jen yu: mount baden-powell

mount baden-powell

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8 miles
6600 - 9399 ft.
angeles national forest, california
february 7, 2004

We were the recipients of heavy rainstorms the preceeding week, which meant snow in the mountains. Baldy was a brilliant white - but we set our sights for some variety. We decided to venture up Baden-Powell and hoped that no boyscouts would be lingering on the mountain that day. We drove east from Altadena past Wrightwood where Mountain High is located. Apparently many other people were watching the snow levels because there was serious traffic at 8 am on the Angeles Crest Highway as skiers vied for parking spots. Beyond Wrightwood, we parked at Vincent Gap and started hiking at 9am. The trail was under snow the entire way.

This trail has 41 or 42 switchbacks to travel 4 miles and 2800 feet. A tad excessive. The lovely part about winter and snow travel is that you can abandon the switchbacks for a direct assault of the mountain. We slogged along breaking trail for the first two miles until we passed a couple of hikers who were not prepared for the conditions. The snow was dry and fluffy with that old ice layer sitting a foot below. It sucked. We put our crampons on and began to blaze the way up. The couple followed our tracks with great trouble, but to our relief they did turn around eventually (later than I would have if I were them). The winds were strong and steady, even under the cover of the trees. The snow had a windblown crust which we postholed through. Great workout. We encountered a fellow on his way down who told us to stay on the slick side of the ridge to the summit. "It's windier, but a shallower slope." Nice guy.

We got up to a clearing of trees where we could finally see Mount Baldy to the southeast, and Baden-Powell to the south. The wind whipped snow around us and the ice was thankfully frozen hard. This was a delight to walk across instead of plunging hip-deep into the snow. We assessed the cornices on the ridge from our vantage point and travelled the western side. We passed the Wally Waldron tree on the way across. It is the oldest tree in the San Gabriels - a limber pine estimated at 1500 years old! It is large and beautifully sculpted by the elements. Unfortunately, I was too cold to stop for a picture. We made summit by 2 pm and our stay was very short because the wind was howling.

We made quick time on the way back. We encountered a young man traveling to the ridge who asked if it was icy. He didn't have crampons, but had an axe. He asked us if we ran into his dad, to tell his dad he was okay and to wait for him - not to continue on. Then we met up with two other fellows (better prepared) who were going to hike out to Islip Saddle. Glissading down was so much faster, although hard on the knees when the snow went thin on the steeper slopes and our crampons caught rocks and roots beneath. The young man passed us on the way down. We figured he decided to turn around (good decision). We veered too far east from the trail and so we began to traverse across to intersect the trail. The young man followed us, clearly not sure where he was. As we neared the switchbacks, I saw a figure in the distance above us waiting around. I pointed this out to the young man and luckily for him, it was his father. We could only imagine that they would have been wandering around the mountain all night if I hadn't seen his dad!

start: 9:00 am
summit: 2:00 pm
end: 4:15 pm

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