First (Real) Snow of the Season! – Old Baldy and a Bit Beyond – Oct. 26, 2014

Although the rain had briefly turned to snow a couple weeks ago when I was hiking up on Snass, I don’t really count it as a the first snow of the season because it wasn’t really cold enough to stick.  This time, the snow was legit!

14.10  Old Baldy 012Anyways, let’s back up a bit.  Earlier in the week, a hiking buddy of mine sent me a text to see if I was up for a hike.  The weather forecast was poor, but we put a plan together to hike Old Baldy, a peak located a little east of Cultas Lake out in Chilliwack.  I contacted another friend, who in turn roped in one of his buddies.  In the end, the 4 of us met near the Vedder Bridge a little after noon on Sunday and headed up.

14.10  Old Baldy 001We didn’t know what the condition of the road would be, but it turned out to be quite good!  The area has been fairly well maintained as it’s an ATV mecca with a network of trails cut through the forest.  After about an hour of off-roading, we reached the trailhead.  There was a dusting of snow on the road just before the parking lot and snow was falling pretty heavily while we geared up for the hike.

14.10  Old Baldy 002I didn’t take many pics on the way up due to the falling snow and thick cloud cover.  We got turned around and lost the trail briefly at a bump along the way to Old Baldy called Windy Knob.  None of us had been here before, so the 6-8 inches of fresh snow on the ground and thick cloud cover was enough to confuse us and send us off in the wrong direction.  We had done a bit of research and had read that there was a point at which we would have to turn left to avoid taking the wrong trail (to Liumchen Lake).  We apparently jumped the gun a bit.

Oh well!  We couldn’t really tell at the time, but my GPS track revealed that we had summited Windy Knob.  After this short detour, we were back on track and heading toward Old Baldy.

14.10  Old Baldy 003The trail junction is fairly obvious, marked with some flagging and orange diamonds periodically on the trees.  We made it to Old Baldy in about an hour from the trailhead and were completely socked in.  We decided to continue along the ridge since we hadn’t been hiking long, so we dropped off the south side of Old Baldy and continued working our way along the ridge.

A trail had been cut many years ago, so some of the bigger branches/trees had been cleared, but it was still pretty bushy and required some fairly easy route-finding to stay on the ridge.  After about another hour and a quarter (including a snack break), we came out at a rocky bump about 2/5 of the way to Liumchen Mountain.

14.10  Old Baldy 004Here’s an example of the bush we had to push our way through at times.  All three of the other guys are in various states of immersion in the final section of trees just before reaching the bump where we ended up turning around.

14.10  Old Baldy 005We scrambled up onto a small summit area and enjoyed what sights we had.  The cloud cover had thinned and the snow had stopped falling, but we were still pretty socked in and the views were limited.

14.10  Old Baldy 006We milled about for a while, but there wasn’t much of a point in hanging out for long.

14.10  Old Baldy 008We turned around and started heading back.  If we had had an earlier start, we might have pushed on, but we wanted to get back to the trucks before dark, if possible.

14.10  Old Baldy 009 Just as the other guys left the peak, the clouds started to open up below us.  Looking down to the west, the cool rocks formations under the thin snow layer were pretty impressive and if the clouds hadn’t been there, we would have been able to see Liumchen Lake well below us.

14.10  Old Baldy 010The clouds opened up a little more and provided a bit more of a look at the ridge.

14.10  Old Baldy 011As we made our way back along the ridge, the clouds continued to envelop us; however, they began to thin again and the sun even popped out of the clouds as we re-ascended Old Baldy.  The sunlight on the fresh snow was gorgeous!

14.10  Old Baldy 012We didn’t get any views of the mountains to the west, but the sky was incredible!

14.10  Old Baldy 013When we turned around to the east, we saw blue sky!  We hung out on the top of Old Baldy for a while and conditions continued to improve.  On rare occasions in clouds with low-angle sunlight, I’ve been gifted with the sight of a cool circular rainbow around my shadow in the clouds. This incredible phenomenon is called a glory and it’s well named!

14.10  Old Baldy 014The perfect combination of cloud and sunlight shifted and the glory disappeared revealing Church Mountain.  It looked fairly easy to access from this ridge, but it would have to wait for another day.

14.10  Old Baldy 015To the south, we even were able to catch a brief glimpse of the top of Mt. Baker!

14.10  Old Baldy 016The sky to the west continued to impress!

14.10  Old Baldy 017We eventually decided to leave Old Baldy as we still had another 45 minutes or so of hiking.  The trail made for relatively quick travel after the overgrown ridge we had been navigating for the last couple hours.

We began to descend below the clouds and after cresting the last high point on the ridge at Windy Knob, we started to get occasional views of Chilliwack River Valley.

14.10  Old Baldy 018The setting sun lit up the valley with a bright golden hue that my iPhone was only able to poorly convey.

14.10  Old Baldy 019We weren’t able to see through the trees to the west, but the orange sky created an incredible light that contrasted sharply with the blue-white of the snow.

14.10  Old Baldy 020Looking back to the east, we were able to catch a brief glimpse of the green fields of the Fraser Valley.

14.10  Old Baldy 021I tried to capture the rays of sunlight punching through the trees, but only managed to hint at what was actually there.  The photos still look cool, but it was much better being there in person!

14.10  Old Baldy 02214.10  Old Baldy 023We returned to the parking area and meandered around, enjoying the crazy light for a while.  Eventually, though, we decided to call it a night and went back to the trucks to pack up and change out of our wet clothes.

14.10  Old Baldy 024When you set out in weather like this, you never know what you’re going to encounter.  A couple weeks ago, I got soaked and the trip was a bit of a let-down.  This time, however, we got fresh snow and a gorgeous light show!

I’ll definitely have to return at some point to do Church and Liumchen!

Distance: 9.7 kms   Elevation: 800 m    Time: 4 hours 10 minutes

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