Lincoln Peak of Mount Baker / 貝克山的林肯峯

Lincoln Peak sees a few (if any) visitors in a given year. But when I first saw the peak up close four years ago, it piqued my interest. So after last weekend’s mild outing, this week, I went tackling this Black Butte of Mount Baker. My favorite part was the chance to use ice tools again!

 Lincoln Peak awaits
Lincoln Peak awaits

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Lincoln Peak at a Glance

Access: NF-38
Round Trip: 16 miles
Elevation Range: 2760′-9080′
Gear: helmet, snowshoes, ice tools, crampons, pickets, ropes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no, non, nein, não, いいえ, 不行

The Preface

I spent my childhood in tropical weather. Though I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for most of my life, I’m still not much into the snow. But what better way to build more confidence in the mountains than climbing Lincoln Peak? I had initially talked to another climber about the peak. But with COVID and that we haven’t climbed together, it brought on some concerns.

So I recruited Anne. She’s an avid skier and has been around snow for most of her life. We first met on the way to Azurite Peak. Then later, we climbed West MacMillan Spire and traversed the Northern Pickets together. Anne had heard me talk about the peak for several years now. Glad I was able to convince her to join me at the last minute.

Into the unknown
Into the unknown

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Road 38 to the 1st Switchback

As usual, I dropped off the pups at boarding. Then I drove up to Mount Baker. It was my first time going through Middle Fork Nooksack River Valley. So I wasn’t sure about the road conditions. The forest service website also didn’t have the most current status. Oh well. We had to do some road walk one way or another.

It was 12.5 miles from the NF-38 turnoff to the first switchback. The first two miles were painless. But the rest of the drive was over countless potholes. Still, it was nowhere as bad as the Chilliwack Lake Road. Glad that the road was clear of debris. Several reports cited the brushy roadway past the first switchback. So I didn’t bother to continue in a compact car.

The 7th switchback
The 7th switchback

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Road Walk to the 7th Switchback

I woke up early on Thursday morning. But I wish I had more sleep! It’s been a while since I packed for a trip involving rock, snow, and ice. We planned to bring enough gear so that it was better to have more than falling short. Later, Anne came in at 8:30 AM. Then together, we picked out everything for the trip. I couldn’t believe how much Anne carried, and she is tiny!

In the end, our group gear consisted of a two-person tent, eight pickets, ice tools, and two ice screws. Plus, two 60m ropes and LOTS of cords and webbing. We later started walking at 10 AM. It’s never exciting to walk any road to a climb. But doing so with another person made the hike go by in the blink of an eye. Before long, we reached the seventh switchback.

First sighting of Twin Sisters
First sighting of Twin Sisters

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Rankin Creek Basin

Just past the switchback, the road turned into a trail. It wasn’t as brushy as I expected. So the path allowed us to move efficiently. We first went around the south ridge to its west. Then we turned north and went toward Rankin Creek Basin. Soon, snow patches appeared. Plus, the view of Twin Sisters Mountain was now behind us. Later we put on snowshoes through semi-slushy snow.

We didn’t go up on the south ridge at the road bend. So instead, we continued straight on a spur road missing from the map. Then we walked to the end and entered the forest. The terrain was initially steep. Then it flattened before we reached the basin adorned with two small lakes. Soon, we went past the eastern pond to the saddle at 5480′. Here we got our first look at the impressive Lincoln Peak!

Rankin Creek Basin
Rankin Creek Basin

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6100′ Camp

We were now officially in the Mount Baker Wilderness. So after lunch, we continued northeast through to the upper basin. From there, we got a better look at Seward Peak. The west face was just as impressive. Like Eric and Steven’s party of two, we made it up to 6100′. Then we set up camp overlooking Wallace Creek Basin. At the same time, we had a clear view of the next day’s route.

There wasn’t much to do at camp. But the scenery of the Twin Sisters Mountain, Lincoln Peak, and Seward Peak kept us busy for a while. Today’s sunset time was close to 9 PM. So it was hard to fall asleep while it’s still light out. We set two alarms for 1:30 AM, just in case we slept through one. Strangely, the minute we went inside the tent was when the wind started howling.

Our humble abode
Our humble abode

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Alpine Start on Lincoln Peak

We got up at 1:45 and got ready. The east wind persisted through the night. But it wasn’t much of a concern since we would soon be in the arms of the southwest buttress. While we geared up inside the tent, the rain came. But then it stopped after a few minutes. Big whew! Later I peeked outside, and it was still a starry night. How strange, we thought.

It turned out warmer than the forecast. We expected the temperatures to be in the low 30s. Instead, we got the mid-40s warm air. But we hoped that it would be colder once we started gaining elevation. For some reason, it took us longer to get ready. So by the time we started walking, it was 3 AM. Then we made our way toward the southwest buttress.

