Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mt. Baldy Night Hike via Devil's Backbone - 10/15/11

Winter is an exciting time for peakbaggers--it opens up new possibilities and makes old hikes new again. We may have bagged most of the peaks in the San Gabriels, but we haven't done many of them in the snow yet, so this winter we'll be dusting off our crampons and ice axes and discovering a whole new San Gabriel Mountains.

While we wait for the mountains to get frosted, we've started another idiotic hiking activity: night hiking! We got a taste of it on Mt. Whitney and we've been itching to try it again since. It seemed like it'd be a good idea to start with a mountain we're familiar with, and the mountain we've climbed the most is good ol' Baldy.

There are group full moon hikes on Mt. Baldy where they hike the Devil's Backbone Trail to Baldy Notch and party at the restaurant up there. That sounded cute and all, but why not continue on to the top of Baldy?

The Ski Hut Trail requires some route finding and that wouldn't be fun at night so we went with the Devil's Backbone. We also figured the mountain lions would appreciate us staying out of their territory after dark. The plan was to start in the evening and summit in time for sunset, but we started late and only got to the Notch by the time the sun started setting.

Hiking at night wasn't nearly as creepy as I was expecting. We ran into two groups of hikers descending as we were making our way up. In some ways, the dark makes it less scary; since you can't see the deadly drops on either side of the Backbone, there's no reason to believe they're even still there.

This was my first time ascending the Devil's Backbone and the summit push was actually a little bit harder than I was expecting, and it didn't help that it was also windy and freezing. The view of the city lights from the top was amazing and different, but it wasn't the relaxing summit party I'm used it. There were three tents up there so we weren't completely alone, but we still had the cold to deal with, along with the darkness making it difficult to tell how far we were from the edge.

We got back down to the Notch just as the restaurant was closing, so there were still a few people left on the mountain. We were definitely the only humans hiking on the fire road headed back to Manker Flats however. The rustling of large animals in the trees off the trail was starting to freak us out so we did some speed hiking all the way back to the car.  Maybe those competitive hikers who do Baldy in 2 hours only do it because they think the mountain lions are coming for them.

Matti's pics.


  1. Well that was something different. What you may have discovered or already learned is how well our eyes can adapt to just natural light, especially if there's a moon out (which, I think on the 15th, there would have been).

    Probably fine from the mountain lions if there are multiple persons hiking and making a fair amount of noise. They only go after you when they mistake you for deer. ;D So, in fact, walking at a normal pace is safer than running or riding a bike past them.

  2. Good point. Probably best not to act like prey around huge deadly animals.