Mount Baker is one of my favorite mountains in the Cascade Range. It was my first glaciated peak, and a place I’ve spent plenty of time since. Just 90-Minutes from Bellingham, WA, Mt. Baker is beautiful, accessible, and provides a true wilderness experience. There are no climbing rangers or guides conducting route maintenance; after late summer snow bridge collapse, or a spring dump of fresh snow, climbers are left to find their own way. Unlike Rainier, there are no permanent structures on the mountain, no gift shop at the bottom and the glaciers remain free of ladders and fixed lines. The lower Coleman Glacier is one of the most popular venues for summer Alpine Ice Climbing and is accessed just 2 hours from the car. Mt. Baker holds the world record for greatest amount of snowfall (95 feet in 1998-1999, measured at the near-by ski area) and is the second most glaciated peak in the Cascade Range.
This season, I’ve spent more than 40 days on Mount Baker instructing and guiding. Over the last few years, I’ve climbed Baker as early as May and as late as September on 5 different routes. During my many days on the mountain I’ve dialed in my kit through many iterations of denial and error. Below are the pieces that I use day-in and day-out in the mountains.
Once I have an idea of what the conditions and weather will be like, I can pack my hard-goods. For easy snow routes in the cascades, where glacier travel presents the greatest challenge, my kit is pretty consistent:
- Petzl Altitude Harness: Everything you need, nothing you don’t. 150 grams!
- Petzl Sirocco (Not Pictured): Superlight, reasonably durable, and a light color.
- 6mm Waist Prusik: Maybe 24- 36 Inches, in total.
- Camp Photon Wire Carabiners: At 29g each, they are one of the lighter full sized carabiners on the market, easy to manipulate with gloves on.
- Petzl Attache: Lightweight Munter Carabiners that are easy to manipulate.
- Petzl Micro Traxion: The ultimate progress capture for Crevasse Rescue, or ascending a rope. I attach this on a dedicated locker that looks different from my others. On the same carabiner I also have a Sterling Hollowblock to use as a Tractor. This is a dedicated Crevasse Rescue kit that I leave in tact unless its time to use it.
- Petzl Spatha Knife / Petzl Tibloc / Sterling Hollowblock: Just like the above kit, though this one goes on every harness I wear. Two ways to grab the rope, and a tool for cutting… well, usually bagels and cheese.
- Slings and Cord: One Double Length, one Single, and a 20-foot 6mm Cordalette. These give me a lot of options for snow anchors with their attached carabiners.
- Belay Device: Usually brought for Top Roping seracs and demos during Crevasse Rescue Training ( Doesn’t leave camp on summit day)
- Petzl Laser Speed 21cm: As the season progresses, there are more sections of hard ice that simply wont accept a picket. Additionally, in the event that I myself fall in a crevasse, I can attach myself to the wall while my partner builds a secure anchor. I keep a home-made V-thread tool in mine for setting up serac anchors.
- G3 Spadetech Shovel: A small, strong and compact shovel with a full length handle for digging platforms and caching garbage/waste. If Mountain house bags or Wag Bags are left on the Glacier, birds and marmots tend to snack on them. Having the option to bury them in the snow give peace of mind. If I am sure I will not be camping on snow, then I’ll leave it behind.
- MSR Coyote Pickets: With SMC wire, I don’t have a huge preference on pickets, so long as they aren’t too beat up.
- Petzl Sum’Tec: I’ve got the whole quiver of sizes, I like the longest size (59cm ) for trips where I’ll be doing a lot of walking and the axe is mostly for Self-Arrest and staying in balance.
- Leki Vario Trekking Pole: Collapsible is nice, as it will fit nicely inside the pack. I usually just bring one, and it stays at camp on summit day. Nice for river crossings on the approach and steep sections on the descent.
- Petzl Vasak / BD Neve Crampons: Horizontal front point models for glacier routes. In early season when I’ll walk on soft snow all day, I prefer an aluminum crampon; the weight difference can be nearly a pound per pair! If i’ll be doing any Ice Climbing instruction, or will be traveling on rocks, I’ll bring steel crampons.
- Scarpa Phantom Guide / Charmoz: Generally I want to work with as light as a boot as possible, while insuring that my feet will stay warm and dry. Lighter boots work great in late season. If I expect precipitation, I’ll take my Phantom Guides for added warmth and moisture protection.
- Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiter: I generally don’t use gaiters, but if there has been a recent dump of snow, or an influx of heat early season, they can be nice to keep the snow and slush out of my boots.
- Therm-a-Rest X-Therm: With and R-Value of 5.7 this pad insulates quite well on its own, even while sleeping on snow. It’s durable (mine is 4 years old), compact and weighs just 15oz. I always bring a patch kit just in case.
- Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite: I use the size Small (3/4 length) to augment my X-therm and have a place to sit in the snow/dirt. It weighs 10oz in this size, and doesn’t always come with me, but can be nice for longer trips.
- Feathered Friends Vireo: The Vireo is a “Half bag” design that does not have a zipper, or hood and is designed to be used with a heavy parka for sleeping. The bag weighs about 18oz and compresses smaller than a football. It’s light, warm, and takes up very little volume in my pack. I own the 69″ model. When I expect wet conditions, I usually opt for a Synthetic Bag by Mountain Hardwear
- Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2: A lightweight, 4-Season freestanding tent designed for two people (who like each other). While this model claims to be Waterproof, I will opt for a more robust double-wall tent if I expect driving rain or heavy snow such as the Nallo 2 from Hilleberg.
- MSR 4-Liter Drom-Lite: My personal well of drinking water at camp.
- Ursack: Required in most areas of the National Park, keeps mice and marmots from getting into the food.
- Fozzils Bowl: A bowl that folds flat and packs nicely near my frame sheet. Easy to clean too!
- GSI Spoon: Inexpensive and light. $2.00 at REI
- Gatoraide: I don’t carry much water on the approaches. Since it’s the heaviest my pack will be on the trip, I like a little flavor and sugar to keep my electrolytes in check.
- Titanium Mug: A lightweight mug for coffee and Tea, nests with my Gatorade bottle and OR waterbottle holder.
- 0.5 Liter Nalgine Bottle: While I use a Drom-Lite on these trips, I’ve seen every type of bladder style water system fail, and insist on having a hard bottle to rely on. A spill in my backpack can be a huge bummer, not having water on top of that is insult to injury. During the wet months, I’ll use a .5 liter bottle of boiling water to dry out boots and gloves.
- Outdoor Research Waterbottle Holder: Holds my 1-Liter and titanium mug.
- MSR Reactor (with Fuel and Lighter): My favorite stove on the market. Robust, efficient, and relatively light compared to liquid fueled option.
- Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Boxer Briefs: I wear these a majority of the trip. My legs run warm, and I only wear long underwear on the coldest of days.
- Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottoms: I usually change into these at night as part of my sleep system, I may wear them on a cold and windy summit day. On very hot trips, these may stay at home.
- Smart Wool Trekking Socks: I adjust the volume of my sock to match my boot.
- Patagonia Simul-Alpine Pants: A solid go-to for every day mountain abuse, light fabric that’s tightly woven to block wind.
- Patagonia Capilene lightweight T-Shirt: Lightweight base layer
- MEC T3 Hoody: A warmer base layer with scuba style hood provides warmth but breathes well.
- Black Diamond Sun Hoody: Ah! the Guides mountain uniform. Breathable, wicking, sun protection. I wear this layer or similar almost every day out in the mountains and don’t leave home without it. On the lightest of trips, I leave the T3 and T-shirt behind and live in my Sun Hoody.
- Mountain Equipment Squall Soft Shell: The AAI gear list describes a Soft Shell Jacket as an “Action Layer”, and this is certainly that. The right tool for the job here in the Cascades; a light, stretchy jacket that breaths well, but sheds dew and light precipitation.
- Patagonia M10 Anarak Hoody: In the Cascades, on a multi-day trip, I always have some type of shell jacket. I may go as light as a Patagonia Houdini or as Heavy as an OR Furio. The M10 is a 7oz waterproof shell that I am happy to have with me as insurance for light squalls.
- Patagonia Down Vest: An action oriented piece of insulation.
- Feathered Friends Helio Hoody Jacket: A warm bomb-shelter of insulation for the coldest and most blustery of days. While this is a heavy piece for a 10k foot peak, I like having the option to stay warm if I have to hang out on the glacier in the middle of the night. If expecting rain on a trip I’ll swap this for a heavy synthetic layer.
- Patagonia Visor: If you want to be in charge, you’ll need a Super-visor! Keeps the sun off my face, and fits under my helmet.
