“The Bowl in the Snow”

Wes, Liz, and I had a blast climbing the Mount Baldy Bowl in the snow.

On Saturday, Wes, Liz, and I did the Mount Baldy Bowl in the snow. It was the first time I’d done it, and it was an absolute blast. A lot of the snow had melted from last week’s storm, but there was still enough to play in the bowl. I had hopes of climbing something a little more aggressive – a feature on the left side of the bowl affectionately called the “Death Shoot.” Unfortunately, wisdom prevailed and we did the easier direct route.

Mount Baldy Bowl Climb Quick Facts

  • No permit needed

  • No Adventure Pass required for parking

  • Crampons and ice axe required

  • Allow 6-8 hours

  • Strenuous

  • 3,900′ of elevation gain

  • 8.5 miles out and back

  • Trail tops out at 10,069′

The weather was absolutely beautiful. In fact, it got pretty warm by late morning and the snow started to get pretty sloshy. Once we made it to the top of the bowl, the view was incredible. From the summit ridge, we could see Catalina Island clearly and we could even see ships on the water. I’ve been to the summit of Mount Baldy many times and I have never seen it so clear.

From the summit ridge, we could see Catalina Island clearly and we could even see ships on the water.

Yes, Wilderness Therapy is a Thing

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get out. It’s been a really tough work month at my job, and I just couldn’t wait to get out in the snow. What surprised me was the next day. On Sunday I got up, still pretty tired from a climb, but it felt so good to be physically exhausted. It was like a detox of all the work stress that had seeped into my body over the past few weeks. The experience gave me a blinding flash of the obvious – physical exhaustion is the antidote to most of my work stress.

So often we get mentally tired from work stress and we think we need to rest. We think we need a “vacation.” More often than not, what we really need is to physically wear ourselves out – to work all the mental stress out with physical exhaustion. Wilderness adventure does this for me.

For me, wilderness is therapy. I can’t wait to get out there again. Next time I definitely want to try the “Death Shoot.” What could go wrong?

…it felt so good to be physically exhausted. It was like a detox of all the work stress that had seeped into my body over the past few weeks.

Some Thoughts About Snow Safety on Mount Baldy

Mount Baldy has seen more than its fair share of accidents, rescues, and fatalities. Most of these happen in the winter months. While I was on this climb with my kids, I talked at least two people out of doing things that could have hurt or killed them. If you want to hike Mount Baldy, especially in winter, here are a few thoughts about safety:

  • Know when to turn back and live to hike another day. Too many hikers push past their limits and find themselves lacking the water or physical energy to get back to the trailhead – or simply get lost. Use a little self-restraint. That mountain is not going anywhere. It will be there next week or next month.
  • Hike with a hiking club. I am a member of the San Jacinto Hiking Club. Going with people who are more experienced takes a lot of the risk and unknowns out of the mix.

If you want to die on a mountain, pick a bigger mountain and go out in a blaze of glory. We’ll talk about what a badass you were at your memorial. Don’t die on a training hill like Baldy.

  • Don’t go out on steep, snowy, icy slopes without crampons and an ice axe – and the knowledge to use them. REI provides classes on this. Standard snow spikes are fine for walking on a flat trail, but they will not stop you from sliding down an icy slope. Last year, Backpacker Magazine did a feature story about a guy who slid 900 feet down a slope on his way to Timber Peak and almost died. These kinds of mishaps happen every year.
  • If you hike alone, don’t hike in the snow without enough layers and sleeping gear to bivvy in the snow if you get lost. If you break an ankle or get lost in the snow without a sleep system, you will die. People I know have almost died this way. If you don’t have the gear, don’t hike in the snow.
  • NEVER hike the Devil’s Backbone Trail to Mount Baldy if there are icy conditions. Too many people have needlessly died on this portion of the trail during winter. If you want to die on a mountain, pick a bigger mountain and go out in a blaze of glory. We’ll talk about what a badass you were at your memorial. Don’t die on a training hill like Baldy.

Trail Map


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Elevation Profile

Mount Baldy Trailhead

Passing the town of Mount Baldy, you will make a left at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead and head a few miles up a steep winding road. The parking area is just past Manker Flats Campground. The road will split, with a parking area in the median. There is a restroom right next to the start of the trailhead.

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