American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, Mt. Baker, Crater Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

Mt. Baker, Crater Route. An ascent of 10,100-foot Sherman Peak (the south peak of Mt. Baker) in 1959 gave us a view directly down into the summit crater separating us by ¾ of a mile from the 10,778-foot main peak. A traverse of the crater’s west rim gave excellent views of the Crater Glacier and we vowed some day to return and have a really close look at that dirty, belching hole at the bottom. On July 9, a party of eleven, primarily members of the Everett Branch of the Mountaineers, established a timberline base camp at 5600 feet near the south base of the Easton Glacier, on the south side of the mountain. A north-northeast route traversing up and across the Easton Glacier, at times involving steep ice, eventually brought us to a high notch at 9600 feet on the Easton-Boulder Glacier Cleaver. At this point we had to make the decision whether to go on or to go back, depending on ice or avalanche conditions. This is because the only route into the 9400-foot crater notch involves a ¼ mile gradually descending traverse northward on 60° snow slopes which have 1000 feet of exposure below, eventually dropping off into the Boulder Glacier Icefall. After one delicate hour of continual belaying, we entered the crater outlet, where lava must have once spewed forth, and went to within 50 feet of that belching hole in the very bottom of the Crater Glacier. The glacier forms a small icefall on three sides of the opening and continually feeds it with ice blocks and melted water. The crater responds with a steam locomotive type gurgle and an unbearable stench. From here we ascended a half mile north up the Crater Glacier directly toward the main peak and fortunately found the only ice bridge still intact across the summit bergschrund. Ascent time with stopover at the "cave” was eleven hours.

Kenn Carpenter

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