Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Snow Climb of the Season

After sequestering myself for a few months to produce an album (yay!), I was eager to punch my ice axe and crampons into some southern California snow.  What better place to kick off the snow climbing season than Baldy Bowl with a bunch of fun-loving friends?

(L-R) Ryan, Tina, and Patrick, with Baldy Bowl in the background.

At 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, six headlamps began a gradual ascent to the Ski Hut.  Once there, headlamps and trekking poles were replaced with ice axes, crampons, and helmets.  The helmets were especially important, as several golfball- and baseball-sized ice/rock projectiles whizzed by every minute in the bowl. 

Patrick and Zach pretending to be ants.

 Mike midway up the bowl.

The snow conditions in the bowl were about as good as they get -- mostly firm with a few soft patches here and there.  Rime ice encrusted trees at the crest of the bowl added interest to the ascent.  After plodding up the bowl for roughly one hour, three of us finished in an exhilaratingly wild and steep chute.

Ryan nearing the crest of the bowl. 

The final slope leading to the summit was a fairyland of those aforementioned rime ice encrusted trees.  On the summit, we gazed in the direction of Ryan's recent and spectacular route on the north face of West Baldy, pointed north to the snowy Sierras, and tried to stay vertical in the wind.

Tina on the final summit slope.

Ryan regaling Zach and Patrick with tales of his recent north face ascent.

 The Sierras in the distance.

For those who enjoy glissading in perfect conditions, the descent to the hut took about fifteen minutes.  There we snacked and watched a long line of climbers all ascending the same chute in the bowl. 

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