If you’ve been following along for a little while on this blog of mine, you may remember when Alex wrote a guest post about summiting Mt. Whitney in a day. He did it with his friend, Vince, in some crazy weather conditions, and the fact that they did it in a single day is accomplishment enough, but when you add in the snow and the trail closures that they also conquered…it’s a little crazy.
Well, I guess a little bit of Al’s craziness has worn off on me, because we are officially hiking Mt. Whitney next month! Our permits (you have to enter a lottery) are locked down, and we’ve been preparing for the two-day, 23 mile trek with lots of cardio and hiking. I’m so freaking excited. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, and it’s pretty cool that it sits right in our backyard: it lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest.
A few weeks ago, Alex, Josh, and I took a Sunday morning and afternoon to conquer Mt. Baldy — one of California’s “Six Pack of Peaks” recommended to hike before attempting Whitney. Alex and Josh had done this hike a few times before, but it was my first time making it to the top! Once before, Al had taken me to Baldy on a whim, and while we made it past the lodge, time and weather wasn’t on our side, so we had to turn back around. It’s been on my radar ever since.
The Baldy hike itself is about 14 miles roundtrip, and takes you to the highest peak in LA, at 10,064 feet up. The first part of the trail consists of a lot of switchbacks (but nothing compared to Whitney’s “99 Switchbacks”) until you reach the ski resort — which is open all year around for hikers and bikers and whoever else wants to stop for a bite to eat with a fantastic view. They keep the ski lift open for anyone who doesn’t want to hike the initial three and a half miles (ish) up to the lodge.
The second part of the hike — the route that we took at least — is called Devil’s Backbone, and it’s a pretty narrow part of the trail with some steep drop-offs. If you’re insane enough to try this hike in the winter, be warned, because a lot of people end up falling to their death at this point of the trail. But in the springtime and summer, I think it’s pretty clear as to where the trail is. If you make it to this point of the hike, you’re rewarded with some of the very most beautiful views — mountains on mountain on mountains — only to be out-shined by the view once you reach the very top.
I am pretty dang proud of myself for reaching the top of Baldy, so I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel when I *hopefully* make it to the peak of Whitney! There is just something so invigorating about climbing mountains. About the view from the top. About disconnecting with reality and everything else going on, and connecting instead with nature and all of this insane beauty that surrounds us that we often overlook. It makes you feel small in a really good kind of way. Accomplishing something like this also reminds me how proud I should be of my body — for getting me there, one step at a time.
Aside from two gnarly blisters on both feet, I survived Baldy unscathed, and ready for the next! The “Six Pack of Peaks” — made up of Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Mt. San Antonio (Baldy), San Bernardino Peak, Mt. San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio Peak — just sound too good to pass up! And between you and me, I don’t think I’ll have much trouble convincing Alex to get on board 😉
Baldy is definitely a strenuous hike and you need to be in pretty good shape to make it from the base to the summit in a reasonable amount of time. The good part about it is that you can stop at the lodge on your way up and/or down to fill up on water and snacks if you need to. There is ample parking at the bottom, and I recommend starting early to avoid the hottest part of the day, as it took us about 6 and a half hours to complete with a stop at the top for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! It’s also a pretty popular hike, so you’ll run into a lot of people on the trail if you end up needing help from anyone. The feeling that everyone has up at the summit is pretty darn cool, and you’ll be sure to make some acquaintances along the way 🙂 It’s definitely a route that I would love to take a day to do again!
And a special shoutout to Banjo the Brown Dog for being a BOSS and making it all the way to the top of the mountain and back down with zero issues…it was his first time summiting too 😉