Mt. Baldy via Bear Flats Trail

June 15, 2012 in Hiking, Home Page, Mt. Baldy, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Once again, I find myself standing at the Bear Flats trailhead before dawn. Although it has only been a month since my last Bear Flats run, I can already tell this trip is going to be different from the last.

Fore one thing, its not going to rain all day and we aren’t going to be lashed by 50 mph gales. Today, you might say we’ve won the weather lottery; it’s clear and cool… perfect hiking weather. With conditions like these, it’s hard not to push myself to improve my ‘summit and back’ personal best. Another difference this time is a pretty big group! Three times larger than last time. The more the merrier usually – and this time too. But it also means a longer caterpillar on the trail. To avoid breaking the caterpillar in two by puling too far ahead, I decided to bang out sections of the trail, then stop and regroup. Given the relaxed and jubilant demeanor of my trail mates, I know they won’t mind keeping their own pace or my temporary absences if I disappear around a corner up ahead.

The sun came up as we passed through bear flats, and some of us stopped on the switchbacks to take a few photos. In the summer months, the switchbacks can be brutally hot if you ascend in direct sunlight. For summer ascents, I typically try to start early enough as to make the ridge before sun up. Given the steep grade and loose marble sized detritus that makes up the foot path, there is no need to make this section more dreary.



Even though it was still fairly early, the shade provided by what few trees there are on the switchbacks was welcome. Upon making the ridge, we relaxed a it, ate and waited for our more leisurely companions.



Here’s an arty shot though a key hold left in a burnt stump. pretty nifty huh?



Onward and upward. Technically, it’s winter and so we were pleased to encounter a little snow here and there. I’m glad I didn’t bring my crampons or wear my heavier mountaineering boots.



Our next stop was at a rocky outcropping along the ridgeline traverse. The sun had warmed the rocks surface which, when combined with the breeze and the view, made for an ideal spot to stretch out.



A short distance further and the views really open up. This particular spot is one of my favorite overlooks along the ridge. Great photo opportunity. If you need a new Facebook profile photo, this spot seems to please. Down below the ridge is a small mining operation of some sort. Frankly, its not that interesting to look at but the tiny little yellow dot of a bulldozer stands in stark contrast with the gray and barren canyon. It simply draws the eye.


Here is an awesome shot!. Although I have mixed feelings about this word, I think its far to say it’s “epic”.

As the day wore on, the caterpillar started to more closely resemble … a much thinner and longer caterpillar, I guess. What’s thinner and longer than a caterpillar? A worm? Nah, a worm at this altitude would be dried up and shriveled. ew. Anyways – the group up front continued to pull away.


Excited by the thinner air in my lungs, I plugged in my mp3 player and blasted out ahead. Some people object to the use of mp3 players on the trial. Personally, I find that it can instantly re-energise, motivate and simultaneously provide focus and distraction and break the monotony of the trail. Sure, I certainly enjoy the sounds of nature, but the sound of the wind, the scrape of my boots and the sound of my own panting breath can get old too. That being said, I can understand why someone else’s mp3 player might be annoying (especially if you can OVER hear it) or if you are traveling in close proximity and want to talk to a person who has to constantly pull an ear bud out to mutter, “huh? I can’t hear you with my music on. What did you say?”

“I said ‘Look out! Don’t step on that angry looking snake!! I’m pretty sure it’s poisonous!” :P

Before too long I was nearing the summit. I’d better hold up, I though, to summit with some of the others. Its always more fun to summit with others, especially when its their first time up the Bear Flats trail. Besides, its not a race (despite my urge to push my output). A short nap later and the team was marching by.


Again, I have to reflect how drastically the conditions can vary on Mt. Baldy. The summit on this occasion was perhaps just as pleasant as any time I can remember. Low 70s maybe, barely a breeze. Contrast that with a trip just about a year earlier (1 year and 20 days to be exact) when it was windy and frozen with snow. And even just a few weeks before, when the wind and rain spiced the trail.

One by one the team arrived, tired – but happy to be there at the summit. The altitude had it’s effect, but most of the crew seemed content and without malady. Nothing a snack, a few panoramic photos and a nap wouldn’t fix.


