February 3, 2008

West Baldy Sunset Cruise: Mesmerizing

West Baldy Sunset Cruise: Mesmerizing

I had big plans this weekend, and they ended as Big Plans often do—by delivering me a big smackdown. Friday I and partner Bill climbed to the summit of West Baldy, camped nearby, and attempted to traverse the ridge down to Iron Mountain, with plans to ski a line on the Peak's opposite face before climbing back to Baldy.

In Summer, the San Antonio Ridge is somewhat infamous as a SoCal gruel, with lots of up-and-down, class 3 climbing, and rugged terrain. We found it partially covered with bulletproof snow, making for exposed, icy travel at a snail's pace. With weather deteriorating rapidly on Saturday, we decided to call off the attempt. Just getting to Iron Mountain via the ridge would have pushed the limits of our endurance and time frame—essentially, we were looking at 3.5 miles of technical ridge traversing just to get to the start of our project. And this after a tiring climb up Baldy the day before.

Sometimes, your plans just turn out to be not feasible. That was certainly the case here, sending me back to the drawing board on this one. Still, the trip was filled with memorable moments. Snow Camping at 9800' on West Baldy was bitterly cold, with 50-60 mph winds the entire time. This proved an ample test of our camping techniques and gear. Suffice to say, the experience was highly educational. Watch for gear updates on what worked and especially what didn't in the coming week.

I'll also have to put together a writeup of the trip, which included a spectacular sunset-descent of West Baldy on Friday night. Dropping down over the fog-filled Los Angeles Basin as the sky turned red was unforgettable—easily the highlight of the trip. Things don't always go as planned, but with a little flexibility, even a busted trip can still turn out to be a gem.

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Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow



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