Ski Mountaineering

Mt Baldy
Jan 12, 2008

Reiner Stenzel

On the weekend of Jan 5-6, a good size winter storm moved through the LA Basin. Another one came on Tue. On Wed morning the clouds lifted, the air was cold and clear. Los Angeles looked at its best: A smogfree city with a white mountain chain in the background. The highest peak visible is Mt Baldy, our favorite ski mountaineering terrain.

After a good storm it is the best time for a local ski trip. Since one cannot schedule such events I simply e-mailed an improptu trip plan for the weekend to our active skiers. Bahram Manahedgi, Mark Goebel and Alvin Walter agreed to join. In the last moment Mark had a conflict, but to our surprise, Heiko Knapp joined us on the mountain. With two SMS leaders and the Outings Chair's blessing this looked like a scheduled SMS trip. We met on Sat, 7:30am at Manker Flat and hiked half an hour later up the road and trail to Baldy Hut. We met many hikers and a few skiers on the way.

It was not worth skiing up the trail since in spite of a reasonable coverage the snow was hard packed in the morning, badly postholed and intermittent at a few places. We reached the hut before 10am and took a break for water, snacks and talking to people. A party of 20 people was expected to stay Sat night in the hut, thus a busy place.

After a cool morning it turned into a fine day with spring-like temperatures in mid January. The snow in the Bowl softened as we skinned up to the West Ridge. Higher up the snow became hard packed. Careful edging was required in some places. There were still some pretty rimed trees although not as gorgeous as we once saw in 1993.

As we passed the last trees the summit plateau was covered with wind slabs and icy spots. A cool wind kept the snow frozen. The most unusual sight were large patches of granular ice, a hazardous terrain for skiers and hikers.

At noon the summit looked like a meeting place for LA's mountaineers. The view was very nice but most lower peaks had poor snow coverage. We had lunch, took pictures and then speculated where the best descent would be. We skied on sastrugi down into the saddle between Baldy and West Baldy, where we found softer snow on sun facing slopes. We got some nice turns in, then traversed back onto the West Ridge.

By now the snow had softened so much that turning became a workout. Skiing released a lot of snowballs but not enough for a slide. Heiko headed up for another run while we were content with one mush run. We took another break at the hut and then hiked down the trail. Two others skied down the trail through mush and rocks, which requires later a lot of p-tex for their scratched-up skis. We thought the hut and the summit were busy places, but when we reached the road it looked like Disneyland. There must have been thousands of people playing in the snow along Baldy Road. Both sides of the road and the center strip were packed with cars and the traffic slowed down to a crawl. Snow and spring weather are not only a skiers delight. Everyone had a great day in the mountains. Thanks to Alvin, Bahram and Heiko to share this nice ski trip.

P.S. More pictures from Bahram and Alvin:

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