Lincoln Peak of Mount Baker via Rankin Creek / 林肯峯

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Lincoln Peak of Mount Baker is the 16th tallest peak in Washington State. Rankin Creek via the vast Middle Nooksack River is typical to reach this sheer pinnacle. But it sees a few, if any, visitors in a given year due to various challenges.

 Lincoln Peak awaits
Lincoln Peak awaits

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Lincoln Peak at a Glance

Access: NF-38
Round Trip: 14 miles
Elevation Range: 2760′-9080′
Gear: helmet, snowshoes, ice tools, crampons, pickets, ropes
Route Info: Andy Dewey
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no, non, nein, não, いいえ, 不行

The Preface on Lincoln Peak

When I first saw Lincoln Peak up close four years ago, it piqued my interest. So after last weekend’s mild outing, I went tackling this Black Butte of Mount Baker via Rankin Creek this week. The most exciting part was using the ice tools through X Couloir!

I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest most of my life. Since I spent my childhood in tropical weather, I’m still not much into the snow. But what better way to build confidence than climbing this challenging peak?

Into the unknown
Into the unknown

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The Preface

I had initially talked to Jake Robinson (RIP) about teaming up on the peak. But with COVID-19 and that we haven’t climbed together, it brought on some concerns. So I recruited Anne, an avid skier who’s been around snow all her life.

Anne and I first met climbing Azurite Peak. Then we climbed West McMillan Spire and traversed the Northern Pickets together. I’ve bugged her about Lincoln Peak for several years now. Glad she had agreed to join me this time.

Digesting lunch
Digesting lunch

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Middle Fork Nooksack River

Like before, I dropped off the pups at boarding and then drove up to Mount Baker. It was my first time going through Middle Fork Nooksack River Valley. So even with directions in hand, I managed to take a few wrong turns.

I couldn’t find anything on the road conditions. The forest service website also didn’t have the most current information. But regardless, we needed to walk the road one way or another.

The 7th switchback
The 7th switchback

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Road 38 to the 1st Switchback

I later drove 12.5 miles from NF-38 turnoff to the first switchback. The initial two miles were smooth sailing in a compact car. But the rest of the way to the road bend was over numerous potholes.

Despite the ruts, the road wasn’t nearly as nasty as Chilliwack Lake Road, but it was clear of debris. Several reports noted the brushy roadway past the first switchback. So I didn’t bother to continue in a small car.

First sighting of Twin Sisters
First sighting of Twin Sisters

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Thursday Morning

I woke up early Thursday morning after a restless night. It’s been a while since I packed for a mixed climb that involved rock, snow, and ice. So I double and triple-checked to make sure I had everything with me.

Anne later came in at 8:30 AM and parked by the road bend. We picked out everything we needed and even added extra tools to avoid falling short. But I couldn’t believe how much she carried, and she’s tiny!

Snowshoe time
Snowshoe time

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Seventh Switchback

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. But somehow, it seemed as though we didn’t bring enough.

We started walking the road at 10 AM, the unexciting part of the climb. But doing so with another person made it go by in the blink of an eye. Before long, we reached the seventh switchback.

Mad skillz
Mad skillz

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Rankin Creek Basin

The road soon turned into a trail not long past the switchback. Given the remoteness, the path wasn’t as brushy as I expected, and we could move efficiently. Soon, we went around the south ridge to the west.

We went north toward Rankin Creek Basin from the other side of the ridge. Soon, snow showed up as we saw Twin Sisters Mountain come into view behind us. We put on snowshoes and went through some slush.

First sighting of Seward Peak
First sighting of Seward Peak

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5480′ Saddle

We did not go up the south ridge at the road bend as some groups did. But instead, we continued straight ahead on a spur road that wasn’t on the map. Then we walked to the end and entered the forest.

The initially steep terrain had us go through sketchy terrain. It later flattened up by the two small lakes, where we went past the east one to the 5480′ saddle. Here we had our first look at the impressive Lincoln Peak!

Rankin Creek Basin
Rankin Creek Basin

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Onward to 6100′ Camp

Soon, we were inside Mount Baker Wilderness, where reality sank in finally. After lunch, we continued northeast to the upper basin. We had a clear view of Seward Peak, the nearest higher neighbor to Mount Olympus.

Like Eric and Steven’s party of two, we stopped at 6100′ and set up camp overlooking Wallace Creek Basin. It was also the perfect spot to see the next day’s route. Then we relaxed the rest of the sunny and windy afternoon.

Our humble abode
Our humble abode

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An Evening on Mount Baker

Today’s sunset was close to 9 PM, and it felt like summer was right around the corner. There wasn’t a whole lot to do before bed. But the scenery of Twin Sisters Mountain and the environs kept us entertained.

