It might be peculiar to equate Los Angeles with very cold temperatures, bitter 60 mph wind, ice and snow. Yet, in the Southern California winter, on a small number of days spread across a few months there is a kind of pilgrimage which occurs. Mountaineers from the region cobble together their crampons, ice axe, helmet and set out to climb the high point of the San Gabriel Mountains, Mount San Antonio, known locally as Mt. Baldy.
On the fringes of Los Angeles County, sixty miles from the relaxed sun drenched beaches of coastal life sits the centerpiece of the San Gabriel Mountains. At an elevation of 10,064 ft the summit befits its name, a barren, almost lunar like surface. The highlight of the climb is the Baldy Bowl, a steep slope topping out at a 40-45 degree angle. Its numerous chutes lead up to a dramatic ridge line. (see title card)
A nice day can quickly turn cold, bringing high wind, clouds, rain and snow. When clouds or snow set in the character of the mountain changes and what may have once looked familiar now becomes unfamiliar. Visibility reduces and visual references fade away. You have to keep your wits about you not to get lost in the clouds. There is a serenity in this minimal and monochromatic world, noticing the less obvious, scenery that is normally passed by.
Approaching the summit on this particular climb the Santa Ana winds picked up. The beauty of the surrounding landscape met by the bite of the wind.
The summit is shaped like a softball with no shelter. A couple is seen here close together to shield themselves from the strong winds. Not far off a pair of climbers make their way up the last of the slope.
Interesting shapes form on the summit, temporary sculptures chiseled by wind.
Time spent on the summit is limited because of the intensity of the wind and dark clouds forming on the horizon. The Santa Ana wind blows in from the Great Basin and the Mojave desert 10,000 feet below.
In years past we were able to climb a dozen times per season, more recently 1 or 2, if any at all. The rising temperatures and lack of rain has impacted the region and with global temperatures rising there are serious implications that will affect us all. More needs to be done to reduce our environmental impact on this world. On the descent a calming wind and the sky opens up, a majestic cloudscape comes to life.
What can you do about climate change? filmmaker + photographer patrickgwalsh.com los angeles instagram, patrickgwalsh