- Ball Cap: Nice for trips that are colder or more damp. Sometimes trapping the heat is ideal, though the ball cap does not fit under the helmet as nicely.
- Julbo Sun Glasses: I use the Stunt and the Blast Models. I’ll usually wear the Photocromic / Transitioning lenses on summit day, and carry the others as a spare.
- Buff: Keeps the sun off my face, provides a little warmth on cold mornings, and reduces the need for sunscreen.
- Outdoor Research High Camp Gloves: A warm, waterproof glove that is large enough to be used with liner gloves.
- Black Diamond Dirt Bag Gloves: Inexpensive, and insulated leather work glove.
- Black Diamond Midweight Liner Gloves: A comfortable and lightweight glove for completing tasks that require dexterity.
Gizmos / Gadgets / Widgets / Tools:
- Hygene Stuff: Tooth Brush, Floss, Sun Screen, Hand Sanitizer, Ear Plugs.
- Repair Kit: Some Bailing Wire, Zip Ties, Para Cord, Gear Aid Tape, Athletic Tape, Thermarest Patch Kit
- Aqua Mira Water Treatment: My prefered method for treating water. Due to high human traffic, Baker is one place I always treat my water.
- Human Waste Stuff: One Biffy Bag for each day of the trip, extra wiping supplies, I like these individually packaged wet wipes by Preparation H, they have witch hazel to reduce irritation from chaffing.
- Simple Suunto Compass: A basic compass for teaching Land Navigation, or actually navigating if my electronics fail
- First Aid Kit: A Small Trauma Kit, Paired with an emergency blanket and a small commercial first aid kit.
- Petzl E-lite: My Back-Up head Lamp.
- Black Diamond Storm Headlamp: A bright and Waterproof headlamp.
- Garmin Inreach Explorer+: Satellite Communication with my co-workers and family Via Text Message. I haven’t used the navigation tools much, but I upload my intended route as a backup. The In-reach also has the ability to receive a pinpoint weather forecast for longer trips, and an SOS button that is easy to use in the case of an emergency.
- Anker PowerCore 10000:Provides 4 full charges for my iPhone 7, Keeps my watch and Inreach charged up.
- Suunto Ambit 3 (Not Pictured): A sports watch with GPS tracking for recording trips, and emergency navigation.
- Iphone 7 (Not Pictured): One of the most valuable tools in my kit. It’s a flashlight, a compass, a GPS, a Camera, a MP3 Player and sometimes gets cellular service on high ridges and peaks. I bring my headphones along for music and podcasts in the evening.
- Stuff Sack for Organization: A bag to keep all the above from getting lost.
- Dehydrated Foods: I’m always trying to do something new with my food, Many options exist. Generally I just pack a dinner for each night, Granola for breakfasts and then add bars and snacks to eat throughout the day.
- Drinks: Coffee, Tea, Electrolite Drinks, and Emergen-C. Hydration is a key component of Mountaineering, adding a little flavor helps to encourage fluid consumption and keep salt/sugar levels in check.
- Spice it up!: Condiments from fast-food establishments, Hot Sauce, Salt and Pepper. A little spice can really bring a Mountain House meal from bland to tasty.
Once I’ve gathered the whole pile together, I’ll see which pack suits the trip best. I choose the pack that will fit everything inside, except my sharps, and still close at the top. This usually means I have a pack with plenty of room for summit day.
- Cilogear 45L Worksack: I’ve been using the Cilogear Worksack in the mountains for 3 years now, and don’t find myself wanting for anything (Except a Dyneema Model) . These packs are light, modular, and well designed. I own the 30L and 30:30 models also. The 45L Model is perfect for Multi-day trips in the Cascades when you’ve got to carry a heavy load. In late season, I fit it all into a smaller bag.
- Contractor Trash Bag: I line my pack with one for the approach if I expect rain or a river crossing, store my clothes in it while at camp, and then use it to pack out my waste.
- Ikea Tote: For $0.99, this has got to be one of the best values of my kit. I put my clothes for the day, boots, sharps, and helmet in this bag for transport to the trailhead. At the end of the trip, my dirty clothes and muddy boots go in it for the ride home.
So that’s my Mt. Baker kit! Sometimes items get replaced with a lighter/heavier version, or get left behind all together. Different routes, weather, partners and clients all factor into what goes up with me. Most of these items are easy to find, but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Have fun out there!
– Zak Krenzer