Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hiking Mt. Baldy

Friday the hubby and I hiked Mt. Baldy, the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains and the highest point in LA County.


The hubby had been to the summit twice before (he tackled the "Three Peaks Challenge" with two friends last summer where they hiked the highest three peaks in SoCal within a 24 hour period and also hiked it another time with a friend to train for their Mt. Whitney adventure), but this was the first time I had been to the area.

Making our way up the first incline!

The views definitely did not suck!

We were actually supposed to be hiking Mt. Whitney (which is the tallest mountain in California, as well as the highest summit in the contiguous United States) but there was still snow and ice covering large portions of the trail so we decided we needed to be safe rather than sorry and forfeited our permits in hopes to tackle the mountain later in the summer. 


Since our game plan changed last minute (we were originally planning on leaving around noon to drive to Mt. Whitney Portal, camping Friday to acclimate a bit to the higher altitude, then hiking by 4am Saturday morning before driving home), we didn't have a ton of the details worked out, but figured we'd make it work. We ended up taking Walt to our friends' place for the afternoon (we don't have a yard, so if he has to go to the bathroom we have to walk him, so it's nice our friends will watch him if we're planning to be gone for an extended period of time) and got on the road. We left Oceanside around 11:30am and got to the parking area near Manker Campground by 2:30pm (we had to drop off the pup, stop for gas and buy some sunscreen since we forgot to pack ours but still made decent time for a 100ish mile drive Friday).

The visitor center was closed when we came through, but I snapped a picture anyway.

The hike is approximately 11 miles round trip. We decided to hike up the Devil's Backbone Trail and hike down the Ski Hut Trail (but I think if we do it again I may want to do it the opposite direction - more on the reason why later). Although when we were driving through Riverside it was in the mid-to-upper 90s, since you're starting at over 6,000 feet above sea level the temps are much cooler (well, by much cooler I mean it was in the 70s when we started around 3pm). If you are planning to hike Mt. Baldy (or any mountains for that matter), make sure to keep the weather in mind! Storms, wind, etc can be disastrous and you do not want to be caught somewhere (especially on an exposed mountain) in the elements if there's any way to prevent it! PS We hiked in t-shirts and shorts but packed jackets for when we got closer to the summit.

Just a few days earlier we were driving on the 395 and looking at Mt. Baldy, now we were climbing it!

The hike up was not as bad as I was expecting (remember, although we did #Rim2Rim2Rim, I haven't done much hiking at elevation and wasn't sure how my body would handle it). We got to the summit (which is a little over 10,000 feet above sea level) in about 2 hours, with a quick stop at the ski lodge for a potty break. The hubby used trekking poles (which, along with his much longer stride, seemed to propel him up the mountain at a much higher clip) but I got by without any. 
Just because I didn't use them doesn't mean I couldn't pose with them ;)

I'll be honest, once we got closer to the summit, it got VERY windy (I think the weather page we looked at prior to hitting the road said there were 20ish mph winds with 30+ mph gusts). There were a few points I got a little nervous because there wasn't much on either side of us and felt like I could blow away (although I'm sure I was just being dramatic). I took a few quick breaks in the last mile before we hit the top so I could regain my composure and give my legs a brief rest.

New signs!

Just a tad over 10,000 feet above sea level!

When we got to the summit we made sure to take a few extra minutes to bask in our accomplishments. Not only did we take in the views and eat a snack (it was around 5pm when we hit the summit so I had a PROBAR BASE bar), but we walked around a bit to check out the area. (We actually had the summit completely to ourselves!) And while we were looking around we came across a big horn sheep and two babies! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! It was AMAZEBALLS


Mama (or daddy) and one of the babies

Look at how close they came to us!

Apparently my phone thought the summit sign was the important part...
Obviously it doesn't know that SNACKS are always top priority! #FueledByPROBAR

After snapping a few pictures at a safe distance (didn't want to freak out the wildlife) we started to make our way down the mountain. Originally we were thinking that we would hike up and run down, but the Ski Hut Trail is a bit more vertical and rock filled which made running difficult. We jogged some of it, but for the most part we were just trying not to take a tumble on the loose sand or hidden boulders. If we were to do Mt. Baldy again I think I'd prefer coming down Devil's Backbone because more of that felt run-able to me (especially since the vertical climb was spread out over a few extra miles).

We did find a few areas to run.

But you had to keep your eyes glued to the trails so you didn't fall or misstep!

We even found a little stream (but the picture was unimpressive, so here's a selfie of me near it ;) )


By the time we got back to our car we had racked up just about 11 miles (I was a tad short because my Garmin didn't locate satellites right away so did an extra lap near the car to make it an even 11 on my watch) and finished in 3:35. 

Not too shabby for hiking the majority of it!

Before getting back in the car to drive home I made the hubby take one last picture.

All-in-all this is an AMAZING hike that makes you work for the views, but is worth every stinkin' step! I'd definitely recommend you go either during the week or VERY early to avoid the crowds (a friend of the hubby's went on Saturday, the day after we went, and said it was like Disneyland with the amount of people, whereas while we were there we maybe saw a total of 10 people). Even still, this is NOT an easy hike, so make sure you're prepared if you plan on tackling the beast! (We brought extra layers in case the weather changed, 6.5 liters of water between the two of us, snacks for the summit and fuel {PROBAR BOLT chews} for the climb and descent, and even headlamps in case something happened and we were out there longer than we were expecting. In my opinion, you can never be too careful, cautious or prepared!)

PS If you're looking for a good post blog with more "turn-by-turn" directions on the hike so you don't get lost or at least can familiarize yourself with the trails you should/shouldn't take prior to hiking, this post by HikingGuy is a great resource!

What's the highest mountain you've ever climbed?


SD Mom said...

So, technically Mt. Baldy is in San Bernardino County! Don't give LA more credit than is due. Haha! That is my home County! I still need to do that one...I have been to Mt. Baldy many many times but never on foot! I learned to snowboard there!

San said...

What a fun hike! Great pictures.