I decided to try going up the "Ski Hut" route. The "Ski Hut" is actually run by the Sierra Club, and can be used by anyone as shelter. It was originally built in the 30's and now serves as a great rest stop on one of the routes up Baldy. The Ski Hut route is a no nonsense route up the hill - 4.2 miles one way, 4000 foot elevation gain. This would be my first time up the mountain using this route.
The real trick to this route is finding it in the first place. The trail starts up a paved fire road, which continues to Baldy Notch and the ski area on the mountain. The first thing to look for is San Antonio Falls on your left:
At that point, the road turns to the right, and then the trail to the ski hut, unmarked, branches off to the left. It's real easy to miss this one! The trail is there on the left:
From there, it's on up the hill for the next 2 miles to the ski hut. The grade is steady and uphill the whole way. The ski hut is a little oasis on the trail. I took a (well deserved) rest in the shade of the pines and the sound of the rushing stream. After a few minutes and a Clif bar, I gathered myself and continued up the use path up the Baldy Bowl.
At this point, the trail steepened and the going got a little tougher as the altitude increased. The next highlight is a saddle at a little over 9,000 feet, a little over 3 miles from the start. I made it that far and had a little sit down to gather my breath. At this point everything was starting to take its toll. My legs were screaming, my hands (bruised in the bike accident two weeks ago) were sore from gripping my hiking poles, my marathon blisters (from three weeks earlier) were starting to act up, and it was time to turn around. I had no idea how close to the top of the mountain I was either, because the only thing I could see in front of me was more climbing up a ridge. I decided that it would be better to turn around and head on down. At least I knew I had enough to make it down the same trail.
So, I looked ahead, and made the decision to turn around and try again another day. Had I known that I was a little over half a mile to the top... Oh well!
By the way - photos are on my Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/glennsphotos2007/sets/72157605889274458/