Stranded In The Southland

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Baldy Plus Harwood on a Hot Day

We're in the middle of a huge heat wave down here in Southern California, so naturally I decided to do a four mile hike with 4,000' of gain, up to the top of the highest mountain in LA County, Mt. Baldy, with a short side trip to pick up a HPS peak I'm missing, Mount Harwood.

I was up at 6AM and at the trailhead by 7:10AM, but there were already 20 or 30 cars there! Too bad I slept in, 'cause even that early in the morning, and at 6,000', it was hot out. I was drenched in sweat in no time. I was trying to make good time, as there were afternoon thunderstorms forecast.

For all my sweat and hard work, I was soon passed by several faster, fitter hikers. On the way up to the Ski Hut (midway through), I passed a couple of slower people, but I was definitely getting passed more than I was passing. Too bad, I thought I was finally getting into decent shape!

After a long slog to the Ski Hut, things got a bit steeper as I headed up to the ridge. I struggled up, breathing hard and wondering what I was doing up there. As soon as I hit the ridge, though, there was a wonderful cool breeze, and the clouds began rolling in, providing me with shade (and making me wonder if I'd soon be diving for cover from storms).

I had a great hike up to the summit, stopping to chat with for awhile with one of the older guys who'd shot past me earlier. It turned out he was a Sierra Club leader who'd done WTC for years, and had all sorts of great stories.

The summit itself was fairly crowded with folks, so that I actually had to wait awhile to take a picture of the placard indicating Mt. Baldy's height, 10,064'. Anybody who can get up there (even via the rather easier Devil's Backbone trail) deserves a bit of slack, so I'm not complaining.

The air was a bit grungy, but I still had a pretty good view of the surrounding mountains. I was in a hurry, though, so after a couple pictures and a bit of lunch, I set out for Harwood, hoping to beat the rain.

Harwood was a bit lower than Baldy, with only use trails leading up to the summit -- no marked trails. I had a pleasant stroll up, though, picking my way through the scree that covered the whole mountain. It was beautiful, though, with just a few twisted pines and some tiny groundcover poking up through the gravel. I just love that alpine (semi-alpine?) stuff!

I zipped down the rest of the Devil's Backbone trail (it might be rough in the winter, but it wasn't looking to devilish now) to the ski area. My feet were already tired, so I bailed on the three mile dirt road heading down and paid $5 to take the ski lift down. I wasn't missing much -- I'd hiked that road a few times this year already, and I'd had enough.

All in all, it was a fine hike. The thunderstorms have yet to appear, so I guess I was hurrying and worrying for no good reason, but I was delighted to see that I got out of there in about five hours, hiking seven miles and climbing 4,000' feet. I'm definitely in better shape than the last time I tried this, back in November.

I also didn't seem to have any problems with the altitude, which vastly reassured me. I've been worrying about being up at 14,000' in the Sierras, so I've been trying to get up high to make sure I'll be ready for it. Today was great!

[PS: Okay, judging by the pounding headache I have now, a couple of hours later, I'd have to say that my body is not totally cool with altitude. Bummer.]