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Trip Report

A successful summit bid was completed this past Friday/Saturday, with rather challenging snow conditions.

The start date was moved up due to more favourable weather forecasts. Originally slated for Saturday/Sunday, we started on Friday due to the potential for cloud, snow and rain early Sunday morning.

Meeting up in Langley, the group made its way across the border in 2 vehicles, whose occupants ended up being on the same rope teams. We stopped briefly in Glacier, WA for some tasty treats from the Wake 'n Bakery and also the District Ranger Station for any beta they had to offer.

Once up at the trailhead we quickly geared up for the hike up to Black Buttes camp. The snow line began in the last hundred feet of the trail, just below treeline. Gaiters went on and poles/ice axes came out. We quickly longed for the shade of trees as the sun beat down on us and reflected back up from the snow. Not long after leaving treeline we were partly comforted by a slight breeze.

Travel up to Hogsback Camp was steep but with good traction. The population of campers was growing as we passed, which was foreshadowing of what was to come.

Our team witnessed one party head up to high camp but then turned around, which quickly became clear to us as to why... the snow was DEEP. Thanks to some amazing young team members breaking trail, we slogged up another 1000ft, post holing the whole way, which despite as painful as it was, the views were stunning. Just as group morale was beginning to wane, we reach the Black Butte camping area.

Relieved to reach some established tents, we were oddly greeted by some skiers with: "move along, we don't want you waking us up in the early morning" (eye roll). Thankfully there is plenty of suitable terrain in the area and we put a good deal of space between us and those needing beauty sleep.

Camp setup was quick, and as we were busy melting snow we began some skills review: snow anchors, crevasse rescue systems and roped glacier travel techniques.

Once practice was wrapped up and dinner was enjoyed we made our attempt to sleep at 8pm.

After a typically poor sleep, we rose at 2am for a 3am departure. We were very nervous about snow conditions. We had agreed that if it was as horrible as the trip up to camp, we would not be making a summit attempt.

After breakfast and preparation we were roped up and set out just after 3. Much to our collective relief we had amazing travel conditions. Supportive crust right to the summit. Balmy temperatures. No signs of dicey crevasses. The whole Coleman and upper Deming glaciers are fully filled in. The only crevasses we saw were very large and easy to give a wide berth. During the ascent the only hazard we encountered was the steep and exposed climb up the Roman Wall. We unroped before the climb so as to not create a "suicide pact" rope team (one falls, we all fall).

The climb up the wall was slow and tiring but bit-by-bit we made it without incident. Fortunately we had no sun exposure until over the crest and onto the summit dome. Again, stunning views as we went.

Comfortably crossing the summit dome to the summit "lump" under bluebird skies without the slightest breeze was simply amazing. Meeting a couple of other teams on the summit, we relished the views as we fed and hydrated.

After enjoying the views and taking a few photos we made our way back. Descending the Roman Wall was precarious as it was was still a firm crust with inconsistent bootpack steps. Additional hazards were roped groups above and below descending and ascending, kicked-off ice chunks bouncing down the slope, and rapid warming of cornices. The number of climbers and skiers was incredible. Hundreds. Huge school group back at Hogsback camp.

Once safely off the higher angle terrain we re-roped and made our way back to camp. Which was painful. Breakable crust, and knee to mid-thigh deep post holing the whole way made the trip a struggle. Size 1-2 avalanches were observed but easily avoidable. Relentless sun without shade.

Upon reaching camp, overheated and tired we rested and hydrated for a bit as we slowly packed up. After melting more snow for water we slogged down through bottomless slush, broken up by the occasional glissade. 

Once reaching the vehicles we were elated from our achievements. We reconvened in Maple Falls for snacks and a debrief.

All-in-all the group was very happy with the trip. It was challenging but rewarding. Definitely wait a month or two longer if you are thinking about giving it a try!!

Trip Reporter
09.06.2024 (6 Days Ago)
Trip Report TitleKomo Kushan / Mt Baker
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