Attacking Baldy via the Bowl

Well, this was a nice day. The anxiousness of the week finally was here. I awoke at 4am, and good hour before my alarm would do that for me. I was a bit nervous and just couldn’t fall back asleep. So I after 30 minutes of just laying there, I took a hot shower, did last minute packing, made lunch, and headed out the door at 5:30am.

The plan was to meet at 6:30 and head up at that time. But with some traffic and other delays, we did’t start until 7. I haven’t started a hike this early since before summer, so I was feeling tired right off the bat. But once we crossed snow on the trail, that all changed. The snow on the trail was already semi-paved for us so crampons weren’t necessary. Although we did break out the ice ax early.

We got to the ski hut at about 8:30, had a quick breakfast, and tied on our crampons. What a difference those make. From slippery snow to instant stability. I was loving it!

Our first order of business was for me to learn how to self-arrest. I had watched this video the previous night to supplement what Tim was teaching me. Check out the video, it’s pretty educational.

We did this for a good hour and got whizzed by a few rocks rolling down the mountain. Those things are scary. You don’t actually see them until you hear them flying by. And by then it’s already almost past. That’s when we implemented the rock watch.

Once the training was done, we started up. Our route would be the far western slope of the Bowl. All the other groups had taken the eastern approach which intersected with the Backbone Trail. We saw only 2 people going directly up the center. Those 2 must have been experienced because the view from the top looking down was insanely steep. Not quite vertical, but close to it.

As for our route, you can see it in the first picture. From the bottom of the Bowl, things looked pretty easy. It’s awfully deceiving though. Once past the halfway point, it gets steeper and steeper. At one point about 40 feet from the top, I lost Tim’s tracks and panicked for a few seconds. At a time like this, this is where experience comes in. The only other time I felt this kind of apprehension was in Falling Rock Canyon. Except this was worse.

With FRC, if you fell, you could probably count on slamming down on a outcrop of rocks after maybe a 10′ fall. Here though, as I looked down, I could actually visualize my path down. Looking left didn’t help either. This view gave me an excellent view of the slope in all of its steep glory. Therefore, I could calculate roughly the speed at which I would be travelling. And by my calculations, it would be fast.

So anyways, the panic that came over me was subdued with some mental focus and going over the fundamentals in my head. Which for me was, step, pick, step, repeat. Then it got really dicey when I noticed an ice patch that I was a few feet from. I hadn’t done any side-to-side practice, so I figured I should learn quickly.

I avoided the ice patch. Strafed my was over to the proper path. Then eventually got to the top. Upon reaching the top, I was absolutely elated to see a down slope. Not 5 minutes after reaching the top, Kathy from Socal Hikers & Peakbagger shows up out of nowhere. Well, not out of nowhere. I saw her and her friend at the bottom of the bowl while we were breaking halfway up. But still, I didn’t realize she was that close.

After getting to the top of the Bowl, there wasn’t anymore real high drama or excitement. Now it just becomes a matter of getting to the top. Which means a good workout. We trudged along as best we could but had to stop every 50 feet or so. Hiking in the snow isn’t exactly easy.

We finally reached the top at about 1pm. Funny thing about Baldy, it was nothing but ice. Anything other than crampons, and you would be slipping and a sliding.

The way down was pretty uneventful. Except for the SAR helo’s looking for some lost or possibly injured hikers. Turned out to be a false report though. Hopefully it was.

Here’s the gallery from the day. Pics taken by Tim, Kathy, and myself.

Lastly, as crazy as it sounds, I’m tempted to try the eastern route. I said I wouldn’t, but the excitement is just too much. Although this time, I think I’ll wait until conditions are better.

Related posts:

Upper Arroyo Seco & Switzer Falls
Olancha Peak
Gorgonio 11 Peak Loop

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 11:54 pm and is filed under Trip Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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