I arrived at Manker Flat at 6:30 sharp, 12 minutes before dawn, a little later than I had planned. I brought my dog with, hoping that he would navigate the ice all right, and then hang out somewhere if he couldn't make it up one of the bowl's couloirs. To that end, I had all kinds of gear with me that I ultimately would have no need for.
There were only two other cars parked near the gate at this hour. The only other person I saw there booked out ahead of me. I saw him later coming down from the summit.
Sanford (my dog) and I booked it up the fire road and up the first section of the ski hut trail, encountering only scant ice and snow. We kept up a good pace all the way up to the ski hut where we hung out for a while to decide what to do next.
What to do next?
I had set my turn around time early that day, and I wasn't hell-bent on getting to the top. (I've been up there plenty.) I wanted to do some work on one of the couloirs in the bowl, or just get some good training in (I'm going to Alaska in June--not Denali...)
There just wasn't enough snow to go up the bowl, so we set out across the bowl to the trail and then turned around.
It was a beautiful day, with just a little wet snow that presented no need for the ice ax and crampons (or the extra layers) I had brought with. The views were great, the smog was minimal, and there was very little snow.
The one hiker I encountered coming down had turned around at the hut, and near the top of the ridge, I met a couple of others coming down, buton the way back I crossed paths with at least 50 people, including a large expedition of Japanese guys.
Apparently even in the winter if you want to be alone on Baldy, even on this trail, you need to start very very early.
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