At 5:45AM on January 7, Ryan Bracci, Patrick Moran and I hit the trail in the pitch black. About one mile in, we were surprised to encounter a party (literally) of three people camped directly on the trail. They were sleeping on (not in) their tent, were provisioned with a case of beer, and had decorated the trail surrounding their camp with toilet paper, poop, and a condom wrapper. The scene served as a conversational stimulant for the rest of the day (and for some days to follow).
After briefly losing the trail in the vicinity of Bear Flat, we pounded uphill and didn't take our first break until gaining 3000 vertical feet. From there to the summit, it was a scenic grind. We topped out at 10:15 after gaining a total of 6000 vertical feet, and my legs definitely felt it. By 12:15 we were at Manker Flat preparing to drive to the other car at Baldy Village.
Ryan above Bear Flat.
Ryan at sunrise in the first conifer stand.
My first glimpse into the upper reaches of Cattle Canyon.
Patrick with Baldy summit directly overhead.
Ryan setting the pace across the scenic ridgeline.
Ryan (L) and Patrick (R) on top. A strangely snow-free summit in early January.