Bellingham Bay to the summit of Mt. Baker
Aaron, Bruce, Susan, Dan, Beat, Jackie, Deb and Emily
Dan invited me to join his 108 mile out and back “fun” run from Bellingham bay (sea level) to the summit of Mt. Baker. Mt Baker stands at 10,781 feet and is volcanic, glacial peak. Dan’s goal for this ‘fun’ (40+ hour) run was a recon mission for a future race he is determined to make happen. His goal is to recreate/create the Mount Baker ultramarathon; his ideas and passion for this new race is stemmed from the story of the first Mount Baker Marathon in 1911, his love for the North Cascades and his experience racing TdG – Tor des Geants.
I was pretty stoked to participate but I was also nervous about the impact of running 60 miles on pavement and logging roads. I was training for TdG in the Italian Alps (TdG: 206 mile/78k of vertical gain ) and I was paranoid of getting injured. Running on pavement and logging roads was not my forte. After discussing my concern with Dan, who had already completed two TdG, he promised me the pace would be mellow. Plus four of us in the group were training for Tor des Geants so we had the same goals: slow, fun and avoid injury.
As promised we started off and continued a slow and mellow pace throughout the day. It was raining on and off all day and we were all soaked. With all the rain and the potential accumulation of snow on the mountain, the thought of a successful summit was on everyone’s mind. We knew the odds were bleak but we stayed positive and had fun. We had Matt and the Kulshan van following us for the entire route. We didn’t have to carry much gear because Matt (driver/support crew) stopped every few miles to let us fill up on beer or water! He would drive a few miles and wait and then drive a few more miles and wait some more. He was amazing and never complained even though I know he was bored silly.
Along the route we stopped at Acme Diner (Dan’s plan to bring tourism to the area) and had the best milkshakes and burgers. I had not had an old fashion milkshake for years and it did not disappoint. I had a great time bonding with the other runners, loved the chill non-competitive environment and overall was having a blast.
We arrived at Ridley Creek Trailhead, mile 44, earlier than planned. The weather was crappy so we decided to wait it out. I have no clue how many hours, maybe 8 hours? Morris (after seeing the weather) decided to drive out to Ridley Creek Trailhead to support us. He had attempted this run last year with Dan so he knew that we would appreciate shelter. He drove out to the trailhead with his old VW van that has a pop up bed. His eight year-old son slept up top and five of us crammed into the queen size bed below. It was warm, fun, and an adventure. His van saved the day, we drank a couple of beers, chatted and slept. The others chilled by the fire or slept in the Kulshan Brewery Van.
The torrential downpour stopped around 2am so we gathered our mountaineering gear (except Jackie, her hip was too sore) and headed up the mountain. As we headed out we knew the chances of summiting were close to nil but decided to head up to base camp anyhow.
Crossing the gnarly log at 2:30am. I was covered from head to toe in Outdoor Research gear which kept me warm and dry.
The guides headed up to base camp earlier in the day and stashed beers for us.
Our guides at base camp (pictured below in the tent) they spent the night in freezing temperatures. Due to the poor visibility and two feet of fresh snow, it was not safe to attempt the summit. Dan was broken, upset and pleaded with the guides to take him. Everyone concurred it was not safe and told Dan it was not worth risking his life or the guides. This was his third attempt and weather once again was the culprit.
We had a beer at base camp with the guides and headed back to Ridley Creek Trailhead. At Ridley Creek, Susan, Emily and I decided not to run back to Bellingham Bay. Jackie was already out due to a hip injury but Dan, Beat and Aaron all ran back to Bellingham Bay and arrived sometime late, late Saturday night. Big kudos to them!
Regardless of not being able to summit, I had a total blast. The other runners were awesome and I enjoyed every minute of this adventure.
Dan, Beat and Aaron successfully completed the 108 mile route in July of 2014! Click here to see the route.
I wish Dan the best of luck with gaining permits, building trails, and making his dream come true: The Mount Baker Ultra Marathon 2015.