Monday, October 25, 2010

Mt. Baldy, South Ridge

 The South Ridge of Mt. Baldy disappearing into mist in the frontal background.

The South Ridge of Mt. Baldy begins at the confluence of Goode Canyon and San Antonio Canyon, and rises 4,500 vertical feet to the summit of Mt. Baldy (10,064 feet).  From 8,800 feet to the summit, the ridge is worn by the popular Ski Hut Trail.  But below that point is 3,200 vertical feet of pristine ridgeline.

The ridge is rarely climbed in its entirety for good reason: (1) the descent into San Antonio Canyon is hazardous; (2) gaining the ridge requires a few hundred vertical feet of loose rock; and (3) the bottom of the ridge is covered in dense brush. 

My first climb of the South Ridge last autumn did not start off well: while descending the steep slope into San Antonio Canyon, I took a fast and jarring 20-foot slide on hard dirt.  Last week, when Patrick and I were descending into the canyon at dawn, he participated in a boulder avalanche that necessitated an immediate trip to the emergency room.  This past Saturday, Dave and I escaped San Antonio Canyon without injury, though Dave did take a slip in the canyon which nearly resulted in the loss of his headlamp.

From the floor of San Antonio Canyon behind Snow Crest Lodge in Manker Flat, we scrambled up crumbly class 2-3 rock for a few hundred vertical feet to the ridge.  After that, we engaged in a solid hour of the worst bushwhacking I have ever encountered in the San Gabriel Mountains, and I have done my fair share.  [I thought it was my worst bushwhacking experience in California, until I remembered thrashing through head-high poison oak in the Box Springs range near Riverside.]

 Dave in the thick of things near the bottom of the ridge.

Scuffed and drenched from our battle with the thick, wet brush, we were then treated to over 2,000 vertical feet of very pleasant, untrammeled, class 2 ridge climbing.  At 8,800 feet, we intersected the Ski Hut Trail, which we followed to the top.  We descended Register Ridge, which now has a well-worn herd path along most of its length.  It took us five hours to ascend and two hours to descend.          

A wet Dave happy to be above the brush.

Ontario Peak from the South Ridge of Mt. Baldy.

The snow-covered summit of San Gorgonio on the left and a partially eaten banana on the right. 

 Looking up at Register Ridge.

Dave's photos are here.

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