Dear Mt. Baring, You suck. Love, Me.
Elevation Gain in: Like 20 feet or something.
Elevation Gain out: Yes
Distance: Enough to remove the cartilage from both knees.
I awoke Sunday morning to grey skies as the marine layer sat snugly over Seattle, daring the sun to try to and dislodge it. Hmm… well that will lend itself to a nice cool climb today. Okay, out of bed.
I jumped in the Jeep and headed out toward Hwy 2 hoping the clouds wouldn’t dissipate too soon. They held all the way to Gold Bar and then miraculously vanished, leaving the morning sun to smile down upon me through the topless Jeep. I think I saw a hint of evil in its eye.
Mt. Baring is accessed via the Barclay Lake trailhead. There were surprisingly few vehicles in the parking lot for a sunny Sunday – only 50 or 60 or so. After circling the parking lot a few times, I found a spot up close once a tour bus vacated a space.
10:15 am I’m finally on the trail. The “trail” begins to the right of the Barclay Lake trail and immediately takes you past the Port-a-Potties – a sure sign of what you are in for. Crap. With lungs full of fresh mountain air, I continued on the path through the brush.
Once past the brush, I navigated the avalanche debris field with a little parallel bar routine and vaulted over the last log. Charlotte smiled at me out of pity as I passed her.
About 20 yards past the debris, a conveniently placed cairn marks the beginning of the “trail.” Without that cairn, I’m sure I would have kept heading straight, even though the path ends there. Without that cairn, I would have looked at the creekbed and thought, “This cannot be my route. Yea, verily, I must continue through the brush.” Without that cairn, I’m sure I would have began bushwhacking until I happened upon the Barclay trail where I would have happily meandered to the lake and had a nice relaxing picnic of PB&J and PBR while looking up at the rock slab wondering why I ever thought it would be a good idea to try and climb it in the first place.
But back to the “trail.”
And thus begins the crap. Yes the “trail” is well marked. Easy to follow? I think not. But only because it is muddy, slippery, rocky, rooty, and anything else that prevents one’s boots from gaining traction. I’d scramble up a bit and slide down even further. I can’t remember how many times I’d find myself back at the trailhead, covered in mud and wondering how I managed to slip all the way back there.
Devil’s club ran rampant up and down the “trail.” One particular plant eyed me lasciviously and, after an unfortunate boot-step, I proceeded to make out with her. Who am I to deny the Devil after he so generously carved this boot path for me to follow.
The “trail” kept climbing and before long, there was a casualty. Besides the various scrapes and scratches, my beloved friend B.D. Pole was injured in a fall. He is currently in the E.R. and is slated for surgery this evening.
At times I would pause, thinking I heard the pounding of boots and would look up to see if anyone was about to topple down upon me. I finally realized that it was just the sound of my heart trying to escape my chest via my throat.
I continued to battle the hillside, taking numerous opportunities to R.E.S.T. To R.E.S.T. mind you, is not to be confused with to “rest,” which is a lazy person’s excuse to sit and be lazy. No, a R.E.S.T. is a point where a highly motivated individual such as myself stops briefly to Refuel/Rehydrate, Eyeball the route/map, Snap a quick photo or two, and/or Talk to nature (water a tree).
I came across a hole in the hill that was dark and dank. Being solo and not wanting to have my head ripped off by whatever may inhabit said hole, I opted not to poke around in it. Instead, I turned the flash on to see if I could spy anything inside.
For an hour I battled the hill until I finally reached the crest. The sounds of my pores sweating and my breath swearing were immediately replaced by a train whistle fighting with the traffic on HWY 2. It could have been the roar of a 747 20 feet away and I wouldn’t have minded. I was just happy the climb was over.
Once on top my pace had quickened from oozing molasses to blistering heat (for me at least). The legs were happy to be stretching into longer strides and the breeze was heaven for my brow. The ridgeline went up and down so much that, were I not walking, I’d have thought I was on that big wooden rollercoaster at Knott’s Berry Farm. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about.
Thinking the rest of the way to the final scramble was to be all daisies and sunshine, I dropped down a bit to skirt a rocky cliffy part and was presented with a sight that brought a tear to my eye. Another hill climb.
