Sometimes things just don't work out. It started
innocently enough. I called Len to let him know that we had a
major posse set to hit the Baldy Hut over the weekend, lots of
turns on great corn, good food and drink, an all around majorly
good time. I gave him directions to the Manker Flat parking/meeting
area and let him know that we were leaving the trailhead at 8:00
AM. Before hanging up he asked me "is there anything else
I need to know?" (he had never been to the hut) a little
confused by the question, I said "no, it is a straight forward
hike, hope you can make it!" He was a little soft on committing,
I thought, but I figured he would rally and make it.
The next morning was like a mini convention
of So Cal telemark skiers: everyone was meeting in the parking
lot, many for the first time. The only thing missing was the
little name tags. Food and beer was being distributed, semi-equitably,
among the more than a dozen tele-ers. After making several rounds,
Gil, desperate, turned to my son (10 at the time) with the last
6 pack and said "Neil, got any room in that pack?"
Finally, about 8:30, we left the trailhead
and began the long, uphill hike to Baldy Hut. Len and his group
had not shown. Disappointed, I figured things had just not worked
out. It was too bad, they were going to miss a beautiful, classic
even, Southern California back country trip.
After reaching the hut, we rested, had lunch
and spent the afternoon hiking for turns in the broad expanse
of Baldy Bowl. Sunset brought great views, all the way out to
the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island was visible with the sun setting
slowly behind. A great community dinner with more than twenty
skiers (counting the late arrivals) at a big table, talking gear,
of course, and swapping stories. Little did we know or suspect
the drama that was unfolding below.
Len and the boys had indeed rallied and were
leaving the trailhead just before sunset. As you can see in one
of the pictures in the Baldy Bowl trip
report , the trail above the parking lot where it leaves
the dirt road is very indistinct. It turns out, the boys, in
the half light of sunset, walked right by the trail and continued
up the road.
This was a major error, leading them on up
to the Mt. Baldy ski area and eventually (after midnight) to
the summit ridge, almost three thousand vertical feet above the
hut, located in the trees at the bottom of the bowl. From the
summit ridge they dropped into the bowl and down climbed a talus
finger towards the hut, arriving in the general area well after
2:00 AM when the last of the lights in the hut had been extinguished,
the gear talk having finally died down, and everyone having gone
With the lights out, the hut was invisible
in the trees. This intrepid group, still out on the rocks, gave
up and began a bivy out in the bowl. With the wind blowing just
short of howling, the boys tried to make themselves comfortable.
The snowboarder, in this group of three, actually slept on his
board (or tried to), Len and Steve just curled up among the boulders
As the sun finally rose the boys were able
to make the hut at last. I awoke upstairs a few minutes before
to the sound of more gear talk at the table (I kid you not) and
then heard somebody say " Hey, it's Len!!" as the boys
stumbled through the door at about 6:00 AM.
A hearty breakfast was then hustled up but
it was of no use to the boys, they were too wiped from an epic
night of hiking and a no-sleep bivy to even think about climbing
for turns. They spent the day among the rocks, napping in the
sun, watching others make turns and trying to recover from their
In the afternoon, we all hiked down the 4
miles back to the cars, it was, for the boys, truly Baldy Hut
the Hard Way!
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