Climbing Mt. Baker 2015 – Spring Training Continues

Last week on the upper slopes of Mount Baker, otherwise known as The Roman Wall, I was able to physically push myself. Several other climbers were on the mountain but had either turned around or were still heading up far below me. It was the only forecasted good “weather window” in a 10-day period and some of us were trying to take advantage of it to get in our spring training for climbing Mt Baker this summer.

I was out front kicking steps in the soft, uneven snow-pack. The higher I got the steeper the slope became, the higher the cold wind began to blow and the more tired I was getting. So far I had only drunk half a quart of water and ate a chocolate chip cookie in the nearly ten hours I had been walking uphill. More then once I came close to turning around this morning but the lure of the windswept summit of Mt Baker beckoned me onward and upward.

Still I felt very alone. The other climber I had started out with was, “dogging it” creating a wider distance between us minute by minute. As I neared the top of the wall, he had become nothing more then a spec on a white blanket of winter snow. Strangely this also gave me a mental boost thinking I was stronger then I actually am ( he was just really doing poorly that day for sure and knowing he was 20+years younger also made me feel a lot better! ).

I did make the Mt Baker summit, it was as far away as I remembered, but my pace had become slower and slower until I actually saw the very top. I took a few shots from the summit with my IPhone until the battery died in the strong winds and intense cold. Within minutes of leaving to head down I was in whiteout conditions ( inside the clouds ). I carefully but quickly made my way down the step section until I ran into a couple of other climbers including my climbing partner.

As we descended I had to stop to re-energize a few times. A few bites of a candy bar, a small packet of nuts and half a quart of water were enough to get me back down…and just knowing a hot meal, shower and a set of wheels were waiting for me on the horizon!

If climbing Mt Baker 2015 is one of your goals, I encourage you to continue your spring training! 


Mountain Shop is Open!

The Northwest Mountain Shop is open for business! The Mountain Shop provides the finest quality rentals and retail equipment available for camping, hiking, climbing and other outdoor pursuits. The Mountain Shop is also the meeting spot for many of our climbs and courses.

Best of all we are experienced climbers and guides who actually use the items we sell so we can provide you with help in selecting the right equipment as well as suggest the right trail to take a hike on or mountain to climb.

Craig Van Hoy, owner and director, has been climbing and guiding in the Pacific Northwest for over 35- years. Through Northwest Mountain Guides we offer guided hiking and mountaineering trips in the Cascades and Olympic mountains. With our partner company Go Trek, ( we have international tours, treks and climbs all over the world. Our destinations include exotic locations such as Nepal, Mexico, Russia, Africa, SE Asia, and Argentina. Join us on an international adventure for the experience of a lifetime!

Summer Hours– 7-Days A Week!
Dates: from May 6th through October 4th. (7:30 AM- 7:00 PM)

Winter Hours– Friday, Saturday & Sunday’s Only.
Dates: October 9 through May 1st, except holidays, etc.(8:00 AM- 6:00 PM)
(Please Contact Us First)

Location: 829 Metcalf St, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 in The Woolley Market

We look forward to answering any questions you have about the outdoor gear we rent or sell. Furthermore, we are looking forward to personally meeting you and providing you with current information for your next adventure or having you join us on one of our many climbs or hikes in The Pacific Northwest or around the world.

Mt Baker Climbs 2015

eldorado peak climb

Thinking of climbing Mt Baker this year?  The Northwest Mountain Shop & Guide Service is conveniently located within an hour of the trail head!  For Mt Baker climbs 2015, we have 7 scheduled climbs.  Of course, we are always available to customize a private climb as well!

06/27/2015 – 3 day climb
06/27/2015 – 3 day climb
07/03/2015 – 3 day climb
08/01/2015 – 3 day climb
08/14/2015 – 3 day climb
09/05/2015 – 3 day climb
09/18/2015 – 3 day climb

At 10,781 feet Mount Baker is truly one of the most picturesque mountains in all the Cascade Range. Baker has the second largest glacial system in the lower 48 States second only to that of Mount Rainier. In 1998 Mt. Baker’s annual snowfall exceeded the world record held on Mount Rainier since the early 1970′s with an amount of 95-feet. The mountain is the third-highest mountain in Washington State and the fifth-highest in the Cascade Range. Mount Baker presents a fantastic objective for those seeking a challenging climb in a pristine alpine environment.

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We guide two different routes on Mount Baker, the Coleman/Deming Glacier on the Northside of the peak and the Easton Glacier on the Southern flanks. Both routes offer a great introduction to roped glacier travel and basic mountaineering. On the North side route we meet in the small town of Glacier, WA to begin the climb. On the Easton South side we meet at the Ranger Station in the town of Sedro-Woolley. After a 3-4 hour hike we reach our scenic high camp at about the 5,000-6,000 foot level. Our camp is located at the base of the glacier and out evening will be spent setting up camp, covering some basic mountaineering skills and eating an early dinner before bedtime.

The Easton Glacier Route is climbed using three days which gives us more time on the mountain to refine our basic mountaineering skills. We also have the option of using day two or three as a “weather day” as we have on our Mount Shuksan climbs for many years now. The approach to the Easton Glacier begins in meadows and eventually ends up in dense old growth forest, then high alpine meadows to reach the snow. Our high camp is in a wonderful location between the 5000-6000 foot level. We have the option to climb on the second day if we are feeling well and the weather looks good, otherwise we train more on day two and go for the top on our final day. After our summit attempt we climb back down to our high camp. On the final day we hike out and grab a bite at “Bobs” near Sedro-Woolley to conclude our adventure.

