Baldy Bowl Ski Trip 2010
Less than an hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles is a 3000 meter peak called Mount San Antonio (affectionately Mount Baldy). It's a cherished place for local mountaineers and skiers because, as you can imagine, we don't expect winter to be such a short jaunt from our mediterranean Southland. But "pic or GTFO," right? So look to the right.
Erik Schomburg, Nick Stadie, and Hamik Mukelyan of our very own Caltech Alpine Club set out from Pasadena on Saturday, January 23, to explore the aftermath of a series of strong El Niño-driven storms on Mt Baldy. We met Nick's brother, Derek, at the usual grocery store parking lot around 5:30; we left super-early to beat the inevitable rush of snow-starved Angelenos gone to make snowballs and snowmen. However, our plans were set back a bit when one of our cars (a 4WD truck) was turned around because we didn't have chains for it, so we had to drive back down the hill to park the truck and cram into my Toyota Corolla. Sharing the car with 4 pairs of skis, we waited for an hour in the chain-control line, which had been just five cars long when arrived the first time. Apparently this was a modest delay compared with those later in the day.When we arrived at Manker Flats and started up the fire road, we were a little dismayed that someone had already started to break trail. This sense of loss was quickly overwhelmed by the enormity of the snow cover, which totally obscured the seven or eight meter wide road in places.
The rope might have been excessive, but since we were paranoid about the gully crossings en route to the hut and the stability of the snowpack, we brought it to belay sketchy traverses and to provide a lifeline for the first two skiers should they be caught unanchored. Next time we'll just take a 30m twin "glacier" rope.
We eventually caught the sole trail breaker, Matthew du Puy, thanks to the slow going on the front lines, and he kept us company all weekend. I recently found that he climbed Everest just last year! That makes for five Everest veterans who I've run into by chance here in our backyard. When we finally arrived at the hut we found a very tempting sight indeed.
We built a ramp on the outhouse and much amusement was had for skiers and spectators alike as a series of crashes ensued. Nick had the awesome idea to dig a hole next to the ramp for pictures, which resulted in a rather nice one.
I was pooped from breaking trail and a little sick from having eaten rotten eggs--I guess a week is too far past the "consume before" date--so we made only a short run up the bowl that afternoon. Still, it was glorious. Afterward, we settled into the hut with our wonderful host, Dan, and about ten other people. If you haven't experienced the San Antonio hut yet, I highly recommend it. It is more charming than the several European alpine huts I've stayed at, but perhaps that's just because one doesn't expect such a gem in our backyard here in Los Angeles.
Propelled by oatmeal and alpenglow early Sunday morning, we moved up the right side of the bowl and topped out about an hour and a half later after hitting some tricky snow below the summit plateau. On top we found an unusual snowdrift which does not seem to form often on Baldy, where we dug snow caves and ate our lunch. We all found ourselves wishing we had time to sleep on top; if you do, get up there! How often do you get the chance to sleep in a snow cave on top of Mt Baldy?
The descent was exhilarating. I'm a pretty mediocre skier and was initially quite intimidated by a chute suggested for the descent. I think this picture captures what was going through my mind:
However, after we ski cut it and it didn't slide, we dropped into an epic D9 descent through Zeke's chute to the middle of the bowl, where we ripped up plumes of powder at over 40 mph. Incredible.
The descent below the ski hut wasn't quite as memorable, but we skied it on excellent cover all the way to the car.