Mount Baldy XII – West Peak via west ridge – May 7, 2006

Mountain height:       2,192 m (7,190 ft)
Elevation gain:           824 m
Ascent time:              4:30
Descent time:            1:30

Scrambling and a little climbing with Mark.

I’m sure a few people might be thinking, “Mount Baldy again! What’s with these guys? Did they not get the idea, the first eleven times??” Actually there were several good reasons we set foot on the diminutive peak for the twelfth time:

1.  2 weeks earlier, I had lost a hiking pole on the west ridge of the West Peak, and wanted to at least say I went back to look for it;

2.  Mark was severely under-the-weather (most normal people (myself included) would have just stayed at home), so a short trip was in order;

3.  on both previous ascents of the west ridge of the West Peak, we had bypassed the “scary-looking” crux (once on the left side and once on the right) and ascending that crux had consequently become a minor obsession with me;

4.  a friend told me that ascending the drainage for the first part of the trip was in interesting alternate start;

5.  it’s simply a terrific mountain: 3 peaks with a tremendous variety of routes to the summit of each, alternates descents, varied scenery, etc.;

6.  you can get cellular phone reception from the summit - just kidding: you can use a cell-phone on the mountain (Kirk Linton was most rudely made aware of that fact when his rang just as he was ascending the trickiest section of rock on our ascent, 2 weeks earlier), but I don’t even own a cell-phone, and it certainly wouldn’t be legitimate criteria for picking a mountain.

The tip for ascending the drainage, as opposed to grass and scree slopes alongside it, was brilliant. The scenery was infinitely more varied, as the drainage was lined with interesting cliffbands and small caves and a stunning array of different kinds of rock. As well, the quality of the rock was surprisingly good, much of it full of small holes that made for fun scrambling with great holds. This route was more circuitous and time-consuming, however, it was a breath of fresh air, compared to the slog alternative.

Even though Mark was physically having a very rough go of it, due to illness, he insisted we carry on. Once we reached the start of the west ridge, we took a short break and out came the rope and a stink load of climbing gear. As I said, I was determined to ascend that crux-step and by any means possible – we were armed to the teeth!

We stayed on the ridge throughout, once again, enjoying some of the best slab scrambling around - great rock and great holds! I had forgotten about looking for the hiking pole as soon as the scrambling started, but to my surprise, stumbled upon it quite accidentally. Soon we arrived at the crux – a significant narrowing and steepening of the ridge, with fairly intense exposure on both sides. It still looked scary, even with an assortment of climbing protection at our disposal – I had even brought along pitons and a hammer (equipment that, in the past, we have been very reluctant to use).

The crux was every bit as hair-raising as I was expecting, though once again, the solid, grippy rock was a godsend. As well, I had chosen to wear my approach shoes and was immensely glad I did when I arrived at the crux of the crux. Here, a small but steep step barred the way. The hands-holds were smaller and the exposure on the left side was severe. The shoes gave me enough confidence to go for it and shortly after I arrived at a small, but comforting plateau. I was going to belay Mark up from a sling around a small tree, but given the seriousness of this section and the fact that Mark didn’t have grippy approach shoes, I opted to back up the sling with a piton (unfortunately, there was nowhere to place a cam). Up Mark came and then I started up another section. Thankfully, this one was shorter and less steep, though a couple of steps were nail-bitingly exposed.

At the top, the ridge mercifully widened and the remainder of the terrain appeared to be much easier. In retrospect, the crux would probably be classified as very difficult scrambling with exposure – certainly “a climber’s scramble” in the Kane rating scale. However, we were more than glad that we brought the rope out for the tricky section – no room for any mistakes there!

20 minutes lately, we strolled up to the summit (actually, I strolled – poor Mark dragged himself up in a state that appeared to be close to death!). Nevertheless, he too was very excited that we had ascended the crux and the summit was within reach. We used the southwest ridge for descent. As opposed to avoiding the more exposed parts of the ridge, as Kirk and I had done earlier, we stayed on the ridge throughout, bum-shuffling along the narrow section right before the cairned highpoint. The remainder of the descent was fast and easy. A great day out – full marks to Mark for completing the trip in a severely physically depleted state.       

Fun scrambling on good rock in the drainage

 

More of the same

 

Mark comes up a small step

 

A small cave in the drainage

 

We couldn't get up this step and had to circumvent it on the right

 

Getting the rope ready at the start of the west ridge

 

The start of the slab scrambling

 

More slabs

 

....and more

 

...and more

 

Approaching the crux

 

Looking up at the crux

 

As I said, "Armed to the teeth!"

 

Arriving at the first plateau; the crux was getting from the light coloured rock to the dark one I'm on

 

Mark ascends the crux

 

Mark on the upper section of the crux

 

Easier terrain leads to the summit ridge; summit at the right 

 

Mark at the summit

 

Descending the southwest ridge

 

Mark traverses a narrow section of the ridge; there is a straight drop-off to the right of Mark 

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