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Ever since I picked up Jeff Smoot's Climbing Washington's |
Mountains I have been interested in checking out the
Jumpoff Ridge area. By Thursday evening a party of four had
been formed to climb Baring on Saturday: me, Connie, Mara,
I thought I was pushing for about as early a start as I
wanted to deal with, since we were meeting in Seattle at
7am. Turns out the Mountaineers were also going to Baring,
but they were leaving the trailhead at 7am. More power to
them, I say....
Pat drove, and we left the trailhead around 10 or so. At
the same time a group of trail workers was heading out to
work on the Barclay Lake trail. So it was a crowded
trailhead, and we parked well down the road.
The first part of the climb is a 2000 foot straight up
bushwack over blowdowns and up creek beds. And that's if
you are on the trail ... which we were, eventually. The
correct trail actually goes more or less straight up a
creek for several hundred feet. Ignore any better-looking
trails that leave the creek and climb up through the woods.
After a long struggle, we eventually topped out onto
Baring's W Ridge. A pretty decent climber's path follows
closely along the top of the ridge, though whenever
blowdowns have blocked it a hodge-podge of bypass trails
have sprung into existance. Over time the bypass trail
becomes the main trail, until another blowdown blocks the
bypass trail. It can be a little confusing trying to find
the easiest path.
After passing some minor up and down points on the ridge,
the trail drops down about 50-100 feet on the south side to
bypass a major rock formation. This begins the so-called
(by me) "Trillium Traverse" where the trail stays more or
less level and passes through the biggest mass collection
of trilliums I have seen in some time.
Upon reaching a large cairn, the trail splinters into a
myriad of paths, once more going straight up a forested
slope back to the ridge line which at this point is
something like 800 feet above. At least this section is not
The top of this climb is "Birthday Cookie Col", a spot
where Connie pulled out a plastic bag of chocolate chip
cookies in honor of my birthday. This was also the site of a
massive cache of ski poles. Since it was about 1pm, we
decided to eat lunch here. It was warm but not overly hot
there at 4800 ft, and we speculated about how Seattle must
have been roasting at that very moment.
Before we could finish lunch the Mountaineers arrived from
the summit and reclaimed their poles. They seemed very
pleased to be about to descend into the lowland jungle-like
terrain just as the heat of the day was reaching its
zenith, but I was glad we would be going up where it was
And go up we did, as we finally got onto our first snow of
the day. From Birthday Cookie Col one crosses a talus bowl
(snow covered) and then climbs a scree/talus chute (snow
covered) up to a notch between the north and south summits.
We had hoped to find some Mountie up-steps to use, but
alas. The heat of the day was such that even where they had
not been obliterated by the down-steps the Mountie steps
were not particularly useful.
At the col we turned left, crossed a small rock band, and
climbed a 20 foot step of 50-degree snow (later to be
christened "The Jeffress Step"). From here we just used the
time-honored routefinding technique called "follow the
tracks in the snow". It first seemed the Mounties had led
us on the great circle route to the summit, but all became
clear eventually as we neared the top.
As we rested on the summit slab and took in the view and
the weather, Connie dug out her second birthday surprise --
a shortcake, candles, a can of whipped cream, and a tub of
strawberries. This was a *long* way to haul that in! We
demolished it in proper exhausted climber fashion and hung
out on the summit for probably about a half hour total.
Then, as always, it was time to go home. The going was
pretty good all the way back to the step, where Mara
suddenly put into practice the ice-axe arrest technique
that she had learned in the WAC class but not practiced for
two years. And just in time, too. She had slid down maybe
15-20 feet, and was within three feet of pitching over a
small (7-8 foot high) cliff into heavy timber. But the
accident was averted and no harm was done.
After we continued down the step to the notch, Mara figured
she was aready wet and had nothing to lose from a glissade.
I thought a glissade also sounded refreshing. Before long
we were back at Birthday Cookie Col, where we ate a few
cookies and prepared for the snowless portion of our
Since this was also the tedious and painful part of the
descent, I'll skip on a few hours and report that all
arrived safely back at the car, about nine hours after we
had left it.
Nothing we saw on the road grabbed out fancy much, and we
ended up driving all the way to Woodinville before stopping
for Mexican food. A long day in the mountains, which we all
agreed wore down the physical batteries but recharged the