Lincoln Peak of Mount Baker via Rankin Creek / 林肯峯

  • Reading time:11 mins read

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

 Lincoln Peak awaits
Lincoln Peak awaits

See more trip photos here.

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

Lincoln Peak

When I first saw Lincoln 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 via Rankin Creek. The most exciting part was using the ice tools through X Couloir!

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

Into the unknown
Into the unknown

See more trip photos here.

The Preface

I had initially talked to Jake Robinson (RIP) about going up the peak together. But with COVID 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 on Azurite Peak. Then later, we climbed West MacMillan Spire and traversed the Northern Pickets together. I’ve talked to her about the peak for several years now. Glad she had agreed to join me at the last minute.

Digesting lunch
Digesting lunch

See more trip photos here.

Middle Fork Nooksack River

As usual, I dropped off the pups at boarding after work. Then I drove up to Mount Baker. It was my first time going through Middle Fork Nooksack River Valley.

I wasn’t sure about 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.

See more trip photos here.

Road 38 to the 1st Switchback

It took 12.5 miles to go 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.

Though, the drove was not nearly as bad as 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 small car.

The 7th switchback
The 7th switchback

See more trip photos here.

Thursday Morning

I woke up early on Thursday morning without much sleep. It’s been a while since I packed for a trip that included rock, snow, and ice. But we had planned to bring enough gear so we wouldn’t fall short.

Later, Anne came in at 8:30 AM and parked near the road bend. Then together, we picked out everything we needed for the trip. I couldn’t believe how much she carried, and she is tiny!

See more trip photos here.

Road Walk to the 7th Switchback

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 started hiking at 10 AM. It’s never exciting to walk the road to a climb. But doing so with another person made it go by in the blink of an eye. Before long, we had reached the seventh switchback.

First sighting of Twin Sisters
First sighting of Twin Sisters

See more trip photos here.

Rankin Creek Basin

Shortly past the switchback, the road turned into a trail. It wasn’t as brushy as I expected. So we could move more efficiently. Soon, we went around the south ridge to the west.

Later we went north toward Rankin Creek Basin. But soon, snow patches showed up as we saw Twin Sisters Mountain behind us. Shortly, we snowshoed through semi-slushy snow.

See more trip photos here.

5480′ Saddle

We didn’t go up on the south ridge at the road bend. Instead, we continued straight on a spur road not on the map. Then we walked to the end and entered the forest.

The initially steep terrain flattened below the basin with two small lakes. Soon, we went past the eastern pond to the 5480′ saddle. Here we had our first look at the impressive Lincoln Peak!

Rankin Creek Basin
Rankin Creek Basin

See more trip photos here.

Onward to 6100′ Camp

We were now officially in the Mount Baker Wilderness. Then after lunch, we continued northeast through to the upper basin. From there, we got a clear view of Seward Peak and its impressive west face.

Like Eric and Steven’s party of two, we went 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.

See more trip photos here.

Today’s sunset time was close to 9 PM. There wasn’t much to do at camp before then. But the scenery of Twin Sisters Mountain and the environs kept us busy for a while.

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

Our humble abode
Our humble abode

See more trip photos here.

Alpine Start on Lincoln Peak

We woke up at 1:45 to get 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.

As we geared up inside the tent, the rain came. Then it stopped after just a few minutes. Whew! Later I peeked outside, and it was still starry. What erratic Pacific Northwest weather, we thought.

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Southwest Buttress

It was warmer than in the forecast. We expected 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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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

See more trip photos here.

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.

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. 😉

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.