Mount Baker, Elevation 10,778ft
Coleman/Deming, June 22, 2002
Ben, Jeff Vander Yacht
Mount Baker from the edge of the Coleman Glacier.
I felt pretty lucky to find a job in Bellingham. When I found out that my boss climbed and skied, well, what are the chances? Jeff grew up in the Bellingham area, went to school in Portland and returned to a promising career with the Lynden locals. In case you're wondering, Lynden is a suburb of Bellingham and the butt of many jokes that I've yet to grasp. Jeff and his wife bought a house there a few years back and are blessed with a view of Baker and the Twin Sisters. As you might imagine, Jeff has wanted to climb these mountains for years but hasn't found anybody to go with, short of a major expedition and lots of cash. Good or bad, along came Ben, "How about we climb Baker this Saturday?"
"Ya think?" replied Jeff. I had skied the Coleman Headwall the previous weekend so I knew the standard route was in good shape. Climbing and skiing a 10,000ft volcano in a day isn't your typical 'off the couch' trip but I figured that my knowledge and Jeff's ambition would see us through.
Jeff and I carpooled to the trailhead and were hiking by daylight. His gear was limited to clothes and an alpine ski setup so I supplied the rest. We made our way through the forest at a reasonable pace. Afterwards, the views did more to quell Jeff's hunger than the unfamiliar gorp that I suggested he bring. We stopped at the base of the glacier to rope up and while I switched from tennis shoes to ski boots, Jeff continued in his work boots. The first slope slowed us a tad and Jeff started to experience this mysterious 'altitude' that I kept referring to.
Pace? Altitude? What?
But we're so close?
Jeff hit the wall just below the saddle. I wanted to summit and knew Jeff would never forgive himself if he turned around there so it was time to lay the smack down. We had an early lunch, traded ice axes for ski poles and continued to the saddle where we unroped for the final push. "Top of that hill and it's over." The true summit lies a ways beyond but I neglected to tell Jeff. What are friends for?
Jeff nearing the top of the Roman Headwall.
As the slope flattened, I warned Jeff that we had a ways to go. However, with the true summit in sight and a flat slope in-between, there was no turning back. We were standing on top within minutes.
Jeff was stoked. The clouds blowing from the south did little to dampen our spirits. How about that raise?
Jeff on the summit looking east.
I had never skied with Jeff but his turns down the Roman Headwall would make any young grasshopper proud. We took some photos in-between our bouts of ski till you drop. Jeff got friendly with a crevasse below the saddle so I suggested that we stick closer together. The remainder of the ski was without incident.
Jeff ripping endless corn below the saddle.
The overnight crowds greeted us near the trees. Rain was in the forecast so Jeff and I did our best to hide our sympathy smiles.
The 10 or 12 hour round trip was far from a record but definitely one of my more memorable trips. How often do you get to climb a mountain with your boss? During the drive home we joked about having climbed it 'off the couch.' Jeff thanked me for taking him but it was thanks enough to prevent him from roping up with a bunch of gumbies.
Until next time…