Night Hiking Mount Baldy: A Stupid, Awesome Idea

A great idea popped into my head. “Let’s hike Mount Baldy at night under the light of the full moon! We probably don’t even need headlamps.” I texted the idea to the group. Texts came back. Ping. Ping. Ping. Wes and Liz signed up. Courtney was down for a stupid idea. Even Bec reluctantly agreed. It seemed like a pretty cool idea.

After a big meal at Chilis in Upland, we headed to the trailhead and arrived just as the sun was setting. We were a little short on gear, so I stuffed a huge camping sleeping bag into my pack. I also strapped an even bigger camping pad to my pack that stuck out almost a foot on each side. It looked absolutely ridiculous. Thank God it was dark. I would have been the laughingstock of the hiking community if anyone had seen this.

Thank God it was dark. I would have been the laughingstock of the hiking community if anyone had seen this.

At 7:00 pm We Started Toward the Mount Badly Summit

At 7pm, last light was waning and we started up the trail. We moved slower up the mountain than I had expected, and three miles in, just past the ski lifts, some of the team started feeling the fatigue. The darkness seemed to cast a spell of lethargy over all of us.

Devil's Backbone Trail
Taking a break to enjoy the view
Devil's Backbone Trail
Heading toward the Devil’s Backbone under the moonlight

The “Devil’s Backbone” part of the trail is a little sketchy in the daylight. At night, it’s downright freaky. That full moon that was supposed to light our path was on the other side of the mountain, which made things more freaky. There is a particular part of this backbone trail segment that has a wall on one side and high exposure on the other. “Exposure” is climbing lingo for a big cliff. This made the huge camping pad that was sticking out a foot on each side of my pack a real danger. If I bumped it against the wall, it would throw me off balance and off the cliff. Game over. Bec was shining a headlamp in my face from the other side of the crux trying to be helpful. All it did was blind me. It was a puckering experience. I took a deep breath of relief once I reached solid ground again.

If I bumped it against the wall, it would throw me off balance and off the cliff. Game over. It was a puckering experience. I took a deep breath of relief once I reached solid ground again.

1:30AM

We made our way up the final summit push and Bec almost didn’t make it. She was absolutely exhausted and psychologically drained by the darkness we were hiking in. If she could have turned around, she would have. But in the pitch black, getting to the summit seemed to be the only reasonable option.

Mount Baldy
Making camp for the night

At the Mount Baldy summit, there was no release. No breathtaking views. We just threw down our pads and bags and slept cowboy style. Nobody had a chance to cool down. We just climbed in our bags exhausted and clammy. Then the wind picked up. Nobody slept. It seemed like the longest night ever.

6:00AM

We were all relieved when the sun came up – ending the night that seemed to go on forever. It took about an hour for all of us to slowly come out of the insomnia hangover we were all experiencing. Fortunately, the weather was a balmy 65 degrees, so getting off the mountain was not too hard. The hike down was a slog, but otherwise uneventful. I ended up going to bed early that night to sleep off the whole thing.

Mount Baldy Summit
Thank God that night is over!
Mount Baldy Summit
Arise and shine!

In hindsight, hiking Mount Baldy at night was a stupid, awesome idea that I’m glad we did. Most of it was pure suffering, but I still look back at the time fondly. I don’t know why, except that it’s not an adventure without the possibility that everything will go wrong – or that we’ll even die in the process.

It’s not an adventure without the possibility that everything will go wrong – or that we’ll even die in the process.

When we push ourselves, take risks, and problem-solve in the face of a difficult task, it bonds us together. It feels fulfilling and meaningful. This is one of the great mysteries of being human and something I doubt I’ll ever understand.

I’m ready for another adventure. Let’s come up with another stupid, awesome idea.

Elevation Profile

Mount Baldy Elevation Profile

Trail Map

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