Mount San Antonio is more commonly referred to as Mount Baldy or just Old Baldy. Located right in the heart of Southern California it also constitutes the peak of the San Gabriel Mountains and dominates the Los Angeles skyline at 10,064 feet in elevation.
The San Gabriel Mountains create a separation between the Los Angeles Basin to the south and the Mojave Desert, otherwise known as the High Desert, in the north. The San Andreas Fault is situated immediately to the north of the San Gabriel Mountains and is responsible for their formation as well as the unique geographic feature known as the Baldy Bowl.
Usually a steep scree bowl with a rock encrusted crescent rim, the Baldy Bowl is best climbed in the winter when adequate snow coverage makes a steep ascent possible with even basic mountaineering skills. Crampons and Piolet are a requirement. Helmets are highly recommended as snow or rock loosen in the sun and roll down at a blistering speed.
Mount Baldy is reached via the 210 Freeway at Mountain Avenue in Montclair. Following the road through Baldy Village, proceed directly past Icehouse Canyon to Manker Flats located just below the ski lift parking lot. A trailhead appears on the west side of the road at a closed gate to the Mt. Baldy Notch service road. Follow the road past the San Antonio Waterfall and around a couple of bends until a steep unmarked trail blazes up the hillside. This is the Ski Hut trai. A trail register appears within the first 100 feet.
The Ski Hut trail
The San Antonio Ski Hut is the second iteration of a Hut originally completed in 1936 by the Ski Mountaineers Section (Sierra Club) and the 'father' of Southern California backcountry skiing, Dr. Walter Mosauer. A native Austrian, Mosauer taught zoology at UCLA and simultaneously pioneered Alpine skiing in Southen California.
San Antonio Ski Hut
Construction of the San Antonio Ski Hut started in 1935 and was supervised by George O. Bauwens, a Professor at USC who was also the first person to ski ascent to the summit of Mt. San Antonio in 1922. Over 10 tons of materials were carried on the backs of participating workers up the 2 mile backcountry trail. Skiers used the hut for the 1936 season and it subsequently burned down in a fire of unknown origin. The hut was almost immediately re-built by an increasing number of participants and a larger hut was completed just in time for the 1937 season. This is the hut we see today and it remains in near original condition. Several rules must be followed such as no open fires near the hut, no crampons to be worn indoors, no camping within 200 feet of the hut and that all trash must be packed out. See the Sierra Club Hut website for Hut Host and work party information.
Climbing the Baldy Bowl
Mitch heading up the Bowl
My climbing partner Mitch and I proceeded directly up the middle face of the bowl. We moved swiftly past the first section of snow and ice up to the Ski Hut having started on our trail at 5AM in order to take advantage of the overnight freeze. We passed crotch-deep postholes on our way up, an indication of what lay await with the daytime thaw. After a blueberry pancake breakfast at the Hut we moved on up.
The morning was clear and spectacular. Surrounding peaks and mountains were clearly visible on our ascent. As the sun rose higher the surface of the snow began to soften, unlodging rocks that began to roll down. We saw decent rockslide at the southern rim.
Quintessential Baldy Bowl
Orange County from Mount Baldy
Santa Catalina Island from Mount Baldy
Reaching the rim of the Baldy Bowl was impressive. The views were breathtaking. The morning sun rose higher and higher, softening snow and giving way to spring-like temperatures. I was overheating and drinking lots of water during the climb while also carrying my snowboard. The summit lay only a bit farther beyond the rim ..
Reaching the Peak
Mitch & Fritz on the summit
Time for the traditional shot of "Onikoroshi" or "Demon Slayer" Sake. As the name alludes, this Sake is known for its brisk, dry and well-rounded flavor complementing a wide variety of mountaineering occasions. Enjoy chilled on the slopes of your favorite mountain or upon reaching the summit of your favorite climb. Just don't drink this Super Premium Sake warmed, lest one risk sacrilege. We met some wonderful folks on top, shared warm toasts and exchanged plenty of smiles and laughter.
West Baldy, Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island
Mitch and I planned to rendezvous at the Ski Hut in order to allow me to board down into the Baldy Bowl. He started his descent via the traditional southern hiking trail back to the hut. I used the opportunity to reconnoiter the chutes for further study while making my way along the rim. This was my fist time snowboarding down the Bowl. At one point I noticed a lady with a big digital SLR camera climbing up. Later on I saw her at the hut and she forwarded these images. Thank you Sini!
A Sunny Day on Mount Baldy
Baldy Boarding ..
About to drop into the South Rim
Fresh traverse of the Baldy Bowl
Always stow your Piolet prior to snowboarding. Good advice would be to sheath the adze and pic with a protective rubber or leather cover. Stow hand-held cameras before dropping down cornices. Stay clear of areas in the shade as the snow develops a layer of thin surface ice from melting after exposed to sunlight.
The descent beyond the Bowl became difficult in the soft and mushy snow sofened by high daytime temperatures and direct sun. Deep postholing became the norm as we fell into submerged channels of melting subsurface runoff-water. At times the trail became treacherous around exposed corners high above the San Antonio Falls. Proceed with caution and enjoy your next adventure with respect and due diligence.