Wednesday, March 25, 2015

West Baldy and Hikin’ Jim’s 8,000 Foot Peaks List

San Antonio Creek Drainage and Baldy Bowl
I know, I know. West Baldy, Mt. Baldy’s shorter and less sexy little sibling is an odd choice as a destination. I can see you scratching your head and saying “maybe tag it while you’re in the Baldy neighborhood, but West Baldy as an objective in and of itself?” And you know what? That would be a perfectly reasonable and legitimate question to ask. In fact, normally I’d probably be right there with ya scratching my dome. But here’s the thing. Awhile back, a fellow by the nom de plume Hikin’ Jim posted this damn list of 23 peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains above 8000 feet and I committed to eventually stand atop each one of them.  At 9,988 feet, West Baldy is No. 2 on that list. I’d been to the summit of Mt. Baldy on a number of occasions previously, but West Baldy had somehow eluded me. And it was gnawing at me.
So Sunday morning, I set out from Manker Flats to finally take care of this bit of unfinished business. Leaving the mass of cars and humanity along Mt. Baldy Road behind, I ascended Falls Road to the perch adjacent to San Antonio Falls and stopped briefly to appreciate the fact that there was actually some water coming down the rugged canyon and off the cliff face. Beyond that, I split off from the fire road and began the stiff climb up the rugged Ski Hut Trail. As is typical with this popular trail, I encountered lots of happy mountain folks along the way both coming from and going to Baldy’s summit. Although I was alone on this hike, I was never alone.

San Antonio Falls from Falls Road

View Down San Antonio Canyon from Ski Hut Trail

Ontario and Big Horn Peaks from Ski Hut Trail 
About 2.5 miles up the trail, I stopped briefly for water and energy at the green Sierra Club ski hut for which the trail is named. There were lots of other high altitude denizens doing the same thing and enjoying the amazing scenery. It was so nice that I quickly got up and left before lethargy and satisfaction took hold and kept me there for the remainder of the day.

Beyond the ski hut, the trail rock-hops across the foot of Baldy bowl which, except for the spring that was flowing a bit, was bone freakin’ dry. There was not a spot of snow anywhere to be seen in the bowl, although I did encounter some patches of a white, crystalline substance as the path climbed the forested and shady western flank of the bowl.  Not knowing what this substance was, and becoming fearful about its potentially dangerous properties, I hurried past it to the ridgeline leading to the top of Old Baldy.

Baldy Bowl from the Ski Hut Trail

Sierra Club Ski Hut

Unknown White Crystalline Substance. Very Scary.
From here, it was a straight shot up the steep, rocky, and sometimes loose path to the summit. On top, cool winds swept in from the north while billowy white clouds boiled up from the south. Beautiful and surreal. I hunkered down with a few other folks in one of the numerous rock shelters, donned puffy, hat and gloves, and contemplated the barren landscape leading toward West Baldy approximately one half-mile to the west. After a brief time, my shelter compatriots left for burgers and beers at the Notch via Devil’s Backbone while I made my way out to West Baldy for trail mix and luke warm water. God how I envied them.

Ridgeline to Harwood from Ski Hut Trail

Looking East to the Three T's

Obligatory Summit Plaque Shot
But my fixation on gastronomic delights was short-lived because the easy, breezy walk to West Baldy was so pleasant and the scenery so fine that I figured I was the one who should properly be the object of envy. Here, as well as near Baldy’s summit, there were occasional and sad patches of snow, but they were more curiosity than obstacle in this new, climate order of perpetual drought. It made me simultaneously glad and melancholy that I had left my micro-spikes in the trunk back at Manker.

West Baldy from Baldy

View Toward Baden-Powell from Saddle Between West Baldy and Baldy

View West from Summit of West Baldy
Atop West Baldy, I admired the dramatic vistas into Fish Fork and beyond. The summit itself if not much to speak of, but like its taller neighbor to the east, it affords exceptional 360-degree views of the entire San Gabriel Range and beyond.

Clouds Boiling Up Over the Ridgeline. Awesome.

Looking Toward Dawson and Pine from West Baldy

Mt. Baldy from West Baldy
After tiring of all the alpine sublimity that was being forced upon me, I decided that I’d had quite enough and retraced my steps back to the summit of Mt. Baldy. In the late afternoon sun, the peak had become largely vacant so I took one last look and started back down the trail with only the crunch of the ground beneath my boots to keep me company. I passed a few late-day stragglers like myself along the way, finally arriving back at Manker now only three peaks (Dawson, Etiwanda, and Iron) shy of completing Hikin’ Jim’s peak list. Once that list is done, I’m going to start in on Jim’s list of 24 Southern California peaks over 10,000 feet.

Unknown Hiker Admiring the Fine Scenery

Amazing Limber Pine on the Upper Slopes of Baldy 

Final Look Back at the Ridgeline from the Ski Hut Trail
Here’s Hikin’ Jim’s list of peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains over 8,000 feet:

Rank      Name                                                   Elevation
1              Mount San Antonio                             10064
2              West Baldy                                         9988
3              Pine Mountain                                     9648
4              Dawson Peak                                      9575
5              Mount Harwood                                   9552
6              Mount Baden-Powell                            9399
7              Throop Peak                                       9138
8              Mount Burnham                                  8997
9              Telegraph Peak                                   8985
10           Cucamonga Peak                                  8889
11           Mount Hawkins                                    8850
12           Ontario Peak                                       8693
13           Etiwanda Peak                                     8662
14           Thunder Mountain                                8587
15           Wright Mountain                                  8505
16           Middle Hawkins Peak                            8505
17           Bighorn Peak                                       8441
18           Mount Lewis                                        8396
19           Timber Mountain                                 8303
20           Mount Islip                                         8250
21           Mount Williamson                                8244
22           Waterman Mountain                            8038
23           Iron Mountain                                     8007

And his list of 24 Southern California peaks over 10,000 feet (
Rank      Name                                                    Elevation

1              San Gorgonio Mountain                        11499
2              Jepson Peak                                        11205
3              Bighorn Mountain                                 10997
4              Dragon’s Head                                     10866
5              Anderson Peak                                     10840
6              San Jacinto Peak                                 10834
7              Charlton Peak                                     10806
8              San Bernardino East Peak                    10691
9              Shields Peak                                       10680
10           Little Charlton Peak                              10696
11           Jean Peak                                            10670
12           San Bernardino Peak                            10649
13           Alto Diablo                                          10563
14           East Dobbs Peak                                  10520
15           Folly Peak                                           10480
16           Dobbs Peak                                         10459
17           Miller Peak                                          10400
18           Marion Mountain                                  10362
19           Grinnell Mountain                                10284
20           Lake Peak                                           10161
21           Newton Drury Peak                              10160
22           Ten Thousand Foot Ridge                     10094
23           Mount San Antonio                              10064
24           Zahniser Peak                                     10056


  1. Great cloud shots. Surprised to see almost all the snow has melted already, Hey, we still probably had more snow this year than last. Rumor has it we may get a wet El Nino in 2015. That would be a welcome change.

  2. Nice write up. I've actually added one more peak to my 10,000 footer list: Shirley Peak, rounding things out to 25 peaks. Some have asked me to add a peak, Carmen Peak, over by 10,000 Foot Ridge as well, but I have so far declined pending a personal visit and site survey.


  3. Nice write up. I've actually added one more peak to my 10,000 footer list: Shirley Peak, rounding things out to 25 peaks. Some have asked me to add a peak, Carmen Peak, over by 10,000 Foot Ridge as well, but I have so far declined pending a personal visit and site survey.