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You are here: Home : Hiking Last Updated on 02/22/2003    
Diff: Rating 4/10
Scenic: Rating 7/10
Tech: Rating 2/10
Mount Harwood
         Snow Camping on the side of Mount Baldy
Location: San Gabriel Mountains, San Bernardino National Forest, Southern California
Region: Mount Baldy Region
Wilderness: Sheep Mountain Wilderness
Total Distance: 5 Mi
Elevation Gain: 1,900 Ft
Season: April-Nov
Type: Out & Back
Start Elev: 7,802 Ft
Peak Elev: 9,552 Ft
Total Time: 2 hr
Time In: 1 hr
Time Out: 1 hr

Peak List Peak List
Peak Name Elevation
Mount Harwood 9,552 Ft

Hike added by
on 02/22/2003
Driving Directions
From Hesperia, CA, take I-15 south, pass the I-215 fork and continue on I-15 to Sierra Ave. Exit at Sierra and make a right onto Lytle Creek Road. Continue on Lytle Creek Road beyond where it turns into a dirt road. The name of the road eventually changes to Baldy Road. The area near Stockton Flat campground burned during the 2002 fire season and it's a damn shame because this was a very beautiful area. Continue passed the campground and park somewhere near the locked gate as the road starts going up the side of the mountain. Note, when we were in this area this gate was open, which I have never seen before. Apparently someone torched it open. Because it was open, we were able to drive all the way up to Baldy Notch, which we had not planned on being able to do. Driving up the road was difficult in places with a pretty low-clearance Toyota pickup truck. The first obstacle was a rocky landslide. I spend a while smoothing this over so we could drive over it. The next thing was a large fallen tree over the road. There was enough room to drive under the tree. A higher clearance vehicle would not have been able to make it under the tree. Along the way, I kept getting out to move rocks out of the road. Near the final stretch, just before Baldy Notch, the road was snowy and icy and this made things slippery. We wouldn't have been able to go on if we didn't have tire chains. We parked in a wide turnout just below the notch. It was a weird feeling being able to drive up this road and park at this location. We maybe saw 10 other cars on this normally closed section of road while we were out there.
Starting just below Baldy Notch, our hike in was short, which was nice because it was getting late and we were carrying full packs. The first section of trail is a ski run at Mount Baldy Ski Resort. At the top of the ski run, the trail becomes more narrow and had more snow and ice on it. If you start from from the gate at the base of Baldy Road, just beyond Stockton Flat Campground, add about 4.5 miles each way onto the hiking distance. If you start at Manker Flat and take hike the ski run up to Baldy Notch, add about 1 mile each way. If you start at Manker Flat and take the road up to Baldy Notch, add about 2 miles each way.
We went out here on this day for the purpose of building a snow cave on the top of Mount Harwood. From the desert, it looked like there was quite a bit of snow on Mount Harwood and we had just gotton about 4 inches of rain with an ~8500 ft snow level a few days before. So we were expecting a lot of snow. When we got up there, the only place with snow deep enough was along the northern ridge of Mount Harwood. The snow was deep here because winds blowing up the northern side of Mount Harwood had piled it up. Still, it was only about 3 feet deep. Not seeing the snow we had planned on, I didn't really feel like spending the night up there because this ridge where the snow was happend to be a very un-inviting place to be with cold 40 mph winds coming up the slope and carrying snow and ice with it. Nonetheless, we started digging in the snow on the exposed ridge. We were going to take turns diggin so we could both keep active and stay warm, but Jerry wouldn't give up his spot at digging, an I'm like screw this, so I started digging my own hole, not for digging, but just for doing something to stay warm. Turns out the spot I picked had about a foot and a half more snow that the spot Jerry picked. Eventually, Jerry had dug to the point where he was inside the cave and needed me to shovel snow out of the cave as he dug out the cave more. This was a pretty sedentary position, standing with everything above my knees exposed out of the hole and getting blasted by wind and ice. Scooping the snow out of the hole was not a difficult task and I was doing it for maybe an hour and a half. But slowly I began to feel weaker and weaker to the point where I could barely manage a few scoops without resting for a few minutes. I started getting anxious to get inside the snow cave so I could lay down and go to sleep. Feeling completely exhausted, I just layed down on the snow for about a half hour and didn't start to feel any better. We finally put the tarp down inside the cave which was about the side of a large 2 man tent with about 2-2.5 feet of head room. I layed on that for probably another 20 minutes, then I finally got my sleeping pad in there which made things feel amazingly warm. At this point I tried to change my socks because my feet were cold. I took off my boots and my socks were frozen and my boots had ice in them, so my feet didn't feel that great; to this point though, I hadn't really felt cold at all. I changed my socks, putting on 3 fresh pairs and this took me about a half hour because it seemed so difficult to do anything, then I just laid on my sleeping pad for a while longer. Then I started not being able to breathe to well because every movement seemed like a tremendous effort. Because I couldn't breate well, I sat up near the door, then my arms just started shaking violently. At that point all I wanted to do was get out of there. But packing up and getting my boots back on seemed like an impossible task. I moved slowly but kept doing one thing after another and finally I was ready to get the hell out of there. I threw on my backpack and started walking off the peak. At that point I realized I couldn't feel my legs from the knee down. My fingers were frozen stiff. It was very hard to walk at first, but I just took it real slow. Thank god it was downhill almost all the way out of there. Immediately after I got off the rocks at the top of Mount Harwood I started feeling better with more energy. My legs warmed up after about a mile and my feet were warm after about 2 miles. After 2 miles of hiking with headlamps in the dark, I felt completely back to normal.

What I had was hypothermia which began to set in a few hours earlier shortly after we reached the peak. The problem was I didn't know the signs of hypothermia and didn't realize something was wrong until I started shaking. I thought the exhaustion was just from trying to dig at altitude, which seemed strange at the time because we weren't that high, and from not getting much sleep in the days before. I though I might have also been a little dehydrated, but hypothermia never occurred to me because I didn't know the signs and because I never really felt cold during the whole ordeal until I started shaking. My feet and hands were cold but other than that, I didn't really feel cold at all. The shaking came on suddnely, right after I sat up after laying down for a while. It was very hard to pack things up and get out of that cave in the condition I was in when all I felt like doing was going to sleep. The warning signs that I should have paid attention to were the feeling of needing to be doing something (digging) to keep warm and the increasing exhaustion that I began to feel. The level of exhaustion was beyond another other exhaustion I've ever felt and my gut feeling was that I knew that I couldn't be this exhausted from doing the stuff that I had been doing, hiking 2.5 miles and digging in snow does not cause this kind of exhaustion. The only thing that I can remember that comes close to this feeling is on a 40 some mile bike ride I took in the desert in the middle of summer a few years ago where I completely bonked, out of food, dehydrated and low on sodium. Damn that sucked.
Trail Condition
The trail was icy in parts above the ski lift along Devil's Backbone. Nothing bad, but if it was more icy it could have been kind of dangerous out there without crampons.
Additional Elevation & Distance Information
The top of the ski lift is at about 8570 feet.
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