White Baldy

White Baldy, on the ridge between the Red Pine and White Pine drainages of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch Range, is an infrequently visited 11,000′ mountain with no really easy routes: its east, west, and north ridges are all messes of bus-sized boulders. Bill and I decided that if we were ever going to climb this mountain, it would be via a snow climb of its broad north face. This face could be a fun scramble in summer, but getting to it would necessitate an hours-long session of boulder hopping in upper Red Pine. Better to just walk on top of it all.

On June 21 we hiked not-speedily to Red Pine Lake, one of the prettiest locations in the Wasatch. The snow was very firm and the small patch of open water on the lake had accumulated a skin of ice overnight. We had good walking to Red Pine’s highest bowl at around 10,200′ and from there the climbing began. The problem with this north face is that it doesn’t have any really pleasant couloirs; as the slope became steeper, there were always sharp rocks sticking out of the snow below us–not so fun to imagine falling into them. As the angle crept past 30 degrees we started running into patches of icy crust where my light mountaineering boots were failing to kick very good steps. With about 600′ to go we chickened out and turned around; putting on crampons (which we hadn’t brought) or waiting an hour for the snow to soften would have also been solutions, but neither of us was super invested in summiting.

We traversed over to the west ridge, stopping to do a bit of self-arrest practice along the way, including a few of the always-frightening backwards / headfirst falls. I hadn’t practiced stopping fast slides for a few years so this was good review. We had lunch looking into American Fork Canyon. It was a great day: sunny and warm in the lee of a boulder, but surprisingly cold in the wind–my hands started to get numb while I was taking pictures. On the way down the snow was getting sloppy but the partially broken-down snow bridge over the Red Pine stream held up fine. Overall, it was an excellent spring snow climb.

Here’s a 360° panorama with White Baldy in the middle.

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