Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hiking Mt. Baldy

There are many mountains in Southern California but arguably none more iconic than Mt. Baldy (a/k/a Mount San Antonio). This mountain has been on my list for awhile but I never had the right excuse to hike. I know, hiking is its own excuse, but I was looking to tackle it for some reason.

There can't be a better reason to tackle it than for a worthy cause like Climb For Heroes. CFH is an organization that helps veterans overcomes obstacles by getting them into the mountains. A great cause can get me up to Baldy and I got a double bonus of hiking with my buddy TheSoCalHiker.

It was weird hiking the trail with upwards of 1,000 hikers but even with all of those people, I didn't feel that crowded, there were sections of the trail that were downright empty at times.

Of course, its easy to be spaced out when the trail is 6.4 miles with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. It starts right off super steep.

After trudging up 900 feet in 1.4 miles we got to Camp 1. CFH had camps at various intervals that had wounded vets (many were double amputees) at each stage handing out tokens. It was amazing to meet such great men along the trail.

The grade of the trail leveled out into a standard SoCal fireroad.

Eventually after 2 miles the Baldy Ski Lodge rounds into view, home of Camp 2 and very disappointing sandwiches (not sure if they should go with that slogan).

At the lodge, you can go left or right. Right goes to the 3 T's (mountains that start with T, I did Timber a few years ago). Left goes to Baldy as you continue the ascent along a gradually graded fireroad.

All good things come to an end as Baldy packs a real punch in the next 3 miles. The CFH team set up Camp 3/PBR to give hikers a bit of brew before starting the next leg but you want to do this sober if possible ;).

The first challenge is the "Devil's Backbone".

It isn't as narrow as it looks in the picture but you are definitely going up over the spine of the mountains to get to even bigger mountains. After this section is a dire little stretch that hugs a cliff wall. I am not a huge fan of height by any means and I was glad that the CFH team rigged a rope to help guide you along. The rope probably wasn't necessary for 95% of the people but for me, I was glad to have it.

After that section, the hike to Baldy punishes you further by upping the grade as you climb up a side of another mountain on the way to Baldy. It was about this time the elevation was kicking in so I was taking a rest after about 150 steps or so. I love LA but going from sea level to 10,500 puts the hammer to ya.

Eventually the trail does even out for a blessed half mile as you enjoy relatively flat walking. Then you get to High Camp, the last camp before the summit and you have THIS to look forward to:

That is the last half mile to Baldy's summit with tons of hikers snaking their way up on what could charitably be called switchbacks. This lull in the action affords some great views though of the famous Baldy bowl

Of the last remnants of Winter

Beautiful other views:

Eventually, Jeff and I headed across the scree field rather than constantly running into people coming up and down the mountain which was a great call.

Eventually, the Summit!

Yes I was wearing 3 layers, my Terramar Climasense shirt, my Terramar Ecolator hoodie and my Mountain Hardwear jacket. All of which were necessary since it was windy up there. The sun was warm and it was close to 70 but you still needed to bundle up, that's for sure.

There were sooooo many people on the summit. I got to meet an honest-to-god sherpa which was very cool and I competed with scores of people for pics of the views all around Baldy.

(there were several hikers carrying huge American flags up the mountain)

(mountains create their own weather and the only cloud in the sky was over the tallest peak of SoCal, San Gorgonio)

After kicking around on the summit, then its time to head down. Just because you make it up the mountain doesn't mean you make it down the mountain. You have to make sure you have enough energy and legs to get down the mountain. Luckily, I do much better on the downhills than the uphills so I got down the mountain much quicker than I got up it. Some bad sandwiches later and we were back in the parking lot.

To be able to do one of the tallest mountains in SoCal was a dream come true and to help out a worthy cause was the frosting on the ice cream cake sundae. If you ever want to do Baldy, I highly recommend it but make sure your legs are in shape!

For more on Mt. Baldy, check out the SoCalHiker's great trip report: http://socalhiker.net/hiking-mt-san-antonio-baldy-loop-trail/


  1. Nice work Pete that is always a fantastic summit!

    1. Thanks Josh! I read your write-up of the trip as well, very informative and inspirational!


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