A Fantastic Weekend for a Sno-Cone ~ Mt. Baker
On the weekend of July 25-27, 2014, the “Pink Fireballs” set out to enjoy the sweetness of climbing the 10,781 foot peak. I was truly looking forward to being a part of this group of climbers who had come together for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.
Filled with excitement and anticipation, we gathered at Schreibers Meadow trailhead. Thankfully, our Alpine Ascents International climbing guides (“the Nicks, Kyle and Tom) gave us a leisurely meeting time of 9am! Introductions were made, and a quick briefing was given on what to expect for the day. Our group was actually divided into two climbing teams, five per team. One team would head up the Easton route and one team would ascend the Squak route. As we set off, I was convinced someone had come during the night and filled my pack with lead!
The morning was meant for hiking. Sunny, but not too warm…yet. We fell into line and made our way through the trees, crossing the river, and onto the knife-edge known as the Railroad Grade. It’s a narrow trail that drops a few hundred feet on either side. Rocky meadow on one side, snow and rocks on the other.
As we hiked our way up to the climbers’ camp, we encountered marmots sunning themselves and no doubt enjoying the view as much as we were. Within a few hours, we were at our destination, setting up tents and readying our gear. The guides made us dinner and we talked about what was in store for us the next day.
The morning was clear and warm. Our guides made coffee and offered us breakfast, and before we knew it, we were gearing up for snow school. This is where the guides teach (or in some cases, refresh) climbing techniques, ice axe arrest and how to use crampons. As we wrapped up, the guides brought up the idea of trying a sunset summit.
When climbing, there is the traditional summit, where the team gets going around 1am. The idea is to climb when the snow is solid, and the summit happens in the early morning hours. With the sunset summit, climbers leave in the afternoon, and summit in the early evening. After bringing it up to the teams, the Nicks’, Tom and Kyle discussed the idea. Finally a decision was made: we would try a sunset summit.
In no time, our two teams were geared up and ready to go. The sparkling white snow against the backdrop of the azure blue sky was a sight to behold. Each time the teams rested in the snow, we took in the breathtaking views of the North Cascade mountains. Peaks as far as the eyes could see. As the day wore on, various injuries and other issues had some of our climbers turn back. Eventually, after hours on the glacier, five of us summited.
Views from the summit were stunning! You could turn 360 degrees and see for miles. It was quite windy at the top, so we quickly took our summit photo and began our descent.
We made it back to camp safely, ate dinner and settled in for a much deserved night of sleep. The next day, we packed up and headed back to the parking lot where fresh clothes were welcomed and cold drinks and lots of hugs were shared.
Marina Rockinger is an anchor, reporter, voice talent and Lifebeat host on KOMO Newsradio, Talk 570 KVI and Star 101.5 in Seattle. She is an outdoor enthusiast, adventurer and longtime supporter of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. Thank you Marina for your endless gusto, great humor and contagious zest for life.