeper access options for gaining the North ridge. Some traversing and climbing around and above bergshrunds to gain the North ridge proper, But all options are open (there looks to be three obvious and all fun looking semi-steep-ish options for gaining the North ridge). This is where the steeper climbing begins, but we didn't protect any of it. Others did w/ pickets (40-45 degree steep snow). Did I mention this a pretty popular route (seen numerous bootpack approaches). Where the ice climbing begins, and where we took the shorter (less than one rope length) WI2 option lookers right, we used four hastily placed ice screws (the 22's I'd placed bottomed out) in the WI2 section alongside and up the rock saddle to gain the ice cap. Once at the top of that rock, it mellowed out and gaining the crest of the ridge above it was pretty casual. BUT BE WARNED, the WI2 ice section along and up the rock, was over sometimes verglas covered or otherwise rotten plate like ice covered rock. I'd knocked a chunk of ice off, it hit my wife whom followed up 2nd. She later received 6 stitches and had sustained a concussion. Use shorter 10, 13, and 16 cm screws to protect this thin ice covered rock section if you choose to climb this particular variation. Of course, now I wish we would've climbed the longer ridge apex option. Don't bring too many pickets. Ya never use em anyway. Bottom line: the route is open, route variations
exist, there is an obvious bootpack for yaks, all bets are on. Bring your 2nd ice tool, your sunscreen, and your game. Jul 8, 2017
[Hide Comment] katieamckinstry.blogspot.co…


This route is a true classic. Perfect conditions and we had the entire route to ourselves. More info on our climb in the link above. Aug 31, 2017
Chris C.
Seattle, WA
  WI3
[Hide Comment] June 2019 trip report: gethighonaltitude.com/2019/… Jun 10, 2019
RyderS Stroud
Liming, Yunnan Province, CN
[Hide Comment] Did the route on 6.12.2019. Super hot weather in the Cascades this year, but the route is still in. There was a little crevasse maze navigation towards the ridge proper with some snow bridges that will not last much longer, if you are looking to access the ridge from the chutes on the northwest side of the ridge (facing the bulk of the Coleman). Another team came up directly towards the ridge's town and seemed to find a pretty passable line to the bottom of the ridge.

Lots of good kick stepping to be had (in some places perhaps a little too soft?). The ice pitch is pretty soft. I had to dig down to get to ice good enough for screws. 1 long pitch of ice and steep snow (60m) brought us to a section of soft snow above the ice climbing before normal kick stepping picked up again.

We brought 8 screws since I haven't been out on ice in a while, but didn't need nearly that many. Arrived at the belay with 2 screws still hanging on my harness having used 1 in the anchor at the base of the headwall. 2 pickets (a picket per person) was plenty.

If you're thinking about heading up, go soon before glacier conditions make it harder to get up to the fun climbing! Jun 13, 2019