Me and a few guys from cc.com headed out to climb the North Ridge of Baker on Friday Evening. We met up at the trailhead a 10:00 PM and crashed in the parking lot until 4:00 AM.
I had heard many people talk about starting between 12:30 AM and 2:00 AM so I was a bit concerned about our late start shortly after 4:00. The trail was nice and easy to follow by headlamp and we ended up at the toe of the glacier after a couple of hours of hiking. We followed an easy boot path to a large shoulder on the glacier and started traversing towards the North Ridge.
The direct, right-hand start looked very threatened by rockfall so we opted for the longer left-hand route around the toe of the ridge. We split into two rope teams and my rope-partner Mike led accross a shrund and up some steep ice slopes. I followed the pitch and left the screws in place for Matt to clip on his way up. When I arrived at the belay I discovered I had two screws to lead the next ice pitch. I ran out the next pitch to the top of the ice cliff and once everybody was on the easier angled section of ridge we began the trudge to the crux ice cliff.
As we neared the ice cliff the slope steepened and made for some nice climbing. We set up a belay at the base of the crux step and Matt led directly up the ice cliff. The ice was very nice and we got nice sticks with nearly every swing. The slope eased off again and we climbed up towards the summit following a boot path heading slightly right of the large seracs guarding the summit. There were a couple nice steep ice steps that we climbed to gain the summit plateau but as me and Mike reached the summit a white-out came down on the summit and the wind started howling. Mike was getting too cold in the wind and basically untied and started down the coleman-deming route to get out of the wind. I waited at the top of the final ice step for Matt and Braydon to catch up and the three of us roped up on the summit and headed down the standard route in the white out and fading light. Once we descended out of the summit whiteout we donned our headlamps and slogged all the way down the coleman glacier. We followed the obvious boot path down to the point where the trail meets the glacier, packed up, and then took a quick break (I actually slept for a few minutes) and then hiked out the trail in the dark. We eventually reached the cars at 2:00 AM, 22 hours after we started. Having four climbers slowed us down a bit in the technical bits and we took a few breaks on the way down but our time seemed a little slow compared to some other TR's I've read (average 19-20 hours) Overall it was a great trip, good partners, great route and decent weather(minus the summit white-out). This was also a neat climb for me because it was my first volcano, 3000m peak, and alpine ice route!
Start of the Route
Matt on the ridge
Crux ice cliff
Matt leading the crux
Braydon following the crux
Climbing high on the route