Knowing that the group was intact and … I suited up and began my trot back down the trail. I wanted to let a few of our group who had taken a more leisurely pace know that we had reached the summit and were beginning the descent. It was time to turn back.

Baldy – Rain or Shine

January 21, 2012 in Hiking, Home Page, Mt. Baldy, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Most people avoid the dreariest of conditions when planning their hike. Not us! In fact, sometimes getting out into the elements is exactly what we are looking to do. Call us crazy. Maybe it’s because I grew up with more seasons and varied weather, maybe its because southern California is basically a desert, I’m not sure… but I can’t deny the cold and soggy serenity that can be found when venturing out into the rain.

You can imagine my surprise when Anis & Sahba seemed genuinely delighted by the less than optimal weather forecast. 90% chance of precipitation, 20-30mpg gales with gusts to 50mph! Despite my full disclosure, which included words like “hypothermia” and “miserable”, these two were gung-ho. I secretly thought to myself, “wow… these guys might be crazy… that’s excellent!”

So, like a pre-dawn Larry, Moe & Curly, we met in the early morning rain outside of Wardance Training Center for the drive to the trail-head. A special thanks goes to Shirley, of Shirley’s Bagels in Costa Mesa, for making our commute more bearable and overloaded with cream cheese.

We arrived as dawn broke and marched into the fog. The tree cover gave us some shelter from the wind, but staying dry was instantly an issue. I’m pretty sure rain permeated the outside layers while sweat permeated the inside layers. Gotta love 100% humidity.

Luckily, a very small break in the weather allowed us to linger at one of the lower overlook points for a few moments. Too bad we couldn’t really see anything. After reflecting on the potential breakfast specials being served fireside at the Baldy Lodge, we soldiered on.

As we switched back and forth above the bear flats, the weatherman’s prediction became increasingly accurate. By the time we reached the ridge, we were all felling the chill and needed to refuel. We turned our backs to the wind and silently ate our PB&Js.







For those of you who haven’t been up the Bear Flats trail in the winter, Baldy seems to get its fair share of frozen rain. While there can be deep snow drifts, frozen trees are also a common sight. Beware – these trees can shed chucks of ice when you least expect it. Heads up!






The wind was so strong at times, it would push you right off the trail. We looked like a bunch of stumbling drunks! I was surprised how much energy it took to deal with the wind. It slowed our progress and seemed to make us very hungry. Here is a photo of Anis leaning into the wind… doing his best “Smooth Criminal” impression.




To avoid the most brutal and chilling gusts of wind, we eventually broke off the trail and hiked over to the other side of the ridge. Once on the more sheltered side, our spirits were immediately re-energized. I was happy to learn that Anis & Sahba were thoroughly enjoying the abysmal weather. I was too. Heh, now it’s certain – we are all certifiably crazy.



After messing around a bit and eating our lunch we decided the summit was not necessary. Perhaps it was the idea of being blasted by the wind and rain again (once we crossed back to the other side of the ridge), perhaps it was because our goal (to get outside and play in the rain) had already been accomplished, but the release of a summit requirement only increased our revelry. It allowed us to relax a bit and enjoy the hunger induced shivery delirium we had created for ourselves.

As we began to descend that afternoon, a miraculous thing happened — the clouds broke, the winds calmed, and we got a solid 8 minutes of warm and beautiful sunshine. Anis, Sahba and I basically stood there for all 8 minutes, dumbfounded by the sun’s relative comfort.



When the cloud cover and rain rolled back in, we were pretty much in agreement that it was time to head out. The fog in the canyon was even thicker than when we ascended, making our exit uneventful. There aren’t many details when you are hiking in the soup.

So thanks to Baldy. And thanks to Anis & Sahba for being the type to embrace some errant adventure and all that mother nature has to offer. As cold and soggy as it was, I know you both enjoyed it. If sleep was applause, they both gave me a standing ovation for the entire ride home. HA!

I can’t wait till we get out there again!

– Chuck
WillTrek Adventurer

Mt. San Gorgoinio via Viviain Creek

November 26, 2011 in Camping, Home Page, Mt. San Gorgonio, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Did you know:

Mt. San Gorgonio (also known as old Greyback) has claimed the lives of Frank Sinatra’s mother and Dean Martin’s son, in unrelated plane crashes. Crazy – but it’s true!

