And Peak #1: Mt. Baden-Powell
After a few years of seeing social hiking groups on the trails and on my Instagram feed, I finally caved and signed up for the SoCal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge to kick off the summer. The Six Pack of Peaks Challenge was started by Jeff Hester when he was training for a through-hike of the 210-mile John Muir Wilderness Trail. The original series of six peaks were a selection of strenuous Southern California hikes that grew progressively harder on account of their elevation, and included Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Mt. Baldy, San Bernardino Peak, San Jacinto, and San Gorgornio. Since then, six more peaks have been added to the rotation, making it easier to complete the challenge in the event of trail closures- Mt. Baden-Powell, Ontario Peak, Sitton Peak, Sawmill Mountain, Strawberry Peak, and Santiago Peak. All of the peaks in the challenge are within about a two hour drive from the Los Angeles area. While the original Six Pack were meant to be done in order of increasing difficulty, they can be done in the order that is most convenient to you. And with that, I was excited to join the 8th annual SoCal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge and immediately hit the trail.
For my first peak in the challenge, I hiked up Mt. Baden-Powell starting at Vincent Gap and following both the Pacific Crest and Silver Moccasin Trails. This is a route I have hiked on a number of occasions both with Emily’s Venturing crew and with the boys’ Scout troop, and every time it offers up a great workout and amazing views from 9904 feet above sea level. The Saturday morning was perfect for a strenuous hike. There was fog on the drive up to the Angeles Crest, which cleared as we drove up to the parking area at Vincent Gap in the Angeles National Forest, yielding a bright blue late spring day. I was thankful for the morning chill; the hike itself was going to warm us up quickly. After waiting for a few members of our group, and enjoying some pleasant conversation with a PCT hiker and her dog, we hit the trail.
As always, the first three switchbacks and their immediate climb kicked my butt. After a fairly easy hike up Baden-Powell last year, I had forgotten how difficult the trail actually is. After that first half mile, though, I found my pace and went pretty comfortably up till just past mile 3. Or as comfortably as you can while climbing over 2800 feet. The pines gave plenty of shade at that point in the day, and the wildflowers were in bloom, along with the mycotrophic bright red snow plant, so there was much to take in on the trail.
At just past mile three, our group slowed down, and I lost my groove. Fortunately there were some patches of snow to play in just before the saddle, and the thought of lunch kept me going on the trail. Soon enough, we arrived at the Wally Waldon Tree, and from there it’s only about 0.2 miles to the Scouting monument at the peak.
Once there, we took photos and enjoyed some lunch and relaxation. The views were spectacular as the day was so clear with bright blue skies and a morning sun. The pines gave their shade and the rocks made pleasant sitting spots while looking to southeast over Mine Gulch. It was a great place to relax and enjoy a sandwich and a small bag of Cheetos that had expanded with the elevation gain.
After a good 40 minutes rest and more photos, we made our way back down from the peak. As what comes up must come down, and I have found that I am not quite as spry as I used to be, I was thankful for the trekking pole to provide some support especially on the rockier, steeper areas on the trail. We made it back down to the trailhead in about an hour-and-a-half, and as is our tradition, stopped at Wrightwood Market for cold, refreshing drinks. Never had peach Tazo green tea tasted so good.
Some things to consider:
I signed up for the original SoCal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. There are also challenges in San Diego, Northern California, Arizona, Las Vegas, Utah, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Central Oregon, and New England. All challenges offer up some amazing, strenuous hikes, and funds go to support Big City Mountaineers, an organization that provides outdoor programs for underserved youth. Registration for the SoCal challenge was $45 and comes with online resources such as the peak log and peak reports as well as some fun stuff, like the sticker pack.
The hikes in the SoCal Six Pack are no joke. For most of the peaks, the altitude alone can be an issue for those who aren’t used to higher elevations or those susceptible to altitude sickness. Give yourself time to acclimate to the elevation. When on the trail, be sure to hydrate regularly and know your limits. And remember that it is about the journey, as well as the destination.
Mt. Baden-Powell is considered a difficult hike. The trail is well-maintained, but is steep in parts. While the Jeffrey and lodgepole pines offer up some nice shade, there are many areas along the trail that are exposed. Sun protection is definitely a must.
An Adventure Pass is required to park at the parking lot at Vincent Gap. You may purchase one at REI or from the U.S. Forest Service, as well as other retailers.
I can’t wait to revisit some of my favorite peaks, as well as explore new ones as part of the Six Pack challenge. I’ll be sharing our adventures as we complete more of the challenge. Here’s to climbing every mountain and having fun on happy trails!
For more information and to join a challenge, check out:
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