Climbing Mount Baker

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s basically what I did during my 3-day climb to the summit of Mount Baker. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds though. I had to find plenty of strength and concentration to conquer this majestic mountain.

With breathtaking views of endless snow-capped peaks, Mount Baker is the perfect introduction to mountaineering, and getting to the summit was an accomplishment that I never thought I would be able to do.

Mount Baker is the third-highest mountain in the state of Washington and the most heavily glaciated peak in the North Cascades. Not a place for solo adventure. Therefore, I signed up for a group climb with the renowned Alpine Ascents International. That way I also learned about roped glacier travel, proper clothing, crampon use, ice axe positioning, and self-arrest techniques. Skilled and highly experienced guides made it a rewarding adventure.

What amazed me the most was the beauty of the crevasses, totally wow!

Our pace was moderate, and the summit climb took us 6 hours from Sandy Camp on day two. The guides told us to appreciate the extraordinary sunny skies and warm temperatures. It could have been stormy, rainy weather, maybe even with a snowstorm – but we were fortunate to have splendid conditions.

Another cool feature of this journey was the steaming Sherman Crater at 9,800 ft. You can actually stand on the rim and look deep down to where you do not want to plunge.
So why did this climb take strength and concentration? My backpack was pretty heavy, maybe because I brought more stuff than the other guys. Elevation, heavy backpack, and some steep icy sections, some 30 to 45 degrees – it was beyond tough. What amazed me the most was the beauty of the crevasses, totally wow! This was definitely a scenic and extremely rewarding mountaineering experience.

Mount Baker

  • Location: Washington, Cascade Range – Mount Baker Wilderness
  • Elevation: 10,781 ft., (3,286 m)
  • Mountain type: Stratovolcano, last eruption in 1880
  • Glaciers: 12 active glaciers, 7 which have areas greater than 2.5 km2 (620 acres)
  • Route: Park Butte Trail, Railroad Grade Trail, Sandy Camp, Easton Glacier, Roman Wall, Grant Peak (the official name of the small mound at the summit of Mt. Baker)
  • Guides: Alpine Ascents International

To my fellow climbers in the group, thanks a mil for the photos :)

 

The wonder of Central Oregon

This summer I found myself hiking a wonder! Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon’s High Desert and is the perfect stop-over for anyone on a road trip in the Beaver State. What amazed me the most was the sheer cliffs and the reddish-orange hue, but I was also surprised by the overwhelming crowds. Smith Rock has been labeled as one of the “Seven Wonders” of Oregon. As a consequence, don’t expect any kind of solitude, unless you start early in the day. For that reason, I postponed a hike to the next day. Besides, it’s a good idea to start early before the real heat sets in.

The hike

I decided to hike the Misery Ridge Loop which includes the Misery Ridge Trail to the summit and from there down the Mesa Verde Trail to the River Trail and back to the trailhead – a wonderful 4 miles round trip. The route is mostly easy to moderate although some sections are characterized as most difficult. There’s not a lot of shade on this hike. Instead, you’re getting plenty of scenic views of the Crooked River Canyon below and in the distance some of the major Oregon’s Cascade peaks, including Three Sisters and Mount Bachelor. Don’t forget to look up during your hike. You’ll probably notice several daring rock climbers with ropes and nerves of steel. Also, when you get to Monkey Face, a giant, self-standing pillar, it becomes clear why Smith Rock is a world famous climbing site. I’m sure Monkey Face is one of those must-do climbs for rock climbers.

You can reach Smith Rock State Park with just a 30 minutes’ drive from Bend.

When going on a road trip, I always plan to bring as little as possible, but almost every time I end up with max load. Maybe it’s because I’m bringing my stuff all the way from Denmark to the U.S., and I can’t live without my camera and hiking gear as this is what I love to do when traveling: snapping photos and hiking amazing trails. All together it adds up in weight and volume, but it’s worth it. Actually, I love packing and always find ways to make it work, even with an ice axe, helmet, tent, pad, tripod and a bunch of camera lenses.

road_trip_packing

Once again I’ll be back on the Mount Whitney Trail, and this year I’m going to summit. Getting a permit for the second time is a privilege. My first visit was in May 2015 and what a great adventure it was. Even though I was fully prepared at my last attempt, it didn’t bring me all the way to the top. This year I’m twice as prepared and will prevail. What might be a hurdle would be something like a nasty thunderstorm with lightning, but I’ll cross my fingers for perfect summit weather.

To me, it’s more than a mountain hike. Being a photo fanatic, I’ll be bringing my cameras and have a whole lot of fun with that. Also, this year’s summer road trip will take me to Oregon for the first time. I can’t wait to experience the Beaver State. It’ll be my 34th state to visit. Below are some photos from my Whitney hike last year.

The spectacular Wave

Sometimes a hike takes away my breath, not physically, but rather emotionally. It’s exactly what happened when I hiked to see The Wave on the Utah-Arizona state border. This remote and unspoiled desert landscape is a geologic treasure. At the scene, I spent nearly 4 hours soaking in the surreal beauty. I also had my best lunch moment ever. No café in the world can offer such a spectacular setting. Why is it called The Wave? I think my gallery speaks for itself. More details below the photos.

Would I like to come back? For sure! I want to explore the area more thoroughly as I know there are dinosaur footprints to be found. There are also other great hiking trails nearby, so definitely a place that goes into my top list of follow-up-places.

Are you hooked? Only 20 people per day are allowed to enter the area so a little preplanning is required.

Good to know

  1. You need a permit. There’s an online lottery which allocates 10 permits four months in advance of the month for which the permit is sought. Other 10 walk-in permits are available through a lottery at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center (pretty long name, huh?) in Kanab, Utah. The lottery is conducted the day before you wish to hike.
  2. It’s a remote place and you won’t see any convenience features like you do at Grand Canyon. You do get a map that can guide you to The Wave, but don’t expect fancy signs to help you along the way. It’s easy to become disoriented.
  3. If you’re a photo geek (like me), conditions are great when the sun is high. But I’d say anytime during the day is worth a photo, so don’t rush.
  4. It’s a desert! Temperatures typically climb above 110 Fahrenheit in the summer. At the visitor center, they really mean it when they recommend hikers to carry plenty of water and to drink it. Fatalities are not uncommon. You’ll receive this flyer (below) with your permit, just to make sure you get the message.

heat_kills

The Wave is located within the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This wilderness is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Go to their website to apply for a permit and read more about the area. The Wave is part of the Coyote Buttes Permit Area.

The trail

The shortest hike to The Wave begins at the Wire Pass Trailhead. You reach The Wave by hiking approximately 3 miles across open desert, so the round-trip to and from The Wave is nearly a 6-mile hike. Distance is not the factor, but weather can be, so plan and prepare. You get to the trailhead by the scenic House Rock Valley Road, a dirt road that begins about 8.3 miles south of US 89.

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