Sunday, April 18, 2010

Smokin' the Bowl

The snow climbing in southern California has been fantastic this winter and spring. However, I was unable to get out last weekend and my only window of time this weekend was before 11:00AM on Saturday. Consequently, I awoke at 2:00AM on Saturday and was hiking toward Baldy Bowl at 4:00AM. Patrick Moran was the only one crazy enough to join me.

On our way up to the ski hut, we first lost the summer trail and then the winter trail. Pausing at one point to pan around in the dark with our headlamps, we were surprised to see the ski hut fifteen feet to our right. It was strange that we had almost passed the ski hut in the dark. It was 5:15AM.

After equipping ourselves with crampons and ice axes, we began crunching up the bowl on hard, icy snow that was perfect for cramponning. It was just light enough to climb without headlamps. Our route ascended the right side of the bowl and finished on an exhilarating 50+ degree pitch. While I was in the midst of the final section, I hollered down to Patrick to photograph me. As I was imagining myself in the photo frontpointing boldly toward the lip of the bowl at sunrise, Patrick was watching his digital camera slide rapidly down the bowl until it disappeared from sight. So you will just have to use your imagination too.
We went straight up to the rocks and veered left.
Note the recent rock slide to the left of Patrick.

Looking down at our route from the lip of the bowl.

Patrick nearing the top of the chute.

Snow lingering on northern aspects.
Patrick on the summit of Mt. Baldy pointing out our obscure route on Ontario Peak.
At 7:15AM, we stepped onto the summit and celebrated by swordfighting with our ice axes. We then fruitlessly scanned Iron Mountain and San Antonio Ridge for our friend Zach, who was soloing the dreaded and much-maligned ridge that entails 10,000 feet of elevation gain. After twenty minutes on top, we descended to the ski hut on snow that was too steep and icy for much glissading. One of my two glissades involved immediate and alarming acceleration followed by a prompt self-arrest.
Below the ski hut, we passed scores of hikers, including Jackalopes, who is a follower of this blog! Jackalopes was accompanied by Kurt Wedberg. During our trailside conversation, I learned that although Kurt has climbed Mt. Everest twice, he has never climbed Mt. San Gorgonio. Now, I have climbed Mt. San Gorgonio four times. Does that mean I have climbed Mt. Everest six times? I hope not, because my wife would kill me.

Continuing down the trail, we opted for the shortcut couloir which leads directly to San Antonio Falls. To my surprise, there was almost as much snow in the couloir as there was a month ago. With the exception of 100 feet of scrambling in the middle, we boot-skied all the way down. By 10:00AM, I was swallowing a Vivarin in the parking lot and inspecting blistered heels. Notwithstanding the several police cars that roared by on Mt. Baldy Road, the drive back to the OC was uneventful.


David said...

That sucks Patrick lost his digital camera - but glad you were able to capture some solid pics of the climb.

Sam Page said...

Thanks. We spent some time looking for the camera at the bottom of the bowl, but it was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Jackalopes said...

Hey Sam nice to run into you on Baldy last weekend. We went straight up the bowl (pretty much the same route where the gal slipped and fell a few months ago) but conditions on Saturday were perfect. The summit had 4 feet of snow but it was about 65 degrees no wind and a couple folks were in shorts. Love to do a hike with you again.

Sam Page said...

Jackalopes: Yes, looking forward to climbing with you again!