Baldy April 17After reading Sean's TR and notes about Sam I did my own tribute walk on Monday. Bonus was I got to use the Microspikes for the first time - I think they give a false sense of security since I still slipped quite a bit in the slushy snow in the tree section going up the bowl. Perhaps that isn't the right terrain for them.
I got the usual late start but still got a nice parking spot at Manker Flats. There were some clouds moving around the top of the bowl but I figured they would burn off in the afternoon sunshine. On the way to the hut a few people crossed paths with me on their way down, no one had gone to the summit yet this morning. I took a break at the hut and chatted with another hiker, he was unsure of conditions ahead so I told him about this great forum and mentioned the photos from a couple of days earlier. I met up with him again in the rock garden as he had turned around, not wanting to descend through the snow later in the day. Since I had the Microspikes I forged ahead, slowly making my way up to the ridge. It was difficult to find the right path, I expected a deeper boot track in this section but it seems like a lot of different options have been used.
Just below the top ridge of the bowl I met another guy who had been at the summit, he did not like the looks of the snow going down the Backbone trail. Since that was my planned route I figured I would at least look once I got to the summit. The last part of the trail is actually easier now, none of the scree-filled switchbacks needed since snow is covering everything. Near the summit I was happy to get off the white stuff and contoured around to stay on the dirt for my final approach.
I spent a while on the top, having a snack and recharging my phone to get the Alltrails track completed. No log book on top, although as I mentioned in another post there were some flowers and photos left for Sam. It was a very cool breeze, although sitting in one of the rock shelters was comfortable enough with the occasional sunshine. It was cool to see the clouds and fog moving up the bowl, over the Harwood saddle and back down the other side. Just as I was leaving a backpacker arrived, intending to spend the night at the summit. I went down the Backbone trail, although snowy at the top I was able to stay on the dry side except for about 40 yards of uneventful traverse. That section is wide and not steep so I thought it quite safe. While going down I figured I would take a look at the backbone and if it looked sketchy I could backtrack to Register Ridge for the rest of my loop. However, once I got past the RR cutoff the trail was clear so I just kept going down. I asked a couple people about conditions below, everyone said spikes weren't required. I felt a little better when I saw a person hiking up in Crocs, although I know that another person's bad decision doesn't make it OK. Then only snow I saw came after the backbone section, a bit through the trees there had drifts a few feet high.
In summary, it was another great day to be out. Photos below....
Still quite a bit of snow over on the Ontario ridge and probably Icehouse Canyon.
I put on the Microspikes at this point. I saw two people and a dog coming down through it without traction.
Dueling signs above the old plane wreck.
This sign is on the little plateau at the top of the bowl, in summer I like to walk out to the rocks and look down.
Almost to the summit, no switchbacks today. Good thing was no postholing either.
Reaching the summit. It was cool in the breeze, I brought my down jacket but didn't need it behind the rock shelter.
Looking over at West Baldy.
Another new sign at the top.
Part of the backbone trail. This part is in pretty bad shape, it will be dangerous with inexperienced and impatient hikers during the peak season.
Backbone was clear of snow and ice.
The road near the top chair lift. Couple hundred yards of snow traverse.