Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Really Big Hill

For those who may not be familiar with Los Angeles, our metropolitan area is ringed by mountains (has something to do with all those earthquakes that we get to live through). As you travel further east, those mountains get downright tall, culminating in a couple 11,000 foot peaks. Yesterday I attacked one of those, 10,064 foot Mt. San Antonio, known to us locals as Mt. Baldy.

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/


  1. Glenn- Looks amazing!

    Thats a hell of an accomplishment--especially in that heat.

    Thanks again for all your help recently!


  2. Wow! That is a climb! I've never heard of that mountain before... looks like a great place to hike!

    Congratulations on your climb! How wonderful to be able to note the differences in how you felt compared to a couple years ago. :)

  3. I will check out our flickr page - that trail looks quite scary to someone like me who is deathly afraid of heights. I saw your Tweet when you reached the top and was so happy for you, and jealous at the same time! I have only seen Mt. Baldy once from afar, and it looked beautiful.

    So cool to see you were up in the clouds, literally!

  4. Very nice pics Glenn - will have to check it out one of these days.

  5. looks like a great place to hike/attempt to run! congrats on making it all the way and on your improvements from the last time :) a great 'rest'/xt day indeed.

  6. Looks like a great day on the "hill". Can I just say that you're looking pretty "not fat" as well? We're going to have to start thinking of new blog names soon...."The running hill climber"..."The running hiker"...."The artist formerly known as the Running Fat Guy". Just a few of the many options.

  7. Awesome hike! I've wanted to do that one-no one I know ever wants to hike, bike, run or whatever with me!!

  8. you were on the ski hut trail.

    the 'register ridge' trail takes off up a ridge to the right of the trail, beginning just past the metal 'register'. it is not marked, but readily seen if you are looking for it.

  9. Thanks Anonymous. Now that you mention it, we did see a couple of hikers take off up the ridge just past the register box.

    Duly noted and edits made.

  10. Oh, geez. I've lived here 8 years now and never knew it wasn't officially called Mt. Baldy. I obviously need to get out more.

    Your photos look beautiful and make me want to hike up there...once I'm no longer plagued by injuries.