I was determined to bag a peak this weekend after three weekends of nothing. The problem was that there was a ton of snow in the hills so I knew that I would be climbing something that I'd done before. No problem though - at least it would serve to keep me in shape. My initial goal was Yamnuska but as I drove closer to the mountains I noticed that there was even more snow than I had expected. Yamnuska has a north-facing back slope so I figured that Mount Baldy's southwest facing slopes might be a bit better and headed down highway 40.
There was two cars already at the parking lot when I got there so I immediately proceeded up the slopes. It's been about 3 years since I last did Baldy and then we went up the 'wrong' gully so it was a pleasant surprise how quickly the elevation went by. As I got higher I passed the first group and followed a trail up the hill. At the ridge the trail went right, around it but I knew that the ridge would probably be a nicer scramble so I headed straight up. The group behind me followed but I think when they reached the crux they turned back. The crux on the ridge is a down climb - only about 10 or 15 feet - that descends to a narrow ledge. It looks a lot worse than it is because when you're going down it you can see right down the 200 foot cliff at the bottom and a fall would be seriously uncool at this point.
[A nice view of Barrier Lake opens up as I ascend.]
[The red box is a group of people who followed my up the ridge - the next shot is zoomed in.]
[That\s what a 380mm lens gives you! (Look back at the previous picture to see how far away I was).]
After the ridge I came on the set of tracks again and continued up the gendarme near the final ascent slopes. I caught a flash of blue and yellow and figured I was catching up with the group in front of me. After going around the gendarme (I think that trail is so cool) I caught sight of four people ahead of me, starting up the final 1000 feet.
Because I didn't have to break trail through the knee deep snow (wet and heavy) I quickly caught up to the group and spent some time talking with a guy from Calgary named Shariff who was actually on his own and just taking advantage of the broken trail, like I was! Once at the final summit ridge I figured I had taken advantage of the three in front of me long enough and carefully broke trail past cornices to the summit.
[There are four people far in front of me.]
[What the summit ridge looked like. This was taken on the way down, on the way up we had to be careful not to break through the cornices.]
[A shot showing the other two summits of Baldy - not accessible today.]
The three ahead of me were from Edmonton, JP, Eva and Monica and we shook hands and chatted for a while at the summit while everyone took pictures of the group and the view and ate some lunch. It was a gorgeous day and I spent most of it in a t-shirt. Shariff headed down first and we watched him pick his way down the summit. About 10 minutes later the other three headed down and I waited for them to get to a spot on the ridge so I could continue to try out my cool new digital camera (Olympos c770).
[McConnell Ridge and the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout is across Barrier Lake.]
[Group summit shot.]
[Eva, Monica and JP hiking down the summit ridge.]
[Loving this zoom lens!]
After taking some pictures I raced down and caught up with the group. Of course they were really nice (I mean they were scrambling so that was assumed) but the amazing thing was that this was Eva's first scramble. She had been promised a 'hike' but with the snow and slippery conditions she got a scramble instead. She seemed to relish the challenge and I think she'll be back for many more! When we got to the ridge I convinced the other three to try going up and over the rocky ridge instead of down the slippery muddy trail that was in terrible condition from all the other people heading up (we met about 20 people going up, on our way down). Everyone did really good on the ridge and when we got to the crux we all scampered up it like pros! Eva cut her hand on a sharp rock but we quickly convinced her that now she was officially 'hard-core' because she bled on a mountain.
[Eva, Monica and JP negotiating their way around the gendarme. You can go right over it but today the way around seemed like a better choice.]
[The crux. You have to go right up the skyline ridge but what you can\'t see on this photo is the 200 foot drop off right under it. Just don't look down and you're fine!]
[Coming down the ridge. It was a little slippery in parts but everyone made it.]
[A nice shot of the third peak from a viewpoint on the way down the trail.]
[Signs of Spring despite the snow on the summit.]
After a pleasant hour of hiking and chatting we got back to the vehicles and I headed home.