Monday, September 1, 2014

Hiking Mount Baldy in August

Mount Baldy (also known as Mount San Antonio) has been on my list for a long time. It's an iconic Southern California hike, the tallest peak in Los Angeles County. You stand on the bald peak at 10,064 ft, as stated on the bronze plaque at the top. I intend this account to be just a brief synopsis with attention paid to detail that I found helpful when planning this hike! For a more thorough hike play-by-play please refer to this site...

There are four ways to go up. We took the Ski Hut route to the top, which is described as the most direct route up, probably why it is also considered very strenuous. It's 8.5 to 9 miles going this route. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks. Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended, although Oz wore tennis shoes and was fine! A little bit of background- we are two 30-something year old relatively active individuals who are training to hike Half Dome in October. This was our first "real" training hike! It took us about 7 hours, a couple liters of water each (CamelPak), a couple of 45 minute lunch breaks, and $29 (not including gas. Lift tickets were $12 each and the Adventure Pass was $5.) to reach the top. I like to use trekking pokes especially on the way down to save my knees, and in this case, I used them going up too! I lent Oz a pole about halfway through.

Snacks: Sliced turkey, tortillas, a tomato, hummus and Gouda to make a wrap. Trail mix, a couple of Medjool dates and a power bar. Coconut water. Cut up broccoli.

You will need an Adventure Pass to park, which is $5 for the day, $30 for the year, available at the Mount Baldy Village Visitor Center in town (across from Mount Baldy Lodge, 6777 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759)

We parked at Manker Flats, which is a parking lot almost at the end of Mount Baldy Road. If you reach the ski resort parking lot you've gone too far. You will know it's the right place because the road splits, separating northbound from southbound traffic, and there are two porta potties off to the left. There will probably also be a lot of other cars parked there too. We arrived at around 8:15 at the visitor center, bought the pass, and arrived at Manker Flats shortly after. It was recommended to arrive before 9:00am to be assured of a parking spot. We started hiking at 8:45am.

The Ski Hut trail starts at a fire road, which was blocked for driving by a gate. Take the fire road for about half a mile, then go left up a little inconspicuous trail that I've taken a picture of below... You can barely see two people going up the trail off to the left! 

(This picture is the tricky point where the Ski Hut trail breaks off from the fire road. See the two people going up on the left?)

This trail goes up and up, and up and up! The Ski Hut is located about 2.5 miles up. We figured we were only hiking about 1 mile an hour!

After a lunch break, we continued on up. The trail got pretty rocky, and somewhat confusing, especially as we got a little wonky from the heat, the hiking, and the elevation. There seemed to be many trails, but they all seemed to go to the same place in the end.

We reached the top of a ridge and thought we were done, but then realized there was still more to go. It was quite a feeling of success to reach the top. It was a magnificent view, and a well deserved (second) lunch break.

We hiked down towards the "Top of the Notch" which is a restaurant and also where you buy tickets to take the ski lift down ($12 one way). It's called the Devil's Backbone route, and it's about 4.5 miles. There were a lot of people who had come up on the ski lift and took the Devil's Backbone both ways. That last bit up to the summit seemed brutal whether you take Ski Hut or Devil's Backbone. If the lift is not running, it's a ~2 mile one way from the top of the lift back to Manker Flats. We were so thankful for the lift, and thankful that it wasn't too windy or cold because it was a good 15 minute leisurely ride at a good height above the ground and we cooled off quickly.

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