The first light
The first light

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Bergschrunds on Lincoln Peak

In the dark, it felt like forever to reach the bottom of the buttress. As we went around the rock wall at 6200′, we almost took the first snow finger. So I looked at my GPS and realized that we needed to go farther. Later we located the lower-angled snow slope. Then we headed east while going uphill. I knew it was slowly getting steep. But the much steep terrain was still to come.

Later we reached the bergschrund at 7400′. But with more snowfall this year, it hasn’t opened up entirely. In the lower-left corner was a gap, then another one in the upper right. So we effortlessly weaved our way through them without having to rely on snow bridges. Plus, we also didn’t need to climb over seracs! Then just above the chasm, the terrain steepened drastically.

Rock feature on Lincoln Peak
Rock feature on Lincoln Peak

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The First (Wrong) Gully

Sometimes no matter how much I’ve researched the route, it still felt like I didn’t do enough. We simul-climbed our way up the steep terrain with at least two pickets in between. Soon, we arrived at the first snow arête after going through several deep runnels. Then we crossed the broad rib to the other side. But we somehow overlooked the vertical snow finger farther ahead.

So we stopped below the closer gully to our right. At first, I thought it didn’t look steep enough. In my mind, the standard route should have been more challenging. But we climbed up anyway. Then that took up lots of time while dealing with steep ice. When we reached the rock wall at the top, I knew right away that we were off route. So I rechecked my GPS. Yep, we were way off!

Wrong gully
Wrong gully

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The Real Constriction Gully

From where we were, we could see parts of Easton Glacier and Deming Glacier. Later we rappeled off the chute by sacrificing one picket. But we still needed to downclimb some to leave the gully altogether. Then we continued north to be back on route. Holy crap. This way was much steeper than the wrong path we took. But glad we caught the mistake sooner than never.

I lead the ice pitch up to the top of the rocks. But a lot was happening in this narrow gully. As the temperatures slowly rose, things started to come down (and fast) through the runnels. Plus, distant rumbles began to take place. Glad it was almost all snow and not rocks! Though, I had never seen rills in a gully before. Anne later came up and then led out through the snow arête.

Backtracking
Backtracking

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Snow Arête to the Summit Gully

I get a bit nervous when I follow. But my mindset changes when I lead. Then I would focus more on gear placement than paying attention to the exposure. So the arête was somewhat nerve-wracking. Meanwhile, I kept thinking just how much more relaxing the one on Eldorado Peak was! Anne belayed me up the narrow snow ridge. Then I led out toward the second gully past the shorter rib.

As I made my way toward the gully next to the leaning tower, I saw more runnels. There was so much going on in this place. Perhaps the mountain God didn’t want us here. So she threw all the obstacles (and crap) our way. Once I went over to the leaning rock at 8700′, we simul-climbed again. But the last 400′ of steepness looked so much higher.

Lincoln Peak summit gully
Lincoln Peak summit gully

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The Final Stretch

One thing that stood out on this trip was that the terrain never eased. It was easier to break down the route into small chunks and worked out the problems along the way. But each section just became more challenging than the one before. It was as if the mountain didn’t want us to have a break. So we never really got the chance to process everything.

Anne and I simul-climbed the final stretch until I reached the summit. There was more snow this year. So there were several feet of it on top of the rocks. I stayed tied into the rope. Then I poked around the edges to make sure that it wasn’t a corniced summit. Glad it wasn’t! So I set up a deadman anchor on top and belayed Anne. Man, what an exhausting climb! Now, breathe in and out, everyone.

Mount Baker panoramic view from Lincoln Peak
Mount Baker panoramic view from Lincoln Peak

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Lincoln Peak Summit Plus Outro

I had waited this moment since we left camp in the dark. It felt surreal to see Mount Baker, Colfax Peak, and Sherman Peak from this angle. But I almost missed Colfax Peak because it blended into Grant Peak. Seward Peak at the other end of the Black Buttes also looked much shorter now. Twin Sisters Mountain in the southwestern skyline stole the show mostly.

On the way down, we decided to belay rather than simul-climbing. But by doing so, it ate up even more time. So first, we made two rappels off the summit gully. Then we made one rappel through the constriction gully. But in the end, we only sacrificed three pickets. We decided not to take the waterfall route. So we went down the way we came and back to camp.

Leaving Lincoln Peak
Leaving Lincoln Peak

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That’s All, Folks!

Glad we decided to come in one day earlier. With thunderstorms in the forecast, Saturday’s weather ended up looking bleak. Oh, and today I celebrated my 10th anniversary of hiking (at least) once every week–aka one hike a week.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carla Schauble

    Wow, good job. I’ll never do that peak!!!!

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