Winter AscentI had to go to San Diego for business. On the drive down from Medford I wanted to do a little hiking and my first goal was Mount Baden Powell. I drove all day on Friday, March 2, 2007 and approached Mount Baden Powell from the east up Highway 2. It was already dark as I drove up Hwy 2 and it was quiet along the road and in Wrightwood. I drove right to the Vincent Gap Trailhead where Hwy 2 is blocked for the winter. I could see there was snow around the parking lot and anticipated a snow hike in the morning. There was one parked car in the large parking lot. I parked at the trailhead and car camped there for the night. Elevation here is 6,565 ft,
Early the next morning I got my stuff ready, put my crampons in my pack and tied on my ice axe. I didn’t know how icy it might be up near the summit, so I wanted to be prepared. The trail was easy to follow in the snow. There were footprints and I made good progress up to the second switchback. At this point the footprints on the trail ended and I was all alone to find my way. I knew the trail made lots of switchbacks up the east ridge of Baden Powell, so I thought it would be easy to follow the trail. The snow kept getting deeper and soon I was almost knee deep in soft snow. By the time I got to the fourth switchback at about 7,200 ft elevation, the trail seemed to be buried in snow and it was slow going.
At this switchback, there is a wooden bench and I decided that going straight up the ridgeline here couldn’t be any worse than slogging through the snow on the trail. This was a good decision. The ridgeline was steep, but I was spending my energy going up rather than wading through snow on the trail. In places the snow was still knee deep, but mostly it was only about 12 inches and it was soft. I tried to pick my way up where the snow seemed to be shallowest.
The climbing was still slow, but I kept going. There wasn’t anyone else around and it was fun climbing. As I got higher on the mountain, the wind picked up. When I got to the ridgeline the wind was blowing steady at about 30 mph. I could see the summit ahead along the ridgeline so I put my hat in my pack and quickly made my way across the ridge and then up to the summit. I took a few pictures and quickly headed back down to the big tree on the ridgeline where the PCT branches off. I could get out of the wind here and eat my lunch.
After a quick lunch, I headed down the mountain following the trail I made coming up. Going down was a lot easier than the uphill slog. When I got down to about 8,000 ft I met 3 hikers on their way up. The snow was getting softer now and I didn’t envy them their uphill slog. We passed quickly and I continued on back to the trailhead. In the parking lot now there were about 50 cars and people were all over the place playing in the snow and having tailgate parties. On the drive back down Hwy 2, I was amazed at the number of cars parked along the road. Since it was Saturday, it looks like everyone wanted to spend a day playing in the snow. What a difference from the night before. My hike had taken 5 hours, but it was only 5.4 miles round trip by hiking up cross country up the ridge.