Eric and I drove up the surprisingly well maintained and mostly paved FS 39 to the Heliotrope Trailhead in the Mt Baker Wilderness Area nearly Saturday morning. The day was cloudy as we donned our packs full of ice climbing gear to the on the Mt Baker Seracs. Heliotrope Trail is a popular day hike area for folks to get a good look at Coleman Glacier from the overlook. But this early (6:30am) we were the only ones on the trail… though we say lots of folks loitering in the parking lot. The trail is well maintained and crosses a bridge almost immediately before heading up and a steady grade through the forest. There are several switchbacks and lots of blueberry bushes, though most of the berries were not ripe at this time of year. We crossed two shallow, but wide and wild creeks. There were good stepping stones though on both of them. At about 5000 feet and 2 miles in we arrived at a juction signed left for the “overlook” and right for the “climbers trail”. The climbers trail is for those wishing to summit via Coleman Glacier… not for ice climbers. We went toward the overlook.

We were greeting by lovely wildflower meadows and a roaring Heliotrope Creek several yards from the junction. After assessing that the current was strong and the water deep in about a 2 foot area we opted to remove our shoes and roll up our pants. Crossing without doing this is possible, but if you slip while hoping the the sparse rocks you risk getting washing away down the slope… or getting wet shoes (not fun while on ice). We crossed and continued on into the meadow where we had to do a bit of route finding to get across a double creek. If you look there are ways across… they are just not obvious. There are lots of social trails here and this is where day hikers stop (2.25 miles). Take the lower trail the the ridge. The seracs are lovely and very visible here. But you  must descend along the ridge to Harriman Camp to access the ice. At the lowest camp there is a small rough trail that leads down to the moraines. Carins are in the glacial dirt and talus. Follow them back toward the ice.

We put on our crampons when we reached the dirty, black ice since it was slippery. From here one can take any path they desire. There are route everywhere. One can get lowered into the crevasses and climb out or find and area with a good belay spot. Most features allow for easy top-roping.

We ended up finding a good area for belaying from the ground with a few routes that were tall. Lots of the features are not very long so we got lucky. I led up a ramp (probably equal to a W2) and built an anchor. Eric and I climbed three routes off of this toprope, but the anchor screws melted quickly so I had to rearrange them in new holes every other climb. We then moved the a corner with more advanced routes and set up a top rope there (stemmers and overhangs about W3-3+).

We paused for lunch before getting on the ropes and head a huge cracking sound right beneath us. We grabbed our packs nad backed away quickly. We had heard a lot fo groans from all over the seracs, but that one sounded from right beneath us (at least i though so, Eric said it was from the wall). We also so some massive ice-fall further up the ice-field to the right close of the cliff. Beware of your surroundings. After a few minutes we timidly approached the belay and deemed that if we heard anything else we would leave. We heard nothing but our own breath as we climbed the awesome routes on the corner.

We explored the seracs a bit my foot for a bit before packing up and leaving at about 4:00pm. Just as we were shouldering our packs the clouds lifted to reveal the mass of Mt Baker. Glorious end to a great day. But we still had to cross the creeks that were higher now that the heat of the day had melted more snow!

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