MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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August 2, 2019

Climbing Mount Baker with an 11-year-old


On a recent Sunday morning, myself and fellow guide Alex Gonzales-Cress met Drew and Jeff at their hotel, and headed over to Feathered Friends to make sure the gear they had would work.  “This is the smallest ‘real’ backpack for kids I could find” Jeff told me.  It was a 50- liter backpack made by Osprey and was roughly half the size of Drew. 

On the drive to the trailhead we talked about the usual things: weather, climbing, artificial intelligence, robots, school.  After hitting the trail we made good time up to camp.  Once we got above tree line however, our pace slowed.  It’s not that we were moving slower, it was that there were so many more interesting things to stop and take note of.  So many things I had walked by countless times, but seen through new eyes I was reminded of the uniqueness of the environment we were traveling through.  At roughly 5,200 ft, we saw our first marmot.  Drew named him.  I can’t remember his name unfortunately.

The following morning we got up in the dark, ate breakfast, and prepared to climb.  A mouse was scurrying around, looking for food scraps.  We set off, on snow then rock, then snow again.  We roped up and gained the glacier.  We walked over some large crevasses and I have to admit I was expecting Drew to express some intimidation, but he never did.  The climb went by smoothly; walk for an hour, sit, snack, drink.  Repeat. 

Before we knew it we were on the Roman Wall, the final snow slopes before the summit where the terrain gets a bit steeper.  There was a large crevasse to navigate around and a line of people descending waiting to cross it.  We were getting close to turn-around time, and we knew if we waited politely to let all these people pass we’d have to turn around, so we forged ahead and made it across with a sizable audience.  Although it was a little intimidating walking up past the line that had been waiting, instead of being annoyed, people were so excited to see someone so young about to summit Mount Baker.  The climbing community is pretty great when it comes down to it. 

After gaining the summit plateau, strong winds made what should have been a mellow 10-minute stroll a real struggle.  I won’t sugar coat it, it was cold and uncomfortable.  There was no talk of turning around though, so we endured.  And then we were on the summit!  Woot!  It was so rewarding to see Jeff stand on the summit with his son. 

Descending back to camp was not easy either.  The snow was really soft and Drew fell down “like 70,000 times” (Drews words not mine). But he just kept getting back up and kept walking.  At the saddle between Mount Baker and Sherman Peak, we saw another mouse, scurrying around like mad and climbing up the rocks.  We named him Brian.  

Back at camp we made a nice afternoon coffee, which helped us pack up and make the rest of the hike out to the trailhead.  As soon as Drew sat down in the car he fell asleep, only waking up for a celebratory dinner in Sedro-Woolley. 

Thanks to Jeff and his son Drew for an awesome climb!