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Baldy conditions after the storm? Anyone been up here yet?

Original Post
Kristian Solem · · Monrovia, CA · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 385

I'm thinking about sometime during the week of 12/9.

I have good snow experience in the Sierra, but I've never been up Baldy and have zero idea of what to expect...

Jon Hillis · · Valley of Sun · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

I saw some pics on IG from some dude that was up there right after the storm. Looked sketch and lots of fun. Just go on IG and search location/recent posts. This works for almost all locations, crushers like to spray and sometimes it is almost real time data.

x15x15 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 225

The list of deaths by avalanche on Baldy is not short. Don't let the So Cal laid back attitude get ya on Baldy.

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60

Which route are you looking at?  The Devil's Backbone is relatively safe given proper gear.  People do get into trouble on that route, but it's usually more a function of experience/preparation than conditions.  The Ski Hut/Baldy Bowl can be  a problem is the snow is unconsolidated.  

Kristian Solem · · Monrovia, CA · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 385

The near certainty of more snow Tues. night and Wed., as well as a good chance over the weekend has encouraged me to make other plans. Thanks all   

The Gray Tradster · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2002 · Points: 215

Been up there many times in winter and used to ski it from the top once a year and have made numerous trips up the bowl including times when it was full on blue ice.

This early it's a wallow up unconsolidated snow except where the wind slab has turned to ice.  The Avy danger in the bowl would be high now too.

Better to wait for a few more storms and some freeze thaw cycles to pack things down.

Antisocial Alpine Hiker · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 0

Don’t you live at the base of Baldy?  You should tell the rest of us what conditions are like.    

Kristian Solem · · Monrovia, CA · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 385

I'm further west. About a mile and a half from Mt Wilson as the crow flies. I suppose I could drive ten miles, get out the bino's, and have a look...  

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290

I went for a quick ski tour with my dog yesterday up by Mt Waterman.   Conditions were the worst I’ve had in the local mountains in years.   There is lots of snow up there but a really warm moist air mass must have moved through at some point in the period since the last storm as it had about an inch crust on all north and East aspects.   I could almost skin on top of the crust it was so thick but when skiing back down it was fully breakable.   I enjoy skiing variable conditions but it was really bad.  
Baldy may be different especially as you gain elevation but count on breakable crust at lower elevations.  

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290
x15x15 wrote: The list of deaths by avalanche on Baldy is not short. Don't let the So Cal laid back attitude get ya on Baldy.

I was on the Pro Patrol at Baldy for 10 years and seemed like we had a fatality every year just in the ski area due to avalanches when skiers would duck the closed rope and try and poach South Bowl before we controlled it.   The local mountains are nothing to take lightly. 

Dave K · · San Diego · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0
Fat Dad wrote: Which route are you looking at?  The Devil's Backbone is relatively safe given proper gear.  People do get into trouble on that route, but it's usually more a function of experience/preparation than conditions.  The Ski Hut/Baldy Bowl can be  a problem is the snow is unconsolidated.  

"Relatively safe" is, well... relative. A couple of years ago two experienced mountaineers (guides that had summited Denali) fell off the Devil's Backbone. One was killed. Deaths on Baldy are surprisingly common given the low elevation. It's not just noobs that get into trouble. In winter conditions the Devil's Backbone can be a very serious route, even for the experienced.

As for current conditions, I've seen reports on the California Peaks Facebook group showing deep snow up to the ski hut. Conditions change quickly up there, and reports more than a day or two old are likely not very useful.
The Gray Tradster · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2002 · Points: 215

The Backbone can grow a rather impressive double cornice in a couple of spots.

The top 200 ft or so of the peak almost always is blown clear to ice and the winter skiing is almost always an ordeal of breakable crust and conditions changing every 100 ft.

A sunny spring or late winter  day when it corns up, then from the top down it's all fun.

I used to try to time topping out about 12:00 or so.  Then the west facing slopes have had time to soften up a bit.

As far as climbing, given a cold snap after a few days of warm and the bowl can be a solid sheet of ice at 5:00 am and corn by 10:00.  

Not to be taken lightly though.  It got Secor and you can't get much more experienced than that.

