During winter and spring, Mount San Antonio and the Baldy Hut are excellent locations for ski Mountaineering and making winter climbs. As the seasons progress into summer and fall, the snow melts away and yet the perennial spring just above the hut continues to gush forth a steady voluminous flow of water into San Antonio Creek that creates an impressive series of falls between 1000 and 2000 feet below.
In winter, I have made an effort to try to ski all the canyons in the area. The exception has been San Antonio Creek that is never skiable due to the long steep falls.
This summer I was given the opportunity to go down the entire canyon with two expert canyoneers, Scott Swaney and Aysel Gezik along with May Adachi. The weather was great and the water was probably as warm as it gets in the mid 60's.
We hiked up to the Baldy Hut with Ellen coming along for the hike then descending on the trail to get photos of us descending through the falls. From the hut, we dropped right into the canyon. The route had quite a bit of loose rock and involved a number of minor creek crossings. After about an hour, we came to an exposed waterfall where Scott broke out the rope for our first rappel. This section went well and the following section for the foreseeable distance was not as exposed, so Scott recoiled the rope and we carried on.
Within about another half hour, we stopped for a snack/lunch break and found more rappel hardware with a sling from some previous canyoneers. It was time to break out the rope again and start the next rappel. The rock here was smooth and slippery making extra caution with each foot placement a prerequisite. We had entered an area where there was a series of falls requiring the rope. The next was to be the highlight of the trip where we would descend directly through the full stream of the creek. Both Scott and Aysel had put on their wetsuits while May and I relied on rain gear to stay warm.
I spoke with Ellen on our two-way radios. She was now positioned below us at the elevation of the bottom of the lowest waterfall where the trail/road does about a 180 degree bend and where a number of people were gathered to watch us rappel through the waterfall. Ellen overheard a comment from one spectator saying "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to be young and carefree to do what those people are doing!" Ellen had to correct that person pointing out that those people rappelling through the falls were in their 50's and 60's. Then another comment surfaced suggesting that those "guys" were doing some pretty daring rockwork. Ellen had to make another correction pointing out that those guys were 2 women and 2 men. I thought it was interesting to hear about those comments.
Now it was time to get wet. Scott led the descent to confirm that the single line rope was long enough to reach the bottom. I followed and was totally thrilled when completely immersed in the falling water with a brief period of no visability. I was pretty thoroughly wet but too excited to feel cold yet as I watched May and Aysel descent through the waterfall.
We had one more waterfall to descend to complete all the main parts of the creek and canyon. Ellen met us at the bottom to share our stories and take more finishing group photos. It was for May and I an exciting new kind of adventure in a place that we have been so close to so many times and finally got to explore thanks to Scott and Aysel.
At an afternoon lunch/dinner at Baldy's Restaurant we shared stories and plans for more exploring in these kinds of canyoneering adventures which I hope to do more of in the future.
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