TRAIL RUNNING, Mt. Baldy, Leaving the Summit

Mt. Baldy, Runner Leaving the Summit


Southern California has many fine mountains to hike, run, snow-shoe or ski, and 10,064 ft. Mt. Baldy is one of the most prominent. It can be seen from many vantage points around the Southland, and on a clear Winter's day its bright white slopes are a time-honored landmark.

I like to do Baldy "from the Village," ascending the South Ridge. This seven mile (one-way) route gains about 5500 ft. Once away from the homes at the start of the trail it has a great wilderness feel, and it is not uncommon to see Bighorn Sheep on the steep, rocky ridges. (This trail is not a good choice for a hot day. One of the tougher sections switchbacks up a east-southeast facing slope of dense chaparral that can be oven-like when heated by the morning sun.)

One time when I had run (and hiked) this trail, I hadn't been on top for long when another runner crested the summit. We started talking about mountains and running, and I discovered this humble individual was one of those remarkable people with an astonishing aerobic capacity. A few years before his resting pulse had been in the thirties, and if I recall correctly, his PB for the Southeast Ridge was 1:20. He was lamenting that now his resting pulse was a paltry 42 and he had done the ridge in a "slow" 1:40 or thereabouts. As we ran down to the Notch, I could only shake my head in wonder!

The Mt. Baldy Run to the Top has been a Labor Day tradition for Southern California trail-runners for more than 40 years. This is a difficult race to the summit of Baldy with a 4000 ft. elevation gain in less than 8 miles. Here are a few images from the 2007 race (Flash 8 required), a Google Earth image of a GPS trace of the route, and a Google KMZ file of the GPS track. The Foothill Flyers web site has reviews of many races, including a review of the Run to the Top. According to an article in the February / March 2002 Issue of TrailRunner Magazine "wild" Bill Lombardo has done the run barefoot!

If the Run to the Top is difficult, then there's another Baldy race that is difficult squared. That's the Baldy Peaks 50K. This race climbs to the summit of Mt. Baldy twice, once from the village and once from Manker Flats. And because "Baldy Peaks" sounds so much better than "Baldy Peak," after climbing Baldy twice, you get to amble over to Thunder Mountain as well. The total elevation gain (and loss) is reported to be 10,775 ft. Linda Hurd's Trail Running Pages has an excellent description, with photos, of her Baldy Peaks experience.

As of 2007, the Mt. Baldy Run to the Top is in its 42nd running, and the Baldy Peaks 50K is in hiatus. In 2004, I was thrilled to complete both of these races.

I take a lot of photos when trail running and have started a photo blog called Photography on the Run.


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