White Baldy was the last of the 16 major 11,000 foot peaks in the Wasatch for me to climb. After knocking off South Thunder two weeks earlier, I wanted to finish the list. I had attempted climbing directly up the north face five years earlier but abandoned that 300 feet below the summit on ridiculously loose rocks and steep terrain. My buddy Chandler decided to join me this time, and I was glad as he has some rock climbing experience, and I thought his skills in that area might help a very average scrambler like myself. We opted to try White Baldy’s northwest ridge via Red Pine Lake.
We started up the White Pine Trail at 8am. I was a little surprised that all Chandler brought was a fanny pack with a couple bottles of water and I wondered if he underestimated the size of this task. After a mile the trail splits and we took the Red Pine branch which passes over some nice views down Little Cottonwood Canyon. We soon arrived at Red Pine Lake where White Baldy looms in the distance as a mass of granite blocks. An additional climb of 400 feet leads to a higher bowl near Upper Red Pine Lake. There were other hikers up here, but all were headed for the Pfeifferhorn which is five feet higher and considerably more popular.
We angled across the meadow into the rocks, and worked our way up to the northwest ridge with just a little 3rd class climbing. Once on the ridge it was sustained 3rd class. We worked around obstacles on both sides of the ridge at times, and when the ridge started to climb much steeper, we stayed on the right climbing 2nd or 3rd class terrain to the summit ridge. There was exposure in a few spots lower on the ridge, but once you get higher it actually eases. We passed the angular west peak of White Baldy and crossed the tedious granite boulders towards the true summit. Again, the ridge narrowed in places, but the exposure on this route was never particularly dramatic. Soon I was on the last of my 11,000 foot Wasatch summits!
Two things stood out from the summit. First, the great view down to the north, where you can see both of the Red Pine lakes as well as White Pine Lake. Second, the east ridge of White Baldy looked quite formidable! I was glad we decided to take the route we did, even though we were not particularly looking forward to retracing our steps. Despite the fact it was August, it was still somewhat chilly up there and Chandler was quite cold. I gave him my jacket which made things much more enjoyable for him.
After pondering our options, we decided to downclimb the north face of White Baldy directly to Upper Red Pine Lake. I knew this would be quite steep, but it didn’t seem any worse than the way we came up. Getting down the face was slow but most of the rock was solid. The bigger problem was once we got off the face we got into the endless talus sitting under White Baldy. Some of these rocks are the size of large vans, or bigger! I’ve never made so many odd, difficult climbing maneuvers as I did this day getting through the boulder field, and there are few hikes I’ve felt the relief I felt on this one when I reached the trail again!
The climb took nine hours, was ten miles roundtrip, and climbed 3,700 vertical feet.