The North side Coleman/ Deming Glacier route can be done as two or three day climb. Like the Easton route we have the option of climbing on the second day. On day two (Summit Day!) we get a pre-dawn start and your guide leads the way up the glacier by using a headlamp attached to his climbing helmet. We make our way up the glacier and finally to The “Roman Wall” and then the final summit crater. We return to our high camp by late morning, pack up, and hike down the same day. Either option our professional guides will introduce the basic mountaineering skills necessary to make the climb. 

Do you want to learn mountaineering? Mount Baker can be guided as a four day Intro to Mountaineering Course or six day Expedition Mountaineering Course. Taking a mountaineering course will help prepare you for the challenges of climbing higher peaks. NW Mountain Guide courses allow for further instruction of climbing and mountaineering skills. Including step kicking, ice axe techniques, self-arrest, crampon usage, glacier travel, crevasse rescue and rope techniques.

Achieve Your Climbing Goals – Stepping Stones

There is something in the Mountain Guiding business we refer to as “Stepping Stones”. In a nutshell the meaning of the saying is that you get a certain amount experience EVERY time you go into the outdoors. In order to achieve your climbing goals and before you move ahead to try a higher or more difficult route or summit, it is important that you have gained the proper skills on similar type mountains.

Some people try to, “skip steps” and find themselves over their heads and attempting summits far beyond their reach. Bottom line is, Yes it is noble to push yourself, people should test and improve their ability in the outdoors BUT their is a natural progression to doing this. In the arena of fitness the model of using, “stepping stones” also works very well. Working up your fitness level slowly but surely is the best way of achieving your goals without injuries or setbacks.

Another term we sometimes use, “putting money in the bank”. Every time you go on a bike ride, walk instead of driving your car, go swimming, hit the fitness club or go on a hike or climb before the trip your planning for… it is like putting money in the bank! Then when it comes to the big climb your planning (for example a climb of Mount Rainier, Baker or Kilimanjaro) you are then allowed to take some “withdraws” on your hard earnings.

Thinking in these terms you quickly realize that every little thing you do BEFORE your next climb is important and does have significance. This also a huge psychological advantage when you combine your experience and background with fitness you have worked so hard to achieve. Far better then the great equipment anyone brings on a climb is the self confidence that can only come with time, fitness and experience.

climbing_goals_stepping_stonesHike and bike part TWO: In the past week I was able to get some more time in the outdoors. My two teenagers came to visit late last week and we visited Mount Shuksan and did a nice hike near Mount Baker. Today: I drove up The Middle Fork Of The Nooksack River to begin my 8-mile mountain bike ride to the base of The North Twin Sister. I tried to push myself a bit more then my past trips realizing I had ate a huge breakfast and was, “running out of time” before the climbing season begins.

Summer Climbing Coming Soon – Spring is Here!

mt_baker_summer_climbingThis message is for any of you (like me) now in your 40’s 50’s + or somebody who is just plain out of shape and thinking of doing summer climbing. Growing up I was thin, flexible and could do 3-trips through the buffet line never gaining an ounce in the long run. A few years back all of that changed for me. Part of it is that I am no longer climbing and guiding at the intensity I was back then combined with the factor of a slower metabolism. This all adds up to that very ugly word, “FAT” and a person finding them-self out of breath even at minimal exercise. Bottom line, climbing a significant mountain would be of very difficult proportions or at the very least certainly not much fun. 

The tendency for many of us once we recognize we are in this state and feel guilty about it long enough to the point that we are ready to take action is that we finally get out and then overdue it with too long of a bike ride, too long a hike or something else.

summer_climbing_bike_trainingTODAY- was my day. I have been out for several weeks now off and on mostly short easy walks, easier bike rides, etc building myself up. I drove to the logging roads close to the slopes of Mount Baker. I parked my car and began to ride. A foot of new snow had fallen on the high peaks above me. It was a pretty cloudy day but  beautiful, and I rode uphill for about 1.5 hours. I was dressed lightly and still not in great shape so it didn’t take long to work up a sweat. The ride was uneventful, and I pushed myself but not to excess. Eventually I started seeing light snow on the sides of the road and it wasn’t too long before it was deep enough that is was time to turn around. I made great time heading down the road but my hands were soon freezing, and I was looking forward to reaching my car and turning up the heater to the max.

It only took me about 30-minutes and Yahoo I was back to the warmth of my vehicle. Although I wasn’t standing on the summit of some lofty peak, I felt a sense of accomplishment and realized this was another “stepping stone” on my rode back to being in shape and guiding and climbing the mountains I love.

The point of my story is to encourage you on your ride to enjoying the outdoors with the ensuing Summer, it’s beautiful sunrises and sunsets from high camps and lofty peaks is not soon to be forgotten or certainly missed. It is so much more enjoyed and successful from a body that is well prepared to meet the challenge. 

summer_climbing_trainingNote to self- don’t forget to (1) bring some water, (2) a basic repair kit, (3) a light pair of gloves for the descent when your traveling at higher speeds.