Most Northwest peaks are covered in feet of snow most of the year, which is why the commercial climbing season is only from April – September. In just six months, we see a broad spectrum of weather; in early/late season it’s not rare to have a wind chill below -20 degrees, in contrast with the peak of summer, when temperatures can rise to above 85 degrees. The weather on Mount Baker is no joke. That’s why layering and understanding your layer system is key for success on Mount Baker or any other peak!
- Top: During colder months (April through mid-June and late September) we recommend using a merino wool or synthetic long underwear base layer to keep you warm while on the mountain. For the warmer months (July and August) we recommend using a hooded sun shirt something like the HIMALI™ Eclipse Sun Hoodie that we have for sale at the Guide Hut. Sun shirts make the optimal upper base layer because they double as sun protection on hot and sunny days on the glacier when you need to have your entire body covered to avoid getting burnt but also want to stay cool.
- Bottom: A bottom base layer even in warmer months is important to have as nights and alpine starts tend to be quite chilly. Merino wool, or synthetic long underwear or sports leggings make for great bottom base layers.
- Top: A mid-weight fleece is an important layer to have to use over your base layer which will keep you warm while moving but not too hot to be comfortable. A soft-shell mid-layer is also recommended as it helps to protect against the wind on chilly days without being too large or restrictive.
- Bottom: A soft-shell alpine pant that is flexible, warm, and comfortable to use climbing during any time of the season on any kind of terrain. These pants should be a bit heavier duty than trekking pants but not as big and warm as insulated ski pants.
- Upper Body: Outer layers are used when needed for rain, snow, or extreme precipitation. You will want a hard-shell that is Gore-Tex or equivalent for your upper body outer layer. This shell is used when the conditions get tough so it must be able to fit over all your other layers. A hard-shell with a helmet compatible hood and pockets which do not interfere with your harness is recommended. Something like the HIMALI Monsoon Hardshell Jacket that we sell at the Guide Hut is a good choice.
- Lower Body: You need a similar hard-shell layer for your lower body as you do for your upper body. Preferably Gore-Tex or equivalent and fit over your other layers. They should have a full zip on each side to make it possible to put them on over mountaineering boots and even crampons.
Down Jacket: Having a warm parka or down jacket is essential for being out in the mountains. Whether hanging around basecamp or taking a break on the mountain it is necessary to have a down jacket to throw on over all your layers to stay warm when still. For early and late season climbs when the mountain temperatures tend to be a lot colder it is recommended to have something heavy duty like the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Parka that we rent at the Guide Hut. During warmer months you can get away with using a more medium weight down jacket such as the HIMALI Peak 7 Down Jacket.
Head and face:
- Head: For all trips you will want to bring a sun hat as well as a warm hat. A baseball cap that fits comfortably under a helmet is the perfect hat for sun while in the mountains. We sell Trucker Hats that are perfect for sun protection. A warm beanie or thermal hat is needed for alpine starts and cold days that also can fit comfortably under your helmet. Something like the HIMALI Backcountry Beanie is a great option.
- Face: For both warm and cold days it is important to have a comfortable face covering such as a buff or balaclava. The great thing about buffs is that they are warm yet breathable making them useful on cold days for protection from the wind or snow, and on hot days when they help to protect from the radiation reflected off the glacier. At the Guide Hut we sell the Honeycomb Buff by HIMALI which is appropriate for all elements.
Hands and feet:
- Gloves: You will need at least two pairs of gloves, one lightweight pair of liners and one more heavy duty, warm and waterproof gloves that will fit over your lightweight ones if needed. Lightweight gloves are important to have because snow can be very abrasive so any time on snow whether practicing skills or climbing it’s important to wear a pair of comfortable gloves. Something like the Black Diamond Soft-shell for example. Heavyweight gloves on the other hand are needed for summit day when your hands can get cold as we move up the mountain.
- Socks: It depends on how long your trip is, but we recommend bringing at least three pairs of socks: two heavy weight and one lightweight pair to be able to interchange depending on the weather or even double up with a lightweight and heavyweight pair. Marino wool socks make a great option for mountaineering socks as they are warm but not itchy.
- Gaiters: Gaiters are important to have when climbing through lots of snow or when using crampons. They help to keep snow out of your boots and stop you ripping a hole in your pants accidentally with your crampons. We sell the Black Diamond Frontpoint Gaiters at the Guide Hut.
It is essential to make sure that you have all your layers ready beforehand and that they fit comfortably and serve their purpose. Having gear that you trust and that works well can change your experience in the mountains. Knowing that you won’t have to worry too much about staying comfortable in your own clothes is a game changer when out in the elements.