On December 1, 1953, a Douglas C-47 Dakota, crashed at 11,000 feet (3,400 m) on the eastern face of the mountain. The C-47 was en route from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska to March Air Force Base near Riverside, California when it struck the mountain at night in the middle of a storm. Thirteen people died. Then, nearly one month later, a C-47 accident a Marine Corps helicopter crashed on the mountain in coordination of the efforts of recovering the victims. The three crewmen of the helicopter survived the impact.

Most of the wreckage of the two aircraft remain on the mountain and are accessible via the Fish Creek Trailhead or the South Fork Trailhead.

The Facts:

The summit of Mount San Gorgonio is perched at 11,499ft above sea level in the San Bernardino Mountain range. There are many trails to choose from, however the one we chose was the Vivian Creek trail.

The Fish Creek trail is probably the least used and is aprox. 9.1 miles one-way. The South Fork Trail is over 10 miles one-way. The shortest way to the summit, and the most popular, is the Vivian Creek Trail. It’s 7.8 miles (Gary Suttle’s book lists it as 8.4 miles) with almost 5,500 feet in elevation gain. Summertime tends to be the most crowded but it is a great mountain to climb anytime of year. I’ve climbed it many times during winter and have found myself to be the only soul on the mountain. Hard to believe being so close to the Los Angeles/Southern California area.

The TOPOZONE MAP states an elevation of 11,499 feet shown at the trail’s end at the higher summit.

For day use a permit is required on any of the trails in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. These are free and self-issued. If camping overnight anywhere within the San Gorgonio Wilderness a permit is required. The permits can be obtained at the Ranger Station in Mentone, 34701 Mill Creek Rd. You can also request via fax at (909) 794-1125. The Barton Flats Visitor Center on Hywy 38 and the Fawnskin Ranger Station in Big Bear also can issue these permits. New phone # 909-382-2882

If you want a permit for Vivian for a day hike on the weekend in the summertime, you must get it 3-4 weeks in advance. South Fork camps such as Dry and Dollar Lakes are also filling several weeks in advance for summer camping. As you might expect, if you want to hike during the week, you have a better chance of getting a permit.  Self-issue permits aren’t always available – they oftentimes run out, or get stolen. So we recommend getting your permit in advance! Note that it takes at least 72 hours for processing of permits. And as a reminder, self-issue permits are only good for that day.

In addition to the wilderness permits an Adventure Pass is required for each vehicle; fees are $5.00 a day or $30.00 for an annual pass. These can be obtained from any of the ranger stations or from many of the local merchants.

When To Climb?  Year round. Summer months are the most popular for hikers. Great snowshoeing in the Winter.

Camping is allowed. There are several campgrounds in and around the area and at several of the trailheads. Camping on the mountain or anywhere within the San Gorgonio Wilderness requires a permit that can be obtained from the San Gorgonio Ranger District at 34701 Mill Creek Road in Mentone, CA. Phone is 909-382-2882 or you can request a permit via fax at (909) 794-1125.

Mountain Conditions contact San Bernardino National Forest, San Gorgonio Ranger District, 34701 Mill Creek Rd., Mentone, CA 92359 909-382-2882 or fax (909) 794-1125.

About Vivian Creek Trail:

The Vivian Creek Trail is the shortest and the steepest route to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio. One and two-tenths miles from the trailhead is Vivian Creek Camp (7,100′). Campsites are located upslope to the right of the trail after reaching the stream: one is halfway up the slope, and the other is at the top of the slope (no camping within 200 feet of the trail or creek).

One and three-tenths miles from Vivian Creek Camp is Halfway Camp (8,100′). Water is obtained from the creek 200 yards before camp. Two and three-tenths miles further is High Creek Camp (water available – 9,200′). The summit of San Gorgonio (11,499′) is 3 miles beyond High Creek. The upper end of this trail offers outstanding views of Yucaipa Ridge and Galena Peak, as well as sweeping panoramic views from the top of Mt. San Gorgonio. After the South Fork Trail, this is the second most used trail in the Wilderness.

