Mount Baldy XI – West Peak via the west ridge – April 20, 2006

Mountain height:       2,192 m (7,190 ft)
Elevation gain:           824 m
Ascent time:              3:10
Descent time:            2:05

Scrambling with Kirk Linton.

*Note to self: the difficult and exposed west ridge of Mount Baldy’s West Peak is not a good candidate for someone’s first scramble – or is it?? A year after completing this route with Mark, I returned with a work colleague of mine – Music Teacher Extraordinaire: Kirk Linton. Kirk had never attempted a scramble and when I invited him to go on a “hike” he gladly accepted. Considering the seriousness of the route, perhaps “hike” was a poor choice of words!

It took us an hour to reach the start of the actual scrambling, where the real fun starts. Almost immediately we encountered a problem – snow. We wanted to bypass the first slab on the left side, but the steep terrain was snow-covered, making footholds very precarious. We took it slowly and managed to scramble up to safer terrain, but this was far more than we had bargained for and we were only 5 minutes into the scrambling portion of the ascent. Thankfully, we were able to stay on the ridge for the next few sections, enjoying fun scrambling on steep slabs.

As we ascended the steep terrain, I started to think that this was probably not a good introduction to scrambling and wondered what I was thinking when I chose this route. Kirk, however, was doing great and had few problems dealing with the steep and exposed nature of the route. However, this was definitely not the “hike” that Kirk had envisioned.

We continued on, but again, both got more than we bargained for when we reached the crux. A year ago, Mark and I had bypassed this crux section on the left side. We had been concerned that there was a drop-off at the top of the step that would stop our progress.  Still, the route we had subsequently taken had been very steep (but not as exposed) and required a rope and some protection. I thought that a year later the crux would look easier and I would be more confident to try it, knowing that there was no drop-off. I was wrong – it looked every bit as “scary”. Kirk had a similar reaction – actually, as expected, he was quite taken aback when confronted with the exposed and difficult step. Nevertheless, I thought it worth a try and we roped up. I ascended the first section of the step, but after a few feeble attempts reconsidered the wisdom of this action. I was a little nervous about doing it, the rope wasn’t long enough to get me all the way to the top of the step, and belying Kirk from an exposed ledge seemed foolish at best. My own nervousness at ascending the step probably did nothing to inspire confidence in Kirk and retreating was a good decision for both of us.

Thankfully, there was an easy route around the crux and after Kirk led a short, but steep downclimb to scree slopes on the right side of the ridge, we both continued up a lower-angled slab to regain the ridge. The slab steepened near the top and just as Kirk was about to ascend the steep part his cell phone rang - the theme to “Sex and the City” I believe – it was quite amusing given where we were at the time.               

The rest of the ascent was easy and 10 minutes later we were enjoying beautifully clear skies and warm weather at the summit. Kirk got to sign his first register – The West Ridge of West Baldy – no small feat for a first scramble. Well done Kirk!

For descent, we chose the southwest ridge – a considerably easier descent route, though is does have a few exposed moments if you choose to stay on the ridge. We did for the first part, but decided to traverse below the ridge for the latter half, enjoying more stunning slab scenery. Once back to the ridge, the remainder of the descent was enjoyable and easy “hiking” – see Kirk – I told you we were going on a “hike”!      

Kirk on the lower, with Nakiska, Mount Kidd, and Mount Bogart behind 

 

At he top of the first section of scrambling

 

Typical slab scenery of the west ridge

 

Kirk ascends slabby terrain

 

Same as above

 

More fun slabs

 

 

Kirk ascends one of more "enjoyable" slabs

 

Kirk before one of the "not so enjoyable slabs" - the crux; he wasn't smiling as much before and after the picture was taken

 

The alternate route we took to avoid the crux

 

Onto easier terrain, with the summit only a few minutes away

 

Kirk checks his make-up at the summit - or is that his cell phone??

 

Kirk descends more interesting terrain on the south ridge

 

Same as above, with the true summit behind

 

A very cool slab on the south ridge

 

The same slab from a different angle

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