Baldy trip report
It was late Saturday night when I saw an e-mail from Adam asking me if I would be up for some snow hiking on Sunday. I was still recovering from a nasty cold and didn't want to drive too far in order to make the day a little shorter. So I suggested to head up the ski hut-trail for another summit attempt on Baldy. The weekend before I went up with another friend (Allen) but we had to turn around because of an incoming storm. With the weather forecast calling for partly cloudy skies, it didn't look like we would have to worry about storms this time...
We (Chrissy and I) met up with Adam along the way and around 9am we were parked at Manker Flats. It was sunny and felt warm despite the 29-degree reading in our car. We geared up and soon we were on our way. At the trailhead, we put on crampons. We didn't really need them but the snow was more compacted than the week before so they gave some extra traction. Nearing the ski hut, the clouds broke up around the summit and the beautiful Baldy bowl looked impressive with all the snow on it. There were several other people at the hut, all looking well prepared to reach the summit. That was the last time we saw them though...
Above the hut the snow got a lot deeper and was less compacted. We decided to follow the actual trail based on GPS and old tracks. This was easier than navigating our way through the bowl and the avalanche danger (if any) was definitely lower. We left snowshoes at home and at times it was hard work slogging through waist-deep powder. Once above 9000 feet, there was a storm rolling in (despite the good weather forecast) and it started snowing. The visibility was still good and there wasn't a lot of wind, so we decided to go for the summit. Once we were getting closer, the winds really picked up and the summit was hidden in clouds and snow. There was definitely nobody out there! I recognized a small tree and knew we were very close! We took the mandatory pictures in the blowing snow and quickly started heading down as there was a true blizzard going on by now.
Finding our way back was challenging at times as most of our tracks were already snow covered. Most of the navigating had to be done by GPS and the few times we slightly got off course we had to climb back to the 'trail' through several feet of powder. I remember doing 5 steps and still being at the same spot; talking about a real-life stairmaster ;).
All three of us were thirsty and hungry at this point; as our water was frozen, we decided not to waste any time melting it and kept going till the ski hut where we could drink and eat a little something in the shelter of the hut. From there on, the route finding got easier and we made it back to our snow-covered car around 6pm. We were tired but pretty proud of ourselves that we made the summit in those conditions and, most importantly, were able to navigate back down safely. We ran into somebody that was still looking for a snowboarder; hopefully he made it out all right as it was getting dark; another backcountry skier was possibly lost too. I guess the storm caught several people by surprise. Luckily we were prepared!
After helping out a car stuck in the snow, we made it down the icy road and enjoyed some Mexican food. What a day! What an experience! We definitely had a point proven today; no matter how great the weather looks, you can never be over-prepared for what the mountain can throw at you!
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