Manker Flats to Mt. Baldy

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Trip Report
California, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jun 22, 2012
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Created On: Jun 30, 2012
Last Edited On: Jun 30, 2012

A simple but worthwhile summit bag!

I took my whole family on this route. As the highest point of the San Gabriel Mountain Range (10,064 ft), my wife and I wanted to reach the top of Mt. Baldy for a couple years, and we finally had a free weekend. To be truthful, it was more than I bargained for, but both reasonable and enjoyable.

We cheated and rode the chairlift to the saddle. The lift operator told us to follow the ski slope, but it would have been better to follow the access road which is more to hiker's left, or farther south, than the ski slope on the ridge line. The lower 3/4 of the ski slope was quite steep, about 3/4 mile in length. Then the top half levels out a (a little). After the top of the ski lift, the route is more of a trail and very quickly we found ourselves on the narrow ridge known as "Devil's Backbone." Devil's Backbone is impressively flanked by very steep mountain faces on either side of the trail. There are two separate sections of ridge-line/narrow trail, separated by a traverse of a steep face where the trail is narrowly etched in. While a walk in the park for mountaineers, this trail is about as "Knife-edged" as I have ever seen on a maintained trail. Adding to the adrenaline was a stiff south wind which certainly could catch a hiker off guard and come a problem. The five of us managed to keep our feet on the ground though we did have to crouch once or twice. For planning reference, it was in the high 80's/low 90's in the valleys, and it was about 57 on the summit. With the strong wind, it felt much cooler; even cold.

After the Devil's Backbone stretch, the trail is a typical high-altitude hillside approach with some flat and mild uphill sections as the trail traverses the south face of Mt. Harwood (which probably doesn't meet the 200' of prominence rule). The eastern slopes to the top of Mt. Harwood reminded me of the top of White Mountains in the Eastern Sierra; no vegetation and a smooth surface covered by gravel sized shale/rocks; basically a moonscape. The last stand of decent forest is a grove of Lodgepole Pine (?) below Mt. Harwood's summit. You would want to take cover here (to the meager extent it is offered) in the event of a storm, which are frequent in July - September. The final rise to the summit of Mt. Baldy is a series of steep and rocky switchbacks.

The day I went, there was not a cloud in the sky. But there was a stratus deck down below in the LA Basin. We reached the top in about two hours, which I felt good about considering my 7-year old and 10-year old company. There was probably 30 or so other people enjoying the large summit plateau, many coming from other routes with overnight backpacking equipment. Views from the summit included Telescope Peak, Mts. San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and the totality of the San Bernardino Mountains as well as Santiago Peak in Orange County. The trip back to the chairlift was uneventful. Only other word of advice is be prepared for a lot of high-altitude sun exposure.

No pictures. Sorry. Go see it for yourself! You won't be disappointed.


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Manker Flats to Mt. Baldy

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