Posted by Joseph Anderson
One of the most outstanding things about the mountains of North West Washington is just how much unexplored high quality terrain still sits right there at our finger tips. The Mt Baker region is home to extensive rock with most of it sitting there watching us indifferently chuckling at us while decades go by without a lick of attention.
When I first moved to the region in 2004 I was working for a local competitor. I was given an assignment of carrying, famous landscape photographer David Muench’s heavy and cumbersome camera equipment 17 miles into the Northern Picket Range so he could take photos of Mt Challenger. Big mountain walls and buttresses caught my eye the entire way, but the one I wanted to get the skinny on the second I checked back into the office was the big beautiful wall of south facing granite buttresses that sat right above the Hannagen Pass trail head. The second I got back into the office I inquired but nobody knew what I was talking about. I searched and searched for any info on this very intriguing wall yet it did not exist in the literature.
One day during the summer of 2010 my friend Chris eagerly contacted me and said he had just climbed this 7 pitch local route that I have got to go do. He said it was probably the second or third ascent and was fantastic. The climb, Ellation on Mamie Peak was right above the Hannagan Pass Trailhead.
It turns out that the gentleman that put in the first ascent of this route did a fantastic job of posting many details on Cascade Climbers, a Cascade web forum climbing resource. I poured over the beta and rallied one of my climbing partners to give it a go. there it was, in mid October of 2010 six years after I made this area home I finally got onto this mysterious buttress and what we found was an absolutely spectacular climb in every way. The route traveled on surprisingly clean granite for being so new and was pitch after pitch of fun, athletic climbing up a modern mix of bolted face, protectable cracks and VERY balancy friction. Craggy glacier clad peaks loomed above the valley giving the place a big alpine feel. The ambiance while climbing was downright spectacular. This is still only the beginning of the exploration so close to home. Now exactly 4 years after this route was established I am still struck by not only how much there is to climb and explore but I think the best routes have yet to be climbed.