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Michael Paskevicius

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Kulshan a.k.a. Mount Baker3288 m
Cascade Range, Washington, USA

For years, I have looked east from Vancouver Island, across the channel, towards the state of Washington to the imposing peak of Mount Kulshan. Also known as Mount Baker, this volcanic mountain rises 3288 metres above sea level and is the second-most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range of mountains. The mountain has the heaviest glacier cover of the Cascade Range volcanoes. It is also one of the snowiest places in the world with a significant year round snowpack. I dreamt that it might be a great adventure to climb the mountain, and gaze back at Vancouver Island from the summit.

Mount Baker as seen from Mount Finlayson in Victoria

Gear check in orientation in Seattle before the climb

Alpine Ascents International was recommended as a possible guiding outfit to lead a trip to the summit. I can say the experience with them was fantastic; from the initial registration, recommended training program, gear list, and individual consultations regarding gear, they provided a great pre-trip experience. On site in Seattle, they provided an excellent orientation, useful rental services, and access to exceptional guides.

We spent a couple of hours at their Seattle office conducting a gear check, fitting rental gear, and orienting for travel to the mountain the day before the climb. This was well organized, and the rental crew was super helpful getting us outfitted. Crampons would be available from base camp which meant we would not have to carry them from the trailhead – great!

Climb to Base Camp

We followed the Easton Glacier Route, starting from Schrieber’s Meadow. On day one we had intention to reach the Baker base camp at 1890 metres. The snowpack in 2022 was quite significant in June due to the late winter, and we had snow basically right out of the parking lot. Visibility was slim on the first day and diminished as we climbed higher. I had to use my imagination to picture the vistas and views around us. I was getting a little worried that the weather would lesson our chances of summitting, or if we did summit, that there would be no views to be had. We arrived at base camp, where individual tents had been setup, as well as a common tent for cooking and eating. Once unpacked, we attended “snow school” having a chance to practice walking with crampons, using the ice axe for climbing and self-arrest, and practicing for rope travel on the glacier.

Our guides prepared a lovely dinner in the common tent and we discussed plans for the summit day.

Morning at Base Camp

We awoke at the crack of dawn to our guides encouraging us to come outside and see something special. Outside we were greeted to clear skies and low hanging clouds down in the valleys. What a gorgeous site to behold and boy was I happy we had a near perfect summit day ahead of us! Lots of photos were taken as the sun moved across the Black Butte mountains to the west. We had a quick breakfast and set off for the summit.

Journey to the Summit

We setoff from base camp and it was not long before we hit the glacier, strapping on crampons, and joining rope teams with each of our guides. Three to four on a rope provides good security should one fall in a crevasse or slip and fail to self arrest. We did not really encounter many crevasses, as the snowpack was so thick. however, we were advised that there were many underneath the snow and would open up as the summer warmed up. Up we went reaching the Sherman Crater, an active volcanic crater just shy of the summit on Mount Baker. We stopped for lunch on the ridge of the crater to watch the steam and smell the methane.

Mountbaker GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Reaching the Summit

Our last pitch was the Roman Wall, a moderately steep section just beyond the crater that leads to the summit. Once we achieved the wall, we were on top of the mountain and the temperature dropped while the wind increased significantly. We celebrated the successful climb and captured a few photos before returning back the way we came to base camp. It felt great to be on top, and while I could not see Vancouver Island completely, it was an amazing view, and I was happy to be looking back west to my home and north to the north shore mountains in Vancouver.

Back at camp we rested, enjoyed another lovely meal prepared by our guides, and shared in the joy of a successful summit.

Return to the Trailhead

The following day, we awoke to another clear day, packed up our belongings and head down to the trailhead. We spotted some marmots, who were poking there heads out of the burrow, perhaps realizing that it might still be too early to start roaming the alpine meadows. We glissaded down where it was possible and safe which saved us a bit of time and was a lot of fun!

Mountbaker GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Glissading down to the trailhead

Overall, this was an exceptional trip and amazing experience with Alpine Ascents International. We probably could have guided out of Bellingham or something closer to the border, as it was a bit of a loop to go from Vancouver Island, Seattle, then up to Baker. In any case, I was pleased with the experience and had a little time to explore Seattle as well.

April Trip to Tapaltos Beach

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