Vivian Creek Trail on Summit Post
South Fork Trail on Summit Post

Getting to the Trailhead:

The Vivian Creek Trailhead is reached by turning east off Highway 38 to Forest Falls. Continue through Forest Falls to the top end (east end) of the picnic area at the end of the road (6,080′).

Our Adventure:

We set off on Saturday November 26th, from the Vivian Creek trailhead car park, at 6:30am. San Gorgonio Trail conditions, November 2011. Patchy snow above 6,000 feet, snow shoes from 9,000 feet depending on the face. Crampons will soon be used as the trail is being compacted and turning into thick, slick ice.

You start by walking to the end of car park, the trail sign directs you across the wash, where you will then turn left and start-up the switchbacks for about an hour. This section is very steep and strenuous, so maybe take caution not to burn yourself out early. Also, hiking poles may help here.

The Switchbacks on Vivian Creek trail, San Gorgonio mountain. After the wash at the beginning. I am using a pair of REI light poles. Very good, easy to use, shock absorbing and strong! You will cross the creek twice, first using a huge fallen log as a bridge, then across rocks in the stream, after which you will approach Half way camp, (not halfway to the summit). Vivian creek goes left at that fork toward High Creek camp.



Trail Breaking between Half way camp and High Creek camp. Amazing views to take in of surrounding ranges.


You will then arrive at High Creek Camp. There is a sign, 200 yards to camp, follow it up, and the camp is just prior to crossing the creek. We set up our tents pretty close together, on the site, already leveled by park services.




Our base camp at 9,200ft, at High Creek camp on Vivian Creek trail, San Gorgonio.



Hydration is key at this elevation. Air is dry, and your body is working hard coming from sea level. It may be a good idea to hydrate until you are unable to drink anymore. We took 2 litres each and were out of water by the time we reached this camp.

We set up camp at 11am and left at 12:30pm for the summit. From here we needed snow shoes, and trail broke the switchbacks all the way up to the above ridgeline.



We snow-shoed all the way to the top of the ridge, then traversed to the left. You can see the backside of San Gorgonio from here, even the other trails leading up to it. You can see Palm Desert and San Jacinto from here. Be careful, have enough water, it will be 5 hours in the snow before we got to the creek again for water. We brought light packs, and 2 litres of fluid each. Just enough water.


You will also merge with the Dollar Lake trail (be cautious not to miss this turning point on your journey down), continue right and traverse below the ridge, being careful to keep left once on the trail. You will travel through 2 little summits, to the real summit, which is a bunch of rocks, providing a little shelter from the winds if they are kicking up.



You will then arrive on the summit, be sure to have extra clothing, if the winds are up, the temperature can plummet. Covering your ears here would be recommended.

San Gorgonio Summit shots. No Photoshop! Amazing, and is it worth it? You bet your backside…

We descended in the dark with headlamps as the days are short in November. We also cut straight down through the switchbacks descending straight down to camp from the ridgeline to save time. But a recommendation may be to only cut when you can see the trail below with your headlamp as the fallen trees can look like the trail below at night. It saved us about 45mins on the descent.

We had food and re-hydrated, then slept. The next morning we got up at 6am, had food, tea and packed out. By 9:30am we began the climb back to the car park, which is easy to follow from High creek camp. It took us 2hrs 20mins at a fast pace with 52lb packs on. It is a highly recommended hike, great challenge and impressive elevation gain.

Happy hiking and mountaineering.

Philip Sneyd
WillTrek Adventurer

Mt. Langley Snow Storm Snowshoeing

November 11, 2011 in California 14'er, Camping, Home Page, Mt. Langley, WillTrek Trip, Winter

About Mt. Langley:

Mount Langley is one of the California fourteeners (it’s elevation is over 14,000 feet). Actually there is debate on the actual elevation of 14,026 or 14,032 feet.

During the spring, summer and autumn, this is an amazing relatively uneventful climb. The trails can take you past the Cottonwood Lakes, Golden Trout wilderness and what an amazing view you are provided with. To fish these amazing finger lakes you must have a permit. Not only that, but you must hike through the back-country to get there. This means for the most part, your fishing day may be unspoiled by others as you fish these wild lakes alone, with ample fish. Most lakes are catch and release, however, 2 of them are catch and keep above a certain size of fish.