Strangely, the minute we went inside the tent was when the wind started howling. Despite many efforts, it was hard to fall asleep in the daylight. So we set two alarms for 1:30 AM if we missed one.

Scoping out the route on Lincoln Peak
Scoping out the route on Lincoln Peak

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Alpine Start on Lincoln Peak

We woke up at 1:45 to prepare for a long day ahead. The east wind persisted through the night and made it hard to go outside. But it wasn’t much of a concern since we would soon be in the arms of the southwest buttress.

While we were inside the tent, the rain not in the forecast suddenly came but stopped after a few minutes. Whew! I later peeked outside and looked up at a starry sky. What erratic Pacific Northwest weather, we thought.

Wallace Creek Basin
Wallace Creek Basin

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En Route to Southwest Buttress

We had anticipated low 30s weather but got the mid-40s warm air instead. It was for sure warmer than we expected. But we hoped the temperatures would drop once we went higher.

Perhaps it’s the first backpacking trip of the season, and it took a while to get ready. So by the time we started walking, it was already 3 AM. But we needed to hurry and make our way to the southwest buttress soon.

The first light on Lincoln Peak
The first light on Lincoln Peak

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Bergschrunds on Lincoln Peak

We later went past the buttress at 6200′ and almost climbed up the first snow ramp. I checked my GPS and then went farther north to the lower-angled slope. Then we headed east uphill as the terrain increasingly steepened.

The bergschrund at 7400′ had a gap on the lower-left and another in the upper right. So we weaved through without needing snow bridges. We also didn’t need to climb over seracs! Then above the chasm, the incline further steepened.

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 wasn’t enough. We simul-climbed the steep terrain with at least two pickets in between. Soon, we reached the first snow arête after several deep runnels and crossed the broad rib to the other side. But we somehow missed the snow ramp farther ahead.

So we stopped by the closer gully to our right, which didn’t look steep enough. The standard route also would’ve looked more difficult, but we went up anyway. But after spending time going through steep ice, we reached a rock wall and knew we were off route. So I rechecked my GPS, and yep, we were way off!

Wrong gully
Wrong gully

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Constriction Gully Below Lincoln Peak

We saw Easton Glacier and Deming Glacier from there. Then we rappeled by sacrificing one picket and downclimbed the rest to leave the gully and continued north. Holy crap. It was much steeper than the other one and for real this time. But glad we had caught the mistake sooner.

I lead the ice pitch to the top of the rocks, with lots happening in this narrow gully. As the temperatures rose, things came down (and fast) through the runnels with distant rumbles. Glad it was nearly all snow and not rocks! Anne later came up and soon 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 since I focus more on gear placement than on exposure. So the arête was somewhat nerve-wracking as I thought how much more relaxing the one on Eldorado Peak was! Once Anne belayed me up the narrow snow ridge, I led out to the second gully.

Perhaps the mountain Goddess had thrown all the obstacles (and crap) at us. Soon, more stuff came down through the runnels as I went over to the leaning tower. Once we were there at 8700′, we simul-climbed again through the final 400′ that looked 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. We broke down the route into small parts and worked out the problems along the way. But each section was increasingly challenging, and the mountain didn’t want us to have a break. So we never had much time to process everything.

We simul-climbed the final stretch until the top. Several feet were on top of the rocks with more snow this year. I stayed tied into the rope and poked around the edges to ensure that it wasn’t a corniced summit. Then I set up a deadman anchor and belayed Anne. But what an exhausting climb! Now, let’s breathe, 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 for this moment since we left in the dark. It felt surreal to see Mount Baker, Sherman Peak, and Colfax Peak, which had blended into the background. Seward Peak of the Black Buttes also looked much shorter. Twin Sisters Mountain in the southwest skyline stole the show mostly.

We belayed instead of simul-climbing on the way down, which ate up even more time. We made two rappels off the summit and one through the constriction gully. All in all, we only sacrificed three pickets and nearly lost one of the ropes. We later skipped the waterfall route and retraced our steps back to camp.

Leaving Lincoln Peak
Leaving Lincoln Peak

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That’s All, Folks!

Glad we had gone in one day early. With thunderstorms in the forecast, Saturday’s weather ended up looking bleak. Yippee! I also celebrated my 10th anniversary of hiking (at least) once a week this weekend.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Carla Schauble

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

  2. Lincoln

    Congrats on my namesake park John! And congrats on 10 years and all the freaking lists you’ve completed.. damn impressive!

    1. onehikeaweek

      Thanks, Lincoln! Glad you found me. I wondered what happened to you after our trip to Silver Peak eons ago. 😉

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