We completed this hike last year in preparation for our treks in Peru. Without a doubt, it was the most difficult of the training circuit. At 20 miles round trip, 8200 feet of total gain, and 4 peaks above 8000 ft, it’s no wonder some refer to this as a “death march”. Last year, we attempted this point to point in counter clockwise fashion. This was a huge mistake, as we wasted the afternoon shade that would have been on offer in Icehouse Canyon, and traded it for the brutal heat of the Bear Canyon switchbacks. This year we played it a little smarter and got an early 5 AM start from Baldy village and up Bear Canyon to the summit of Mt. Baldy. Bear Canyon trail is six miles from the village to the summit of Baldy, and gains 1000 ft per mile to take you from ~4000 ft above sea level to the summit at 10064 ft.
The climb up Bear Canyon was interesting in regards to weather. Even though the sun was down, the air was warm and slightly moist, which led us to hike in shorts and short sleeves until we climbed out of the canyon. At this point, the cooler winds from the southwest started to whip over the trail and chill things down a bit, forcing us to put our windbreakers on (and they stayed on until the very end of the day). We made it to the summit of Mt. Baldy in a little over 3 hours, took a short break, and descended via Devil’s backbone.
Devil’s Backbone was pretty empty, with only two groups and two solo hikers making their way up. Three’ Tee’s (or T’s), was even less crowded. We only saw one person on the entire trial. Thunder came easy, Telegraph not so much, so we stopped at the summit to eat lunch and enjoy the bird’s nest views while letting our legs rest up a bit. It was a crystal clear day, and we could see San Gorgonio, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto in the distance. The final stretch took us to the summit of Timber Mountain, down Icehouse Canyon trail, and finally a two mile walk on Mt. Baldy road back to my car in the village.