It's January 19th, 2002, and the last real snowfall in the San Gabriels was
about a month ago. The local ski areas are open, but the only snow they
have is that horrible man-made stuff. Even Mt. Baldy seems summer-like,
a generally snowless peak off in the distance. So, Marc and I decide that
instead of looking for great skiing, we'll do some training for later in
the season when there *is* snow. We pick Mt. Baden-Powell as our

(6:22 am) Time to finish packing for the hike. But first, a little time
with Bella the cat. She's pretty energetic at 6 am.

(6:23 am) Bella does a last-minute check of the equipment before we head

(8:12 am) We had a lot of company as we neared Mountain High, as all the
skiers headed for the mountain for the start of MLK Jr. weekend. However,
the next 5 miles to the trailhead were pretty quiet. Looking toward Baldy,
we see that there's hope for some snow near the summit, but it was pretty
bare where we started.

(8:36 am) Just four miles to the summit. The hike is basically just a
series of 41 switchbacks up the northeast face of the mountain. The
warning sign didn't seem appropriate, considering the lack of snow or ice.

(8:48 am) Sure enough, about 10 minutes into the hike, we met some nice
"steep, icy slopes". Marc's ski poles were nice for balance, except they
were a bit longer than necessary for hiking.

(9:16 am) From switchback #10, we can see the Angeles Crest Highway and the
undeveloped back side of Mountain High. The West Resort's peak is near the
center, and the East Resort peak is the second little mound to the right.

(10:26 am) Heading up to the 19th switchback, we started seeing some more
consistent snow patches. The weather was pleasant and perfectly calm.
Here's a movie of Marc hiking up through the snow. If you listen
carefully, you can hear the birds chirping.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(10:40 am) Stopping at switchback #20, we are now looking down on the peaks
of Mountain High. We started at 6600 ft. and Baden-Powell's peak is at
9400 ft. The East Resort peak is 8200 ft., so we are about half way there
in terms of both switchbacks and vertical gain.

(11:12 am) Looking to the north, we see desert below us and snow beside us.

(11:22 am) Panning from the desert to Marc trudging through the snow. We
lost the trail after switchback #20, and just headed up the mountain,
following the footsteps of those who had gone before us. We crossed the
trail a lot on our way up, but it was covered with snow, and difficult to
follow. Crampons would have been nice for this section.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(11:33 am) Nearing the summit, Marc stands on the ridge that will lead us
to our destination.

(11:33 am) A nice old tree standing strong on the ridge, with the LA basin
in the distance.

(11:34 am) I got a close-up view of the tree. Mount Baldy, the only peak
in the San Gabriels taller than Baden-Powell, is next to my right elbow.

(11:54 am) Ahhh, the summit. After signing the guestbook, I shed the pack
and enjoyed the view. I don't know what the pole is for.

(12:35 pm) My digital camera has software that is supposed to make
panoramic shots easy to do, so I gave it a try. Here's a picture composed
of 8 individual pictures, looking down Mine Gulch to the valley below,
at around 4500 ft. The plan for later in the season, when there's actually
snow, is to ski/snowboard down this chute and hike out to Mountain High.
For now, we'll be lucky to find enough snow that we don't scrape bottom.

(12:38 pm) Looking to the east/southeast, we see San Gorgonio (11,490 ft.,
in the background), tallest in Southern California, Pine Mountain
(9648 ft.), Dawson Peak (9575 ft.), San Jacinto (10,804 ft., in the
background), and San Antonio, "Old Baldy" (10,064 ft.), tallest in the San

(12:38 pm) Time for Marc's traditional summit nap.

(12:42 pm) As I was exploring, looking for a snowy way down, and Marc was
resting, this glider buzzed by. When it returned for a second pass, I was
ready with the camera.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(12:43 pm) The glider came by one last time before circling and heading
toward the LA basin.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(12:56 pm) Getting ready to descend. I was surprised to find that when I
put on my boots and snowboard, there was almost no weight in my pack.

