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March 7, 2017

Baden-Powell – East Face

Baden-Powell is one cool mountain. This is easily a premier SoCal backcountry skiing zone, but snow and road issues have kept me away for far too long.

In fact, I haven't been here since the aftermath of my Iron Mountain adventure, when I climbed up Baden-Powell (with massively sore legs) to get shots of Iron's north face for my film, The Couloir to Nowhere.

No longer—the BP drought is over!

Al, Stefan, and I ventured to Baden-Powell this past weekend, with plans to ski the northeast gully and also the true east face. We were hoping warming temperatures would have initiated a good melt-freeze corn cycle, which wasn't quite the case, but even so we found great views and great skiing.

Al has skied Baden-Powell every year for I believe over two decades, which I think means he and the mountain are now common-law married.

Road status makes this peak kind of a guessing game these days, but Baden-Powell's long, aesthetic ridge lines and sheer east and north faces are stunning. Google showed the road as closed; Caltrans had it open to Vincent Gap. Happily Caltrans was right, but for the record, there have been plenty of times they said it was open when it fact the gate was closed.

If that's the case, you can get to Vincent Gap from the north, via a forest service road that passes by a (minimum security?) prison. That'll get you within maybe 500 vertical feet of the parking lot, depending on conditions and whether or not you stop to pick up hitchhikers.

Hey, it feels good to get out there and start climbing real routes again!

My pitiful flabby baby-belly muscles are tightening up, and crazy thoughts are once again spinning merrily in my head. Looking over the raw video clips this morning, I found myself remembering we used to do stuff like this all the time.

I say we get back to it.

For the record, Baden-Powell's lower north flank, where the trail ascends, gets icy in winter, and it's steep enough to make a fall very nasty. Crampons would certainly not hurt. Higher up, enjoy more moderate slopes along the north ridge for good skinning and good skiing.

Along with Mount Baldy's true north face, Baden-Powell is one of the San Gabriel summits that I stay well away from during storms. Large slides do happen here, and the terrain is complex and confusing.

That is especially true of the east face/mine gulch areas, both of which pretty much lead off to oblivion. If you're sure the snow is soft—but not too soft!—climb back up whatever you ski in these directions; don't even think about trying to traverse back to Vincent Gap.

As with many of the San Gabriel summits, BP is big, scrappy, and steep. A lot of Southern California ski mountaineering taps into skills you don't pick up most anywhere else. Take little bites at first, be safe, and have fun.

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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.