October 6, 2016

Don’t Underestimate Mount Baker

While much of the terrain on Mount Baker provides excellent opportunities for beginners to learn how to climb and hone their skills, the risks and hazards should not be underestimated. In the past, climbers have been rescued from the mountain after being caught in inclement weather. The climbers were near the summit when a cloud came in and reduced the visibility. Cold, tired, and unable to find their way down, the climbers called for assistance. They were exposed to the elements for an extended period before rescuers could reach them. Others have required rescue for underestimating their physical fitness and becoming unable to finish the climb. Remember, the summit is only half way. To quote Ed Viesturs, "The summit is optional, getting down is mandatory." These types of incidents can be avoided with proper planning, preparation, and knowledge of the mountain.

Poor visibility, freezing temperatures, and strong winds are common on Mount Baker. It can take as much as 12 hours to reach the summit and descend, so climbers should plan accordingly and travel with experienced team members, or consider hiring a guide. Climbers should carry extra clothing, food, and water on their summit attempt. In addition, the climbing rangers recommend that each climbing party has a stove, fuel, emergency shelter, and sleeping bag. Research the route and weather forecast prior to your adventure, and make sure you are in excellent physical condition.

Calling for a rescue should be a last resort because it can often put the rescuers at risk. Instead, gain the necessary knowledge, experience, and skills to take care of yourself and your teammates before attempting to climb. Mount Baker is a great place to learn about mountaineering, but is also a significant challenge with all the hazards of a major glaciated peak. If you don’t underestimate the mountains, your climb will be much safer and more fun.

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