Time for a R.E.S.T.
I played hide and seek with the route for a while, and, while the path put up a good fight and hid in a few choice spots, I ultimately won our little game and reached the top. I was rewarded with a view of the next obstacle – The Gully.
The bottom was strewn with ginormous boulders that looked as if a giant had haphazardly tossed his marble bag down the chute.
After a quick R.E.S.T. I began weaving through the boulders and scrambled up the gully. 30 minutes later, I was at the saddle.
The path goes left and is met with a short wall of about 7 feet. A quick grab and foothold and I was up. I climbed down and back up a few more times just to let that wall know how easy I thought it was.
I headed left until I came upon a boulder field. Here is where I erred. The “path” kinda goes all over the place. I chose to go up and right when I should have gone up and left. There were some cairns, but if I had followed those, I would still be up there now wandering in circles. If you plan on tackling this peak, just head up the boulder field and you’ll eventually see where to go.
Back to me. I went right. I kept going right until the rock dropped down to the valley floor. Then I went up and hit this wall:
This was a bit exposed and more of a Class 3 climb. Had I slipped, I’m sure I would have been able to fashion a parachute out of my shirt and backpack straps on the way down.
3 hours and 15 minutes from the Jeep, I finally reached the summit. And saw the easy way up. Idiot.
There was one other gentleman atop the peak when I showed up, but he quickly packed up and left upon seeing me. I think he was intimidated by my good looks and awesome skills.
I celebrated with my customary PB&J and PBR and relaxed for about an hour, just watching the world go by.
Barclay Lake doesn’t seem that impressive from up here.
Besides that spike thing, there was also a bunch of boards, nails, and boards with nails atop the peak.
And the Pano.
Deciding it was time to descend, I donned my dorsal burden and dropped off the rock. Via the easy route.
Once in the gully, I involuntarily tested the resolve of the rocks and proceeded to steady myself by letting one give me a trendy new thumb piercing. Sigh.
The rocks near the top of the gully are loose and looking for any excuse to join their friends down below. They’re especially happy if they can take you with them. Beware.
About the midway point, the rocks became friendlier and I used my mountain goat-like rock-hoppin’ skills to bound across the boulders.
I reached that second ridge climb and looked down in dismay.
I’d left my rock-toboggan at home and had to slide down on my heels. My butt decided it wanted to play too, so, at times, it would insist on being used as a sledding device. By the time I reached the surveyors tape, my knees were beginning to let me know they were a bit miffed at me. I told them to shut up and headed back down across the ridge.
Reaching the “trail” back down to the “road” I died a little inside. I started picking my way down muttering to myself, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like ho…ooooooooooooome!” Crap. Slipped again.
The mud was the perfect consistency that every time I’d dig my heels in, the tread on my boots would become caked in it, effectively turning them into skates. Each step was carefully chosen. That rock will provide grip! Whoosh…thud. Nope. Those roots will keep me from slipping. Zip…thunk. Dammit. Eventually I gave up and became a human Plink-O game, bouncing off the trees peppering the hillside.
Once the branches became readily available, I began using the Veggie Rappel. I’d grab a piece of flora, yell “On Belay!” and swing down a few feet until I could grab the next bit o’ brush. Soon perfecting this, I needed a new challenge, so I began the Aussie style Veggie Rappel. Face first!
I was having so much fun bounding down the hill at this point I forgot to look for the “trail” markers. Nothing a R.E.S.T. wouldn’t take care of. I stopped to Eye the path and noticed my arm began to sting. A quick glance down and around me revealed I had stopped in the middle of a nettle convention. They were giving a speech on proper stinging techniques and I rudely interrupted them. After profusely apologizing to them, I found the “trail” markers and made a hasty exit.
2 hours from the top I was back at the Jeep, pierced, bruised, scratched, stung, and with two very angry knees. A smiling, happy family was just returning from their trip to Barclay looking fresh and spry. Upon seeing me, covered in mud, sweat, and sneers, a hush fell over them, and the matriarch hurried them past to their SUV.
I peered through the trees back up toward the top of Baring, silently cursing its existence but smug in the fact that I had conquered it. Happier was I to the thought I’d never have to do that climb again.
Until next year, that is.