(1:05 pm) Marc scouts out ahead along the ridge. It was strange seeing
more dirt than snow. It took some effort to find a path that didn't
dead-end in dirt -- something you don't usually encounter at most resorts.

(1:08 pm) Finally, the ridge turned to dirt and it was time to drop into
Mine Gulch. Marc makes the all-important first turn.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:15 pm) OK, this is kind of a strange picture. Marc snapped a couple
pictures of me as I headed down "The Gulch." In the first (upper right)
I'm near the top, and in the second, I'm a lot farther down than I realize.
Hiking back up to meet Marc on the ridge was painful. It's a lot easier
going down on snow than up on loose, but kind of frozen, dirt and rocks.

(1:23 pm) Marc is good at finding interesting trees.

(1:23 pm) After my quick and refreshing descent, and long and painful
ascent, from the gulch, I needed a break.

(1:30 pm) The Gulch was a nice warm-up, but now it was time to head down.
Marc takes a turn as we start down the way we came up.

(1:39 pm) After some cruising on relatively flat and icy snow, we came to
this nice area. Ahead and to the left, there was a long stretch of snow in
the little valley. Marc traverses over to it, and gets ready to descend.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:44 pm) Marc heads down a bit, and now it's my turn. To the right (my
left), it was icy (you can hear the scraping as I slide down it), but the
left was soft. At the end of the movie clip, you can see that I'm just
above the little tree in the middle of a vast expanse of snow. You might
think that avoiding such an obstacle would be a non-issue...
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:44 pm) ...well, apparently not. I'm kind of glad the movie cut off when
it did. This was just embarassing. Of course, Marc couldn't let it go

(1:46 pm) No trees in my way this time! Time to cruise down in the soft
stuff. Well, until the bottom part, when the ice got the better of me.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:49 pm) Marc comes in for a close-up.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:54 pm) Marc traverses through the trees.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(1:56 pm) Looking up our little "trail."

(1:59 pm) Looking down the other way. Marc skis down to where the trail
narrows. At this point, we traversed to the right a bit and then started
hiking, looking for the trail.
(AVI, MPEG movie)

(2:54 pm) Unfortunately, the trail was not to be found. We crossed over
to the right some more, until we reached kind of a major ridge. It seemed
to go where we wanted to go, so we strapped on the gear and started hiking
down along the ridge.

(3:02 pm) Like I said, Marc has a talent for finding interesting trees.

(3:23 pm) After awhile, the ridge got steeper. We wondered how long the
ridge would be hikable, since it seemed to drop off not far ahead.

(3:24 pm) Marc spotted the trail off to the left -- apparently we had
crossed over it and not noticed. So now we just had to cut across a steep
ravine and climb our way up to the trail on the far side.

(4:12 pm) After we crossed the ravine, I thought I saw a trail just above
us. I scrambled up about 10 feet and stood on a narrow path cutting
across to the trail we hiked up. After negotiating a section where the
path had completely iced over, we got to the spot where I'm standing.
From here it was an easy hike back to the main trail. This path we took
was marked as leading to a spring of some sort (for future reference).

(5:01 pm) Back on the trail again! The ice patches were more difficult
on the way down. There was one in particular that almost sent me tumbling,
and sent Marc over the edge into a tree that grabbed his skis and kept him
from sliding any farther. One of his poles, however, was not so lucky, and
remains somewhere on the side of the mountain.

(5:18 pm) Looking back the way we came down. I think the ridge to the left
of the snow patch is the way we descended. We crossed over the snow and
met up with the path somewhere near the top of the snow in this picture.

(5:17 pm) After a dozen or so switchbacks, we were back -- tired, cold,
hungry, and thirsty. Time to head back to the comforts of home.

Here's my best guess as to the route we took. We went up the trail from
Vincent Gap to the summit. The red is where I snowboarded down, the blue
is where I hiked in my snowboard boots, and the green is where I finally
put all the gear in my pack and hiked out.

More Pictures