A faint morning sun penetrates the forest we hang from. Soloing through a vertical swath of brush and choss, Dan Hilden and I pull onto a 70 degree heather slope. Hard, dry hummocks under our boots might as well be polished smears and I claw at the greenery to make sure I don't huck off the hill and ping pong down the hideous 1000 foot gully below. It's comical really, this style of Cascade alpinism. I feel connected to a younger self on this ultimate tree climb, but my wiser mind recognizes the void below.
Dan contemplates the steep forest above
Ahead, steeper planes of rock stack up in front of a crowning headwall. With the brush crux behind us, we slip into rock shoes and began climbing quality Rhino Stone up unlikely features. The black, hard rock feels familiar under my fingers. Exit 38 and Little Si, the crags outside of Seattle that I cut my teeth on, feature the same, edges, jugs, and slick feet. The only difference on Baring is there are no bolts, only pathetic pins about to fall out of the wall.
Two shots of Dan on the crux 5.10 pitch
Above the headwall, we find a magic ledge that whisks us out of our exposed position and deposits us onto Baring's southeast ridge. We un rope and hike up through misty talus, finding the summit only 200 feet above. I peak into the abyss and my stomach feels the gravitational pull of massive exposure. It's not a feeling I often find in Washington and I giddily stumble away from the edge. Mt. Baring is a big wall with blue collar style. There are no golden flakes and splitter cracks here. Dark as night rock falls into a deep tangle of Dough Fir, Slide Alder, and Devils Club. Dan and I have climbed from these depths and a brighter world has appeared, glimmering glaciers and snowfields from surrounding peaks poking through the mist.
The "magic" ledge that leads to the southeast ridge and shortly after, the summit
We hang out on top for a while, the long day still young. After a while, we shoulder our packs and follow a fantastical path through trippy woods. Moss adorns smooth barked trees and straw colored light patterns the shadowed forest.
Dan The Man
Down, down, down we go, towards the valley below. The trail is unbelievably steep but it gets the job done quick. Soon, we're cracking cold ones and giving our old beater cars a little oil. It's time to go home.
The 1960 North Face Route on Mt. Baring has a fascinating and drawn out history. Stories of triumph and tragedy speak volumes about Ed Cooper, Don Gorden, Fred Beckey, and others who conquered this great wall with rudimentary gear and great courage. For more details see Climbing and High Routes: Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, by Fred Beckey (the green book!).