This isn’t a recent report, rather just some reflections and a general guide to one of the most recognizable behemoths off the highway 2, Baring Mountain.
The first time I tried to climb this beast, I wasn’t quite prepared. It was still early August 2012 I think. In most of my other trips to the high country that summer, the snow was already long gone, and after all, the mountain didn’t look snowy…
So I’ll just take it from the top, the trip starts out at the Barclay Lake trailhead, which is really gaining in popularity, so parking can sometimes start a distance from the actual trailhead/kiosk/porto dumpers. A NW Trail pass is required to park at the trailhead, and vicinity.
Instead of heading down the Barclay lake trail, continue forward, over the gravelly berm and up what I imagine was probably an old logging road.
Here’s the trick now, you gotta keep an eye on the hillside to your right, sometimes the “trail” is flagged sometimes it’s not, really I use the term trail very loosely. Actually lets just go with route.
Eventually you’ll see the narrow boot swath near a rivulet coming down the hill. Things become immediately brutal from about this point onward.
It’s pretty difficult to describe the route with any great detail, sometimes there is a worn boot path, sometimes it disappears, I guess it’s best to say it goes up, and damn does it ever.
You are trying to gain the west ridge extending from doppel-lith that is Mount Baring, and unless you are a decent routefinder, it’s best to go with someone who has been up there before. Although there is only a bit of light scrambling along the way, it’s a steep, often muddy, thigh destroying slog up to the ridge. Coming down can even be worse, especially in the fading light, not the kinda place you wanna be hiking down in the dark.
Once you finally gain the ridge, you begin heading east toward the summits. This part of the route actually has a followable trail along much of it’s length, and although there is elevation gain, after what you went up through to get up here, it feels like a walk through woodland paradise.
However, then steep gain starts again, this time switchbacking up and up, at one point you’ll pass the remains of an old camp, marked with a coffee can.
Eventually you’ll end up crossing into a large bowl and the alpine terrain finally begins to open up. The initial view is breathtaking, and possibly terrifying for some. After that long, long slog… you have the colossus looming before you. Really though I find this next bit less exerting, and I think it’s because the views are so vast.
I like trees, don’t get me wrong… but for me there is just something a little more rewarding and less tiring about sweeping, majestic views. Maybe it’s because you really feel like your toils are resulting in real distance gained, or maybe it’s because those airy regions have a pain killing effect, whatever the reason, on to our next section.
Depending on the time of the time of year you’ll immediately notice either a huge snow filled gully seperating the two summits, or a huge boulder and talus gully performing the same act. The first time I came here it was the former, but it was breaking apart and quick.
You’ll need an ice axe here. The moment I saw the gully, I realized this, and realized my journey was pretty much at an end. I decided to amble over just to check it out and have a little fun in the snow along it’s lower regions. However, the snow field was dotted with large pits, some fairly deep. Even with an ice axe, it wouldn’t have been the best time to try and scale the thing.
So…..I came back a month or so later and the gully was ice free! The talus scrambling wasn’t the best, lots of it loose and pretty steep, but made it up. At the notch there is a minor scramble to get onto Baring’s north peak. There is a trail here in place and really only light scrambling the rest of the way to the summit. I was surprised really, I thought it’d be a lot more airy and exposed. You can get all the terrifying heights and exposure with just one glance off the north face though.
The next time I went up Baring was in late June, a friend of mine wanted to go and it was a beautiful day to boot. This time we were prepared with crampons and ice axes. The route was totally snow free by that time until you enter the bowl beneath the huge gully.
I gotta say, this is the time of year/conditions you wanna take this beast on…
The climb up the gully was so much better on the snow, and with the contrast of green trees and blue skies makes it just that much more satisfying. There is however an added obstacle that comes with snow being left on the mountain…
At the notch there is a snow wall instead of a scramble, and depending on the time of year this thing can be pretty damn big so I’ve heard. When we got there, it was dauntingly steep but not as tall as I have read it gets. We didn’t have too much trouble with it, but I’ll tell you it is most definitely perilous. It’s sharp grade would put you in a severe world of hurt or worse if it got away from you. Certainly not for novices.
After the snow wall the rest of the route is cake, even on snow. When we got up to the summit, the block had long been melted out and provided light scrambling to the summit.
There are not a lot of views like the one from Baring Mountain, especially like the completely vertical drop down to Barclay lake. Wave to all the campers! I get a kick at looking down at Der Baring store (a favorite breakfast stop) from over a mile above. It really is a spectacular perch.
Baring Mountain is a great trip for those that are starting to move away from the more trodden trails and want a more mountaineering sort of experience. It offers much, but also demands much, it is not for the timid or out of shape, but for the alpine hiker, it is an unforgettable experience.
Happy Trails, Harry Biped