Got out with Jason today on Mount Baldy. My goal, as I posted last time, is to get up to the summit and down in about 4 hours or less in time for September’s race. I thought today would be a good day for that. I was WAY wrong.
We met up at Manker Flats around 10:40am or so and immediately began hiking up Falls Road. There were many more cars at Manker than yesterday but it still wasn’t what I’d call crowded. We hiked up the road, past the falls, to the trailhead, and ascended towards the ski hut. We reached the hut in about 1:20 and felt pretty good doing it, though I definitely was feeling the last two days of hiking. We hung out for about half an hour, joking around, eating snacks, and filtering water in the dependable stream adjacent the ski hut. Then we began the second half of our ascent.
Just past the ski hut lies the Rock Garden and I was surprised to see that it still is holding a decent amount of snow. Nothing impassable and nothing crampon worthy… but snow, nonetheless. We continued up the trail, hitting more snow which certainly wore us down, until we reached Resting Ridge. In case you are a common Baldy hiker and haven’t heard that term before (not sure if its used by everyone or not)… its where the trail plateaus into a nice saddle/plateau/ridge.
We were still doing ok and actually had a significant amount of trail time without snow, passing through manzanita field after manzanita field, until we hit the second rock garden area. This area is steep and wore us down a bit. Actually, Jason seemed just fine… but I started to feel weird. I felt dizzy, like the area was moving around me, and my legs started to get a jelly-like feeling. I drank some water, popped some Hammer Gel, and continued on. We reached the final 500 feet or so of ascent and were greeted by…more snow. It’s melting quickly but is still a factor, for sure. We ascended slowly and I felt dizzier and dizzier, but… we were soooo close to the summit (note my mistake here). I fought and fought and finally reached the bald top of Baldy.
I’ve hiked up Baldy before but did not remember it taking so long (with our break, about 4:00) and didn’t remember it being so steep. I looked at my GPS and it seemed like we had actually cut some of the trail, due to the snow. In fact, we cut probably .5 of a mile from the trail. Wow.
We hung out for awhile at the summit and I tried to eat and drink. Jason expressed concern about going down the ski hut trail, especially with my weird health thing occurring, and suggested the longer but less steep Devil’s Backbone. I contemplated but finally agreed. We started our descent down the Backbone, only to be greeted by a really steep pile of snow. Something happened in me and I felt that vertigo-like feeling kick in: I was dizzy, my legs and arms began to shake, and well…things just felt not right. I took my time getting down that snowy slope and then slowly descended the steeper scree slopes.
Things felt bad but hiking on top of a steep mountain is different than running on a street; one can’t just stop and take the easy walk home. I thought of Aron Ralston, saying over and over again: “Don’t lose it Matt. Don’t lose it.” One foot in front of the other. Don’t look down the ridges. Just keep looking at the backs of Jason’s shoes and mimic his steps. Right foot. Left foot.
We passed the higher exposed ridge, then the lower exposed ridge, and finally the really slipper scree ridge. This trail really sucks. Well, at least today.
After a couple miles, the worst was over and we’d arrived at the ski lift area, representing the beginning of the Baldy Notch Fire Road. We took the road down and I began to feel better. Not great but better. I gave myself no option to feel bad. Just had to get home. After 4 miles or so, we finally reached Manker. I wanted to kiss the ground.
I really like Baldy. And I really like both trails mentioned here. Just not when snow is involved…definitely not my thing.
Total Distance: 11 miles-ish
Elevation Gain: 4139 feet
Temperature: upper 60’s most of the trail, a bit windy at times
Terrain: snowy in parts, very steep, very loose scree in parts
Calories burned: 4,500
Backpack: Salomon XA 20
Shoes: Salomon Quest 4d boots
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Contour Elliptical
Water consumed: 5 liters?
Electrolyte beverage consumed: 0
Food consumed: 11 Hammer Gels, 1 clif bar
Estimate of calories consumed: 1300