During the summer months, Mount Langley is potentially one of the easiest California Fourteeners to climb if the Army Pass route is chosen. It is the southernmost fourteener, and the most desert-like of the Sierra Nevada fourteeners. The North and South faces provide excellent technical rock climbing, while Old Army and new Army Pass provide an easy walk-up. In the winter or in inclement weather, that may not be the case. Click here to jump directly to our story and pictures.

To get there:

Take the 395 to Lone Pine, CA, head west (toward the mountains) on Whitney Portal Road. About 4 miles up, turn left for Horseshoe Meadows Road and follow it to the Cottonwood Lakes/Army Pass trailhead. Be sure to turn right at the sign for Cottonwood Lakes trail, otherwise you will end up at the trailhead for Cottonwood Pass. There is a walk-in campground, bear boxes and toilets (they stink) at the trailhead, as well as ample parking. FYI in Lone Pine there are a few outdoor stores. Each has almost everything you could imagine wanting on your adventure there, weather it is mountaineering, hiking, or climbing etc. I swear, even the hardware store sells equipment.

Permits are needed:

Quota from May 1st through November 1st and permits can be obtained from any one of the four Ranger Stations: Mono Lake in Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center in Mammoth, White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop or Lone Pine Ranger Station in Lone Pine. 60 spots on the quota, 36 are held for reservations and the other 24 are for walk-in permits. $5.00 per person to reserve a permit in advance. All other times of the year have no quota on trail users, but require a wilderness permit, which can be obtained free at the ranger station in Lone Pine. The mountain is always open, but the road is not plowed during winter. Camping requires Over night permit, all year round, and quotas apply as above.

Great snow shoeing in the winter months, be sure to have all necessary equipment for the route and time of year you choose. People are killed in the mountains almost every year due to lack of preperation. Which leads me to our ADVENTURE.


When there is a snow front moving in on the mountain range, pay attention.

Just like little bobble-headed dashboard divers, we went to the rangers station in Lone Pine, where they shared the front was moving in. We nodded in sync and got our permits for our over night camping by the Cottonwood lakes (which we never made it to) and then drove up the Whitney Portal road, turned left at Horse Shoe Meadows road (just past the Alabama Hills) and then up 7 or so more miles to the right turn off for the CottonWood Lakes Trail.

In the image above, the Whitney Portal road leads up to the left turn for Horse Shoe Meadows road. As you can see, there is cloud cover coming in all over the range. Nothing too much to worry about yet, Right? Not SO!

Here we were able to get to the car park with no real difficulty. A little snow, which made it a little challenging, but we were optimistic about our exit.Please note, this car is a front wheel drive Camry, no chains or four wheel drive like my car. Can you get a sense for where this is all going?



We left the car at about 10am, after we got coffee and last minute supplies in Lone Pine. What is a trip to the mountains without coffee and a donut to boost the energy levels! Magic. So now we must get ready for the trail and ascent of the mountain, so we get all our gear together.

These marvelously luxurious bathrooms, provided a retreat from the snow and wind allowing us to get ready and make final adjustments to our equipment. No, the toilet paper is not from me and yes, some was used. There was also a super aroma of daisys…




I am completely layered up as you can see the snow falling around us. I am wearing a thermal layer underneath (cotton, spandex, pollyester blend) North Face technical shirt (quarter zip) and REI Trousers, North Face Summit Series fleece lined windbreaker jacket, Thermal Liner gloves, Mountain Hardware gaitors, Smartwool socks, Columbia Leather boots and my pack is the Osprey Aether 85. On board is an REI ice axe, Black diamond crampons, Atlas Cabela’s Pro snow shoes, REI Ascent SL hiking poles, Camelbak 3l bladder, map, compass etc.




Here we can see my climbing and guiding partner Chuck (or Ali G’ : ) sporting all of his equipment and clothing. He wore similar layers, some different brands, but the same goals, keep warm and dry, with all the equipment to help with the ascent. He also used snow shoes, ice axe, crampons, gaitors, gloves and he also tried a pair of glacier goggles. What a great Sherpa Chuck makes! : )






As we approached this snow hare we took care as this is a stuning creature and the pictures really don’t do it any justice. It is much larger than it seems in the picture and we got so close to it before it took off. It truly is amazing how they survive and adapt to winter at altitude in the snow. What a beautiful creature.




