BELLINGHAM - Nearly 145 years after the first documented summit of Mount Baker, made possible with the help of four Lummi guides, a group is celebrating that piece of climbing history with a modern-day version of the journey by sea and by land.
Participants on the replica tall ship Lady Washington sailed into the waters off Boulevard Park on Wednesday, Aug. 15, on the first leg of the effort to retrace the route taken by climber and writer Edmund T. Coleman in the Aug. 17, 1868, ascent.
"He was a painter and a poet and a writer. He came for the sheer beauty of our area," said Tracey Cottingham, a Lopez Island resident and organizer of the expedition that set sail Sunday, Aug. 12, from Port Angeles.
Coleman tried twice, unsuccessfully, to summit Mount Baker before making the ascent on the northwest side of the glacier later named after him, the Coleman Glacier.
From Port Angeles, the group sailed through the San Juan islands to Sucia Island and then into Bellingham Bay - Coleman's route.
There, they received a welcome from members of Lummi Nation, who paddled out to the tall ship on the 36-foot Lummi canoe, Cedar Rose, and then brought some members to shore.
Participating climbers on Wednesday met up with professional guides from the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations, camped overnight on Lummi land, and then headed out with the goal of summiting Mount Baker on Friday, Aug. 17.
There will be 12 people in the climbing party, three of them mountain guides. Climbers include students and members of Lummi Nation - among them Cliff Cultee, Lummi tribal chairman.
Cultee has skied and snowboarded. But he's never done an ascent of the 10,781-foot volcano.
"I'm looking forward to this opportunity," he said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me."
The Mount Baker ascent was sponsored by Mammut, a Swiss manufacturer of alpine gear. It is among 150 climbs around the world this year that were organized to celebrate the company's 150-year anniversary.
The journey also is a celebration of history, nature and collaboration across cultures, organizers said.
"We want to celebrate our connection to the sea and the mountains, and our communities - both Lopez Island and the Lummi Nation," said Cottingham, who noted that, unlike the first ascent when the Lummi guides were left behind on the glacier, the goal is to have all on the summit.
"I look at this as an opportunity to create friendships," Cultee added.
Read Edmund T. Coleman's writing about his 1868 ascent of Mount Baker by going to this Skagit River Journal webpage.
More on the Mammut peak project is online at peakproject.mammut.ch.