Mt. Baldy

Gwen was free for a hike on Saturday. Fresh snow came down the previous week and we could find few trip reports to gleen where and how much. We chose a trip just east of the crest with a low elevation trailhead. We brought snowshoes and microspikes and had no idea if we would need them. Mt. Baldy it was. About two years earlier we hiked up that trail and turned left at the ridge top then on to Thomas Mountain. For Baldy you turn right and follow the ridge about a mile. On the earlier trip we did need snowshoes up high. Looking at the peak on the drive in it was clear here was snow but not clear how much. I chose to take snowshoes just in case. Early in the morning I checked temperatures from home. It was 20 degrees in Easton. When we started out at 9:20 am it was cold but it was up to near 30 degrees. As expected, we were the only car at the start.

Lots of leaves down along Silver Creek. The bridge was a little icy. The waterfall was loud and the creek full. As we started climbing  up to the old road crossing we found a big tree down across the trail. Until more branches are cut off it requires dripping below the trail then climbing under the tree to get back on trail. We have had some big recent wind storms and there are two big trees that need to but removed. There were a few small snow patches near the old road. We crossed the road and headed up the old clear cut. Some snow on the trail showed a couple of recent hikers footprints. This is not a busy trail. Two would be a crowd this time of year.

Some of the downed trees that had been across the trail for years have recently been cut out. Not popular trails do not get much maintenance. I was glad to see this one was cleaned up. I hope the two big trees recently downed will not take a long time to be removed. Many more switchbacks brought us to the second big tree. Way to big with too many limbs to get over or under it. We followed steps up the steep slope and around the top. We still had one smaller log to climb over then dropped back to the trail. It's a pain but we got around it okay. There was one more bunch of limbs to get through. We took them out on the way down. Now the going was clear all the rest of the way up.

We reached the ridge top at the junction with the Easton Ridge Trail. We went left on the Domerie Divide Trail. A little flat walking brought us to the viewpoint. Great views up Silver Creek and out to Kachess Lake and Amabilis Mountain. The lake is still very low, even with the recent storms. The lower trail is smooth and steep. From the ridge top to the upper ridge top it is very steep. The trail follows a narrowing ridge with only a few short switchbacks. There are lots of spots that go right up the fall line. In the summer there are small rocks in places and I have fallen a few times coming down. The snow was a little slick but no worse than when snow free. It as at or below freezing all day. With the steep ascent it was easy to stay warm.

Higher up we came back to the ridge top at a very open spot. Great views south to Mt. Rainier. We also had a hard frigid wind here.  Thankfully it was not like that most of the day. My ears nearly froze before I stopped to pull out a wool hat. One final steep section brought us to the ridge top. Just before entering the forest we stopped in bright sunshine. It actually felt warm with sun and no wind. The trees here were covered in hundreds of small icicles. More than I have ever seen on trees. The sun caused the icicles to sparkle. Our photos will not do the scene justice. Really very beautiful. Gaiters went on. and we had lunch. It was now just after 12:00 pm. We headed into the trees and saw that the folks who set the track turned left towards Thomas Mountain. We turned right on untracked snow.

Well, not entirely untracked. There were many animal tracks in the snow. The rabbit ones I recognized. There were some deer too. Some big ones were the paw prints of predators. There is a lot of animal activity on the ridge top. The route begins be dropping to a saddle. We followed the summer trail part of the way. The route never goes far from the ridge top. In many places it is right on the ridge. There are trees blocking views to the west in most places. Views to the east are often there. Mt. Stuart had a good coat of fresh snow. Mt. Hinman and Daniel peaked out in places. Lake Cle Elum is right below the ridge. It is well below normal level. I love ridge walks and this is a good one. There are a few spots that can be nasty when icy but we had 3-6 inches of snow and no problems. I never came close to using my snowshoes. We left the trail where it contours around the summit of Baldy and headed straight up to the top.

It is often very windy on Baldy but this day it was just a light breeze. I put on a jacket and was fine. We arrived at about 1:20 pm and spent about half an hour on top. It is called Baldy for a reason. There are very few trees on the 5107' summit. Thomas Mountain to the north is mostly forested. Just before 2:00 pm we headed down. There are a number of ups and downs along the ridge but more downs. Pretty easy walking. Once off the peak and on the ridge we met a group heading up. I did not expect to see anyone on this route and especially this late in the day. We came out a little before dark and they were still on the trail. Our time down was a full hour less than coming up. Gwen put on microspikes at the summit of Baldy and I donned them where we left the ridge top. They did help with traction though were not necessary.

We moved a number of branches off the trail coming up and that one big mess below the lower ridge. Other than the two big logs it's pretty easy travel now. We neared the creek at sunset, which was 4:24 pm. We were back at the car by 4:35. This was one of my favorite types of hikes. Fresh snow lit up all the peaks yet it was thin enough to not need snowshoes. Blue sky, snow, and sunshine made for a bright day. The ridge walk and open summit provided fantastic views. Other than passing one group we had total solitude all day long. A really great day to be in the mountains.

Mt. Baldy Trailhead
Small Waterfall
Wide And Short
First Snow
Thin Snow Cover
Icy Sign
Rainier Over Ridge
Lake Kachess
Logs Across Trail
Baldy Is In Sight
Climbing Higher
Gwen In Sunshine
Up The Ridge
More Icicles
Ridge Top Trail
Baldy From Ridge
Lake Cle Elum
Hiking Up Ridge
Gwen On Snow
Approaching Summit
View North
Mt. Stuart
Snowy Peaks
Mt. Hinman
Looking Northwest
Sunny Day
Sky & Icicles
Eating Icicles
Another Down Log
Leafy Trail
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015