Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mt. Baden-Powell Snow Hike from Vincent Gap - 1/19/13

There's always that moment at the beginning of a snow hike when you're like "if I put on my spikes now, I might ruin them walking over rocks, but if I don't put them on, I might slip on some ice." This hike did not have that moment. The trailhead is only around 6600' but it's on the dark side of the mountains where the snow sticks around for longer, so there was no question about whether or not we'd need our spikes right from the beginning.

Baden-Powell trailhead at Vincent Gap

If you've ever done this hike in normal conditions, you'll know it's one of the easier of the major peaks in the San Gabriels, only gaining 2800' in the short 4 mile ascent. Fortunately for us, the conditions are far from normal right now.

The snow wasn't too deep for the first mile or so, but there were some slippery spots and steep slopes that put the spikes to good use. After about a mile and a half, we left the main trail and started following some boot tracks going straight up the mountain, and that's where the postholing party began. If you're one of those super-prepared snow hikers who doesn't mind carrying some extra gear, the middle section of the hike seemed pretty perfect for snowshoes.

This wasn't one of those friendly snowy trails where you posthole to your knees every once in a while and by the end of the hike it's still sort of funny; we were postholing to our waists with every damn step and probably moving somewhere around half a mile per hour for a good chunk of the hike.

Pine, Dawson, and Baldy

It took us almost 4 hours to reach the ridge and finally see that classic panoramic view of Baldy and the surrounding peaks. Less than half a mile to go. As you walk across the Baden-Powell backbone toward the summit, stay as far away from the left side as possible--it's hard to tell where the trail stops and the cornice starts.There was absolutely no wind that day, so this section wasn't nearly as scary as it could have been.

We were completely alone on the extremely comfortable sunny summit. I guess everyone was climbing the Ski Hut Trail to Baldy, which, compared to Baden-Powell is actually a fairly easy snow hike.

The best part of a snow hike is the descent, when you get to say "suck it" to all those annoying switchbacks, and glissade your way down the mountain. We were lucky enough to have some butt tracks to follow to keep our glissading experience relatively safe, and you definitely need to be carrying a pole or an ice axe to self-arrest when the glissading gets out of hand.

It's only January and we've already done more snow hiking than we did all of last winter. Let's hope the snow lasts a few more months.

Baldy and buddies from Baden-Powell


  1. Sounds like a real workout. Glad you got a chance to enjoy the summer-like weather!

  2. And yet, I think we're still below average on the rainfall gauge!