If there’s a bucket list for climbs you have to do in Los Angeles, Mount Baldy is the one that will make you kick it.
There is something magical about climbing this alpine anomaly while being cognizant of the enduring physical pain.
Mount Baldy also holds the special distinction of hosting some of the most decisive stages on the Tour of California, like when Robert Gesink made his winning move in 2012 or when Peter Sagan emptied the tank last year to finish 4th in the stage to keep him two seconds off the yellow jersey(which he won the next day).
What Mount Ventoux is to the Tour de France, Mount Baldy is to American cycling.
At any fitness level, climbing to the peak is strenuous. It’s 4.7 miles from Mt. Baldy Village to the base of the ski lifts with 2,162 feet of climbing.
Of course, getting to the start is difficult too as you have options starting from Glendora Mountain Road(another must do) or just taking Mt. Baldy Rd. all the way up.
I went out with my friend Sasha on a quiet weekday because it was one of those “wanna get away?” days. Here’s a little gallery of what you’ll see:
Mt. Baldy Lodge is the appropriate place to take a quiet rest before starting your climb.
Pro tip: there’s a water dispenser outside. Not that I keep forgetting and use the hose…
The village has a mini resort feel and you could spend a few days hiking and partaking if you choose.
The first 1.5 miles isn’t exactly a false flat, but it doesn’t look like you’re climbing at an average of 8%. You just feel it.
Tucked into that little hill above these two hikers are the infamous “switchbacks”. If you here anyone in Southern California use that word, they’re talking about Baldy.
As you veer away from Icehouse Canyon, a sign warns you that you’re three miles from the top. No big deal, right?
The switchbacks pose a dilemma. Take the shorter, steeper inside or lay extra tread to take the pitch down a bit.
Don’t forget to look back as the air starts to thin after you’ve hit the mile high point.
You get a few spots where the road straightens, but you always feel the pain as the switchbacks cover 1.8 miles at over 10% from the start of Icehouse Canyon.
After the pain of swerving up this mountain, you get a short downhill reprieve that falsely makes you think the worst is over.
As the road widens, the most painful section begins. Not only are you worn from the switchbacks, but now you have some straight up grinding for another mile that continues to pitch up as you climb.
You’ll get out of the saddle. You’ll put your head down. If you endure enough, the end is near.
The parking lot is the segment’s peak, but everyone always continues to the ski lifts.
Reach the top and you should take a much deserved picture.