Up and Away!

After running from Zombies a couple of weekends ago, the boyfriend and I were still hungry for more adventure, so this past weekend we decided to wake up early and climb a mountain.

You have no idea how much fun that is to say.
So we loaded up out camelbacks, laced up our boots, and drove to Mt. Baldy, which is just north of Upland, CA, or about an hour and a half away from us in Huntington Beach. The boyfriend had done the hike before, but this was my first time attempting it.
So we drove through the charming Mount Baldy Village and parked at Manker Flats, near where the ski lift begins. Some people take the lift up to the Baldy Lodge and begin hiking from there, but they’re cheating. It does take about 1200 feet of elevation off of your hike, thus saving a lot of time, but still. Some hardcore hikers climb straight up just below the lift, but I’m too much of a sissy to do that (it’s incredibly steep and technical). We went up the long way, taking the service road up the east face of the mountain to the Baldy lodge, and then hiked up using the Devil’s Backbone trail.
For much of the hike, I’d say the trail is about moderate to sometimes strenuous. Then you get higher and you see why the trail is called Devil’s Backbone: you walk along the ridge between two peaks, as though you are crossing over a gigantic spine, with some dizzying drops to either side of you.
Once crossing a couple of ridges like this one, you walk along the inside rim of the Baldy Bowl, where the mountain curves in and the trail narrows considerably, leaving you with very little space between the mountain and a shear drop to your left. You may remember that I hate heights and so there were some sweaty palms on this girl.
Once you survive these tests of courage, you find the trail becomes easier and you see the last climb up to the summit. It is a barren, windswept hill with gentle switchbacks, and as you look at it from the bottom you think, Sweet, just climb this hill and I’m at the top!  But it’s not just a hill; it’s closer to a mile. And it’s steeper than it looked. And you’re now at close to 10k feet, where the air is thinner. Those switchbacks are not gentle. The climb is far more gravely than you thought. That last mile really puts hikers to the test, and many stop at the base of it, forsaking the summit.
Not us, though. We pushed on, stopping every 10 yards or so to catch our breaths, until those last steps landed upon the hard rock at the summit. And holy hell, it was hard. But.
There are few things as exhilarating as stepping foot on the summit of a mountain, ripping off your backpack, throwing out your arms as you take in the views all around you and say to yourself  I HAVE CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN!
After eating sandwiches and taking pictures, we strapped on our packs and made our way down the mountain. That last mile that kicked our butts coming up was no more forgiving going down. The steepness paired with the loose gravel meant having to tread very slowly and gingerly. I’ve heard of people going up without proper shoes, and I can’t imagine how they didn’t slip on some gravel and plunge to their deaths. Hell, I felt ill-equipped by not having poles.
The rest of the way down felt like a breeze until my toes first insisted, then begged, then screamed to not go down any more steep hills. By the time I got home I had a couple of bloody toes and had to wear flip flops for the next two days.
All in all, the round trip of 13.6 miles and just under 4000 ft of elevation took us about 7 1/2 to 8 hours, including frequent breaks and resting at the summit. It was a serious leg burning work out, and I could barely get out of bed the next morning, but it was so worth it.
Next up is the Mt. Wilson trail, which has the telescope and museum (squee!) at the summit, and then we’re coming back to Baldy to take on an even more difficult trail to the top.

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