As I was breaking trail on what we assumed was the route, the snow began to come down so hard, that it was filling our tracks behind us. We crossed trees, rocks, all the time looking for the ridgeline so we could orient ourselves to the mountains. The clouds and snow were so dense, we couldn’t see more than 200 feet or so ahead, never mind the actual mountains or ridgeline. This would eventually lead to our getting – well – terribly lost, and as a man, we very rarely admit to this. Usually we are just momentarily misplaced. : )


If you look closely, you will barely notice to my left, there is a ridgeline in the distance, but the cliouds and snow covered it up. We knew the peak was due North of us, so we began to create our own trail in the fresh snow heading North.




Be sure to have a good topographic map and compass, and have experience orienteering before venturing out in bad conditions. If you ever get lost, this is your way to get back. Most folk that get lost, have no map, and or no idea how to use it. We decided to bivvy overnight as the conditions were to harsh and night was crawling in on us.

A word of caution: As night moves in, and conditions are poor, lost or not it may be advisable to set up camp, bivvy and keep somewhat protected overnight. Chances are, if you keep going, in a semi-paniced state, you will only bury yourself deeper into the situation, with negative results. A good nights rest and a fresh start can make all the difference, especially at elevation where your struggling to acclimatize.

Once we chose our site for camp, leveled it out so it was almost flat, we took our outer shells off in the tent and got comfortable. Being as lost as we were, in the High Sierras, it was important that we rest and recoup after the long days events, physical and mental.

Mashed potatoes with bacon bits, noodles and tea were on our menu for the night. As you can see, I used an REI sleeping pad to keep myself off the cold ground, keeping warm helps with attitude.


This is why we set up camp. Look how much snow fell.. The snow fell so hard that we had to get up in the middle of the night to clear it off the tent. We had about 1.5 feet of snow in 6 hours. It was worth getting up however to look at the moon through the trees – as nature called anyways.




It looks like night, but this is day light on the Saturday/next day. The snow was falling again and the clouds engulfed the mountains.

Again, being prepared for the worst is always better. We began our escape but visibility was so hampered our progress was still very slow. It is unnerving to navigate without the usual visual reinforcement of landmarks and way points. Every decision carried a bit of doubt regarding whether or not we were – in fact – where we thought we were! Luckily, our track circled us back to the road which lead to the carpark. We plotted our extraction without the tent etc. because we wanted to travel lighter in the deep snow. Had we not found the road or had the snow continued to dump, the plan was to return to our bivvy site for another night before our tracks disappeared. This meant that we had to return to the camp to collect our equipment. That was very difficult, we were already physically and mentally a bit taxed…

After collecting our gear, the snow began to subside. We hiked out just before sunset and reached our car (which was now completely buried in a block of ice) after dark. After digging it out, and scraping off all the ice with old CDs, we had to nurse the car down the snow packed mountain roads back to town. Needless to say, the heat was on full blast for nearly the entire trip home.

Lesson Learned:

Always be prepared for challenges. Be mentally strong and stay positive, sometimes it may not go your way, or be as easy as we anticipated it should be. When you lose track, or become misdirected retreat to your last known location to try again. Otherwise, you may not have the chance. Mountains are unforgiving, they are bigger than we are and they only allow us to climb them, if they feel like it –  as we learned on Mount Langley.

Langley will be attempted again in early 2012 so check back for the results of our return!

Thanks, Chuck & Philip
WillTrek Adventurers

Thanks for your Interest!

October 7, 2011 in Home Page

Choosing the right trainer is critical to your fitness success. At WillTrek, we know that everyone is different, which is why our trainers provide personal, specialized fitness programs for each and every client.

Whether you are looking to lose weight, tone muscle, reduce stress, increase strength and flexibility, or achieve maximum athletic performance we can help. Our personal trainers are some of the best in Orange County because they have one common goal: Results. When you choose WillTrek, you are choosing a team that is dedicated to helping you achieve the best results possible—both physically and mentally—and to have fun while doing it.

Stay tuned as the details of our programs will be coming soon!

– The Team @ WillTrek
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