Summit the third-highest mountain Washington at 10,781 ft., the most heavily glaciated peak of the Cascade Range volcanoes after Mt. Rainier.
Overview: 16 miles roundtrip, 7,600 ft. elevation gain
The Easton Glacier route is one of the mountain’s most popular and likewise, most crowded. Check out Mt. Baker’s Squak Glacier route or Coleman Deming Glacier route for an alternative climb with similar difficulty.
You’ll start out at Schreibers Meadow Trailhead (3,200 ft.). To get there, exit off of I-5 north of Mount Vernon, head east on Highway 20, and turn left on Baker Lake Road. Follow this past Rocky Creek Bridge, taking a left on Forest Road 12 and a right on Forest Road 13. The parking lot is huge – but will still fill up during summer weekends. There’s plenty of roadside parking leading up to the TH. Don’t forget your NW Forest Pass parking permit!
Start your hike out on Railroad Grade trail, and after a couple miles, keep right to continue up Railroad Grade itself. (We missed this turnoff and had a fun scramble up a creek bed to meet the trail – might have been more fun without our overnight camping gear.) Railroad Grade itself is a rocky moraine that looks and feels like a ridge. Follow the clearly-defined trail up to a huge area of flat camping spots, around 6,500 ft. In busy season this will look like a tent city, there must have been 50-75 people when we were there in late June.
Above the campsites you’ll start your glacier travel on Easton Glacier, and at this point the route will vary depending on time of year and snow season. You’ll likely cross a few snow bridges across the larger crevasses; I’ve never heard of ladder crossings being used on this route. Since Mt. Baker is the second most heavily glaciated peak of all the Cascade volcanoes, there are huge crevasse dangers on summit day. Stay roped up to your team and make sure everybody has had training on crevasse rescue techniques.
Keep northwest towards the Crater Rim at 9,750 ft., where you’ll smell the “rotten egg” sulphur gas coming from the crater. The last 1,000 ft. are the most difficult of the day and take you up a combination of icy rock and snow to the base of The Roman Wall: the crux of your climb – both equally intimidating and thrilling. Ascend carefully up this steep grade, which can be 40-45 degrees and often icy.
Once you’ve breached the top of the wall, you’ll have a clear view of the Grant’s Peak – the true summit – just across a long plateau. Take your time making it to the top and soak in the views of Glacier Peak and the North Cascades stretching out below you.
As always, begin early (alpine start ~ midnight to 2am) so you have the advantage of hard, frozen snow for your crampons to grip into. On your descent, be aware of crevasse dangers and wary of any snow bridges that might have melted out from the sun.
Surprisingly, there are no permits required to climb Mt. Baker, but I recommend one person in your party to fill out a trail registration at the trailhead.
- Northwest Forest Pass Trailhead Parking Permit
- Trekking poles
- Ice axe
- Crampon-compatible mountaineering boots
- Alpine harness, rope, ice tools
- Overnight snow camping gear (tent, stove, cookware, sleeping bag, etc.)
- Headlamp + extra batteries
- Navigational gear
- 2+ liters of water
- Means to boil or treat water with iodine
- Plenty of food
- Blue bags for human waste
- First aid kit, emergency GPS spotter
- Emergency bivvy or shelter
- Sun protection, storm protection, plenty of layers!