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Coleman Headwall 

Type:  Alpine, 2000', Grade IV
Original: Steep Snow [details]
FA: Ed Cooper, Phil Bartow, Donald Grimlund, and David Nicholson, August 1957
Season: May through early Fall depending on conditions
Page Views: 8,872
Submitted By: Kris Gorny on Dec 4, 2006

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Coleman Headwall. Higher up on the route, just bef...


The route climbs the northwest side of Mt. Baker and is delineated by the Roman Nose on the climber's right and serac walls on the left. We climbed it in early May 2006 and the route then had two distinct sections: the lower, which was mostly firm steep snow (up to 50 degrees) and the upper, which was 800 feet of 60-degree ice (AI4, WI3) with little reliable pro. The ice slabs on the upper section formed a giant plate, about an inch thick, covering the wet snow underneath. It was "fun" to climb but the overall stability of the ice was questionable. We simul-climbed the lower section and pitched it out on the upper. Just below the second rock band (topo pic #2) the belays were set with some ice screws. Once on the steep ice the belays were set with pickets punched through the ice layer. There were two shrund crossings on the route (topo pic #2) and some signs of avalanche activity. Descent via Coleman-Deming route.

"Cascade Alpine Guide" Vol. 3 (Rainy Pass to Fraser River), Fred Beckey
"Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes", Jeff Smoot

For additional info and updated route conditions check


4 snow pickets, 5 ice screws, long runners, pair of ice tools/climber

Photos of Coleman Headwall Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The upper slopes
The upper slopes
Rock Climbing Photo: Chad about to enter the second bergshrund crossing...
Chad about to enter the second bergshrund crossing...
Rock Climbing Photo: Movin' on up!
Movin' on up!
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit pic with Northern Cascades in the backgroun...
Summit pic with Northern Cascades in the backgroun...
Rock Climbing Photo: Lower slopes.
Lower slopes.
Rock Climbing Photo: Pat on the summit. Shameless sponsor push - despit...
Pat on the summit. Shameless sponsor push - despit...
Rock Climbing Photo: Coleman headwall shadowing the glacier in morning ...
Coleman headwall shadowing the glacier in morning ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pat and I at the camp. Day after climbing the rout...
Pat and I at the camp. Day after climbing the rout...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing the lower slopes. Moving up and right tow...
Climbing the lower slopes. Moving up and right tow...
Rock Climbing Photo: Coleman Headwall topo. Our approach tracks are vis...
BETA PHOTO: Coleman Headwall topo. Our approach tracks are vis...
Rock Climbing Photo: Northwest face of Mt. Baker with Coleman Headwall ...
BETA PHOTO: Northwest face of Mt. Baker with Coleman Headwall ...

Comments on Coleman Headwall Add Comment
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By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 4, 2006

Ice plates over wet snow? Yipes, that sounds pretty scary.

I once tried to do this route in a day from the car, but when we were making the long trek across the Coleman Glacier after sunrise, puffy clouds were already gathering. Then we started hearing a mysterious buzzing sound from our packs. After taking them off we suddenly realized it was our crampons trying to tell us we were about to be struck by lightning. Without hesitation we put our packs back on and began running back down the glacier, we never did see any lightning. However the experience was so unnerving we just kept going down. I've never seen crampons behave so strangely.

Then a year or so later my friend Ian Kraabel was killed along with one of his clients while guiding on this route, or one nearby on the N Face. The ice cliff avalanched and buried them in a crevasse. I've never wanted to go back. Thanks for posting all the photos!
By Kris Gorny
Feb 14, 2007

Sorry about your friend, George. When we climbed it the air was pretty warm and we were little nervous on the upper slopes. Getting off the face was a big relief. I do think the guidebooks should perhaps have references to route accident statistics. Descriptions for Liberty Ridge, Coleman, or Ptarmigan focus mostly on route descriptions and may sound like these are just some beautiful relaxed climbs. Beautiful for sure. Relaxed -- not so much. I think accident statistics would be very revealing for the type and severity of potential objective dangers on a given route, and could alert climbers during planning and actual climbing. Any idea where these can be found? American Alpine Journal?
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 27, 2007

Accidents in North American Mountaineering (put out yearly at the same time as the AAJ) has accident statistics, but over the entire country by cause, not by route.
By Tom Waller
Nov 8, 2013

George, in 1990 on the Crystal Ridge boundary of Mount Rainier Park my ice axe did that very same thing, buzzing up a storm but there WAS lightning Happening all the way from Mount Adams/Pah-to to Glacier Peak! It was quite unnerving as you say! I hunkered down in the nearest lift house (chair 6 of Crystal Mtn ski resort) just below the ridge, and waited for at least an hour till the lightning stopped.

Also, interestingly, I found this series of comments when I googled Ian Kraabel, so it is interesting I found a friend of his...see, my best friend died with him in that crevasse. Steven John Raschick was my big brother and I miss him terribly. I was there too, between Ian and Steve on the rope. I now see the ice avalanche as my mountain maiden who took lives, but also gave them back. This helps me cope with the loss.

As Ive written, based on a stanza of Coleridge' "Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

"My grips were shed,
My hooves were free
My Shadow yellow as gold.
My skin is white, an Odyssey, your moonlight mountain maiden, God's Breath, is Me,
Who warms you from the cold."

My friend Kurt was also there the 4th man on the rope. He was carried down the mountain and 75 feet down that same crevasse. His section of rope led up into the ice debris where Ian and Steve were but there was no way to save them. They were crushed and the ice and snow mix set like quick set concrete. The reason I lived was that I was carried over the crevasse.

Well, do you climb still? I dont as much anymore, but I do want to do Rainier/Tahoma from the west and also Gannett Peak in WY again, before I die. That would be my fourth summit of Rainier and 3rd on Gannett.

All the Best, Cheers to Life!

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