I decided to take advantage of my (sometimes) flexible work schedule and get out for a hike before work. At first I wasn’t exactly sure where I should go, but I had a few goals in mind:
- Get in a good workout. I have a tough hike coming up December 27th.
- Take some nice snow & sunrise photos
- Use my snow gear (microspikes, snowshoes, ice ax & crampons)
- Summit Mt. Harwood
Upon leaving the house, I felt I had a good shot at reaching all of my goals, except for #4. Having no idea what the conditions were, I didn’t know if trying to summit Mt. Harwood was a realistic goal since I only had 5 hours to hike. If I did do it, it would most likely mean that there wasn’t much snow. I set sunrise (~6:50 AM), as my turnaround time.
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Through the end of December, we’re raffling off some excellent gear from Tubbs, Hydrapak, WoolX, Farm 2 Feet, and Oboz.
I arrived at the trailhead around 3:30 AM, where it was 27°. It took me 15 minutes to get all of my gear on. Baldy Road was very icy, so I immediately put on my microspikes. Once I made it to the Ski Hut/Register Ridge Trail junction, I realized that the trail would be hard to follow. My pace was very slow – I was carrying a heavier pack than normal on a steep trail. I was also stopping every few minutes to either look for the trail or to look at my GPS to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I had hiked this trail back in August, but it was daylight then and there wasn’t any snow at the time.
The snow was easily passable with just micros for the first 45 mins or so. The higher I hiked, the deeper the snow got. As much as I hoped to use my snowshoes, I did not want to use them on this part of the trail, so I hiked another 45 mins without them. About 1.5 hrs after starting the hike, I was at 7500′ and sinking up to mid-shin consistently. That’s where I gave in and started using snowshoes. Getting traction was much more difficult now, so I also used my ice axe.
Around 6 am I noticed that that top of bowl was covered with clouds or blowing snow and I realized I would not be able to summit Mt. Harwood. I intentionally slowed my pace down and started looking for a decent spot to watch the sunrise. I stopped at around 8300 ft. I spent 30 mins taking pictures and watching the sunrise, then headed back to my car. On the descent, I met a gentleman named Martin that was attempting his 248th summit of Mt. Baldy. He thanked me for breaking the trail for him and we exchanged contact info. On the 19th I received an email from Martin. His ascent had taken him 6+ hrs, which is twice as long as normal. It’s a good thing I decided to stop when I did.
How to Improve the Next Hike
- Carry less weight
- My pack weight was around 28 lbs.
- I carried a heavy jacket (Outdoor Research Igneo Insulated Jacket, 34 oz) that went unused. I’ve decided I should go lighter unless there’s a reasonable chance of temperatures being less than 20 degrees or high winds are expected. In similar conditions, I will now carry a separate insulating layer (Golite Demaree 800 Fill Down Jacket,14 oz) and water/wind proof shell (Columbia Sportswear Watertight Omni-Tech Jacket,14 oz). This will allow for more layering and save some weight.
- I didn’t use my crampons (Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampon, 28 oz) or hiking poles (28 oz) , but I had no way to know if they’d be needed or not.