The winds howled all night outside our little cabin on Mt Baldy. Not afraid of any wind ( or not willing to reschedule our summit, anyways) we woke up about seven and were ready to tackle the mountain, all 10,300 feet of her.
It would mean hiking up over 4,000 feet of altitude gain with top wind gusts of near one hundred miles per hour. This would be the hardest hike I have ever done in my life ( although, some how, amazingly, I still had a ton of energy at the end.) my boyfriend came down with the flu and began to feel sick in the morning as we began the hike but he didn’t want to ruin our hike and tell me, so he powered through! He also had really bad leg cramps and shin splints and we still managed to summit, going the long way even, as we missed the ski hut cut off!
We were so amped to start the hike up Mt Baldy that I completely forgot to keep an eye out for the cut off for the ski hit trail, it’s about a mile from the locked gate where you start the hike. The ski hut trail is the steeper, harder way to the summit and the views are incredible. Our original plan was to go up the ski hut to the summit across the Devils Backbone and down to the Top of the Notch Restaurant for a delicious hamburger lunch.
By the time I realized we had passed the cut off we were maybe a mile past it, and just decided to keep hiking up the road to The Notch and go that way. This would add about three miles extra to the total hike.
The wind was blowing pretty hard already going up the road and I was really not looking forward to how blustery it was going to be on the summit.
Some how, I still don’t know how we did this, we made it to The Notch in just an hour. We were hiking at a great pace, passing hikers left and right. We decided to go into the The Notch for a minute, get a beverage, get out of the wind and use the bathroom. As I put it to Adrian,
” As a man, I really don’t think you want to pee in the eliminates today with 65-80 miles per hour wind gusts.”
So yes, we went inside. The bar at The Notch is really awesome. Not only do they have a terrific beer selection but the bartenders are super nice and very helpful. The bartender we spoke to warned us there was a rock slide past The Devils Backbone and we would have a rough time summiting today.
It was awesome advice to get from some one who knew the mountain. We finished up our hot chocolate and iced tea and hit the trail again, deciding that it was just to cold and miserable today to try and summit anyways. We would just make it to the back bone and turn around.
Right after The Notch is ( to me) the hardest part of the whole hike. It’s a ridiculous tough up hill section where you gain almost a thousand feet of altitude gain and this hill seems like it will never end. I actually had to stop about half way up and have some bacon jerky. I needed protein in a desperate way at that moment.
After that I came alive again. Adrian was a couple hundred feet above me and I felt like I would never catch up with him.
I finally did near the top of the big ass hill ( okay, maybe he waited for me) and we tried to enjoy the view of the high desert to the north but the wind was blowing something fierce.
That cold wind was chilling me to the bone and I took one or two pictures than got moving quick. The back bone was pretty close and was thinking we were turning around shortly. I tried to power through.
By the time we passed the back bone the trail had evened out so much and gotten so much easier we decided to try and make it to the rock slide and turn around there. The wind was terrible when it was bad, but when we were hiking on the south side of the ridge it wasn’t bad at all.
So we powered through. When we reached the “terrible rock slide” we had been warned about we saw it was almost nothing! We decided to try and summit although honestly, the wind was so terrible at times I would have been perfectly happy to turn back at any time.
It was around this time that I began to pull way ahead of Adrian in the hike. I had no idea until later in the evening that he was having terrible leg cramps and also that he was in the first stages of having the flu! I was about half a mile ahead of him on the trail and one time I turned around and saw him lying down in the snow! I thought he fell! I waited a little bit in a spot not to terribly windy for him to catch up, I tried yelling back to him but there was no way he could hear me over the terrible wind noise.
When Adrian caught up to me he told me he kept having to lay down in the snow as his legs were cramping up so bad!
As I was waiting for Adrian I was talking to other hikers coming down from the summit. The vast majority of them had gone up the ski hut trail and they mostly all said the same thing; there was so much snow on that route, the trail had been terrible and had taken them way longer than the route we were taking. But most of them didn’t have snow gear! So many people were hiking this without poles and with out cramp ons or cat trax! My boyfriend, when he finally caught up with me, was bummed he didn’t bring his brand new Black Diamond ice ax. ( I had told him to leave it at home, that there would not be a lot of snow, and he wouldn’t need it)
As I tried to continue slowly up hill I was so struggling with the crazy winds! At some points I felt like I could barely put one foot in front of another! I had put on my cat trax and they helped me dig my feet into the icy snow and between that and the poles that was the only thing keeping me standing on the mountain!
I wanted to turn around. I felt like I was not going to make it, that I would be blown into the valley below, but I kept seeing girls coming down who were smaller than me and they had made it! That’s the only thing that kept me going.
Well that and the view.
The pictures don’t even do justice to how phenomenal the view was! We could see at least twenty ships on the ocean. We could see the San Onofre power plant on the way to San Diego. We could see Catalina Island and the skyscrapers of Los Angeles in the distance.
Staring at that view for hours is what kept me going.
That last mile felt like hours.
I have never been so cold in all my life.
People coming down said it was cold enough to get frost bite as the Santa Ana winds were blowing off the snowy summit.
Finally, finally I reached the summit and made friends with some nice people at the top.
They offered me a beer and even had my favorite, Heiniken. It’s one of the few times in my life I’ve said no to a Heiny! My fingers were just to cold to hold the bottle! After they drank some beer, I watched one of the guys pour out the rest and it froze as he was pouring it out!
Finally Adrian and I were at the summit together, it was one hell of a hike, hell being the descriptive word here.
All I could think about was how soon could I have a burger with blue cheese at The Notch!!!