Revenge of the Girly Man — Page 4

Mount Baldy Summit & Los Angeles Basin

Summit and Ridge

Clouds and wind have replaced blue sky. I've fought my sticky skins every step up this mountain, and when I finally reach the summit, all I can do is collapse on the icy hardpack and gasp.

Do I have anything left for the descent? I begin the slow process of shifting from climbing mode to skiing, hampered by 60 mph wind gusts. First, I clear the gloppy snow bonded to the base of my skins. Then I rip the skins off my skis, trying to fold them in the wind, get them glue to glue—okay, that's good enough.

Hiker & Mount Baldy The Upper Southeast Ridge Ontario Peak Rock Spires & Fog

Another snowshoer trudges past as I go through my pre-descent ritual.

I do my best to stretch my legs. Walking uphill with snow stuck to my skis has utterly wrecked an odd set of muscles—hip flexors, I figure.

That shouldn't be a problem for the descent, but I sure wouldn't want to even try to climb a staircase right now.

I always get a boost when I snap into my bindings, ready to start skiing downhill.

In the brief span of those two clicks, I suddenly transform from an average mountaineer into a veteran skier with thousands upon thousands of vertical feet of experience.

I don't feel much like an expert once I'm underway, however.

The snow atop Mount Baldy is a mix of saturated sticky powder and wind-blasted ice.

Refusing to give up, that sticky powder is still gumming up my skis, sticking to anything it touches: boots, bases, edges, sidewalls.

If such a thing is possible, the snow seems to get even stickier as I drop off the summit and head for the southeast ridge.

Thick, billowing clouds swirl below, obscuring Baldy's south bowl. The chutes of the southeast ridge drop precipitously into the mist.

I search my memory, trying to recall if I saw anything discontinuous. I don't want to get hung up on a rock band if I take the wrong entrance. Making awkward little hop turns and occasionally kicking snow off my skis, I skirt the edge of the ridge, scouting for the Girly Man Chute. My landmark is a distinct triangular spire one chute south of the Girly Man's entrance—assuming it looks the same from above.

As the clouds swirl and clear, I get glimpses of the lines below, several of which look quite tasty. In fact, contrary to my earlier opinion, I'm already willing to admit that Baldy's southeast ridge is brimming with interesting lines, many of which drop through narrow chasms in the rock as if they'd been tunneled there on purpose.

I continue to skirt along the edge, occasionally peering over to check out another steep shot. I just hope I can find the right one. If I miss the Girly Man Chute, it'll be awfully embarrassing.

next: The Girly Man Revealed

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.