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290

This is a shot Gene Mezereny took of me and another patroller hiking the Backbone to ski Mt Harwood during a “lunch break”

Justin Sanger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2019 · Points: 0
Kevin Mokracek wrote: This is a shot Gene Mezereny took of me and another patroller hiking the Backbone to ski Mt Harwood during a “lunch break”

When was this taken, last year?

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290
Justin Sanger wrote:

When was this taken, last year?

Probably 1995 or around that period. 

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60
Dave K wrote:

"Relatively safe" is, well... relative. A couple of years ago two experienced mountaineers (guides that had summited Denali) fell off the Devil's Backbone. One was killed. Deaths on Baldy are surprisingly common given the low elevation. It's not just noobs that get into trouble. In winter conditions the Devil's Backbone can be a very serious route, even for the experienced.

Dave, I agree that it is relative, which is why I used that term.  Conditions change and sometimes they're fine and sometimes they're not.  That's why Kris was smart enough to ask.  

Also, I remember reading about those guys you mentioned.  One was a guide who was injured trying to rescue the other climber (who was in his late 60s) who was not a guide and had fallen off a cornice.  So yeah, stuff can and does happen but it's not like this happened to Mugs Stump and Steve House.  
Justin Sanger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2019 · Points: 0
Kevin Mokracek wrote:

Probably 1995 or around that period. 

Hard chargers to get some skiing in back then I see. It’s always cool to see photos like that of the local places. 

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290
Justin Sanger wrote:

Hard chargers to get some skiing in back then I see. It’s always cool to see photos like that of the local places. 

The south face of Harwood is steeeep and is only in shape for maybe a day after a storm, after that the sun bakes it and the chutes slide or are demolished by giant slush pinwheels.   You need to jump on it fast and in our case before your supervisor realizes you are gone.   

tom donnelly · · san diego · Joined Aug 2002 · Points: 271

Yes, the shadier sides hold snow much longer.  In fact on the north side of the backbone, the sun really doesn't hit it at all in mid winter.  but the avalanches do.   How do the chutes on the north side of Harwood compare?   I've skied the east fork of manker canyon (that starts at 8800-8900 feet)  several times in good years on corn.  plus a few rocks.  If there's enough base, the sun sometimes cooks it into soft corn faster than you might think after a typical dense snow storm.  The west fork that starts at 9000 seems rockier.  Baldy and the resort may be where rock skis were invented.

Another question:  why did Bing maps remove many of the good Bird's Eye view photos they used to have?  just one example, east face of Harwood.

Antisocial Alpine Hiker · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 0
tom donnelly wrote: Yes, the shadier sides hold snow much longer.  In fact on the north side of the backbone, the sun really doesn't hit it at all in mid winter.  but the avalanches do.   How do the chutes on the north side of Harwood compare?   I've skied the east fork of manker canyon (that starts at 8800-8900 feet)  several times in good years on corn.  plus a few rocks.  If there's enough base, the sun sometimes cooks it into soft corn faster than you might think after a typical dense snow storm.  The west fork that starts at 9000 seems rockier.  Baldy and the resort may be where rock skis were invented.

Another question:  why did Bing maps remove many of the good Bird's Eye view photos they used to have?  just one example, east face of Harwood.

I've only been up those chutes by Harwood once, one Spring.  We ascended the Baldy Bowl, headed over to Dawson, descended one of the chutes, then ascended one of the chutes up Harwood before heading down the Backbone.  I want to say it was 2016 or 2017, but we had prime conditions and there was not a noticeable difference from any of the various aspects in the San Gabriels, a perfect day for hiking with friends.

Not sure what the issue with Bing is, but I've found Google Earth to be pretty impressive for looking at the topography when you zoom in.  It obviously can't give you minute details, but gives a good approximation of the terrain and big obstacles you'll encounter.  I've used it for hikes and scrambles on San Jacinto, and found the software to be quite accurate.  You can get a good look at things from any angle and elevation.  It's a good tool to map out future plans.
Gumby the White · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2019 · Points: 55
tom donnelly wrote: Yes, the shadier sides hold snow much longer.  

wait really?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Southern California
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