We started up the hill a little after 8AM. Part of the popularity of Mt. Baldy is the variety of trails to the top. There's even one option where you can ride a ski lift up to the 7,800 foot level and walk 3.5 miles to the top. Our plan was to go up the Ski Hut Trail (also known as the Baldy Bowl trail). This trail is no nonsense - climbing 4100 feet in 4.5 miles. That equates to a little over 900 feet in elevation gain every mile. From the start, the trail is up up and away, cresting at the top of the mountain.
I last tried this trail back in July 2008. That time, the trail kicked my butt. I had to abort about 3 miles in. Yesterday though, it became obvious early on that my increased cardio fitness and strength from all the running was paying off. Matt and I found ourselves passing group after group of hikers as we headed up the hill. In two hours we found ourselves at the Ski Hut - the major landmark on the trail.
The trail continues working uphill to a bench at the 9,000 foot level.
From here, it's another 1,000 feet and a mile to the top. At this point, the second factor starts coming into play - elevation. Elevation affects each person differently. For me, I start feeling short of breath and find myself gasping. Last year when I walked this trail, I was already gasping at 9,000 feet. Yesterday it was obvious that the air was a little thinner, but I was able to handle it easily by just slowing down. We continued moving up the ridge toward the top.
Just a few hundred feet below the top of the ridge, we ran into the second landmark on this trail. Back in 1949, two USMC Hellcats crashed just short of the ridge. The wreckage is still visible and easily reached from the trail.
We continued our slog up the ridge, and crested the "hill" in three hours and 8 minutes.
The weather was outstanding and the views were breathtaking. As we looked out toward the city, I thought about all those runners doing the L.A. Marathon and the Laguna Hills Half. Remember the discussion about the marine layer/June gloom? Here are a couple photos of the marine layer in action.
Somewhere back in there all the Marathoners are busy running their marathon.
That's Santiago Peak in Orange County poking out of the clouds. Close to that all the Laguna Hills Half Marathoners were sweating.
Speaking of sweating....
We spent about half an hour on the top chatting with folks and having a few snacks. We then headed down the hill
We took the Devil's Backbone trail. This is the same route that I used last year in one of my favorite races, the Mt. Baldy Run to the Top. This time though, I wasn't shredded wheat, so I was able to enjoy the trek down.
This trail's name is well deserved. A lot of the trail is along a ridge top with precipitous drop offs on both sides.
Wow! I ran up that last year?
All in all, it was a beautiful day for a beautiful hike. 10 mile round trip in 5 and a half hours!
If you want to enjoy the rest of the pictures, they are posted on my Flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/glennsphotos2007/sets/72157618802101812/