Little Baldy (Silver Star): north ridge and south ridge

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Chip Down
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Little Baldy (Silver Star): north ridge and south ridge

Post by Chip Down » June 2nd, 2020, 6:45 am

abstract: Starway Trail to Bluff Mountain Trail, down south ridge of Little Baldy, back up to top of Little Baldy, descend north ridge.

Probably the only thing I haven't done yet in the Silver Star neighborhood: Ascend the south and north ridges of Little Baldy. I've had my eye on the south ridge for quite some time. It's super easy to access. Just drive the road to 2400', and start up the ridge. Well, except it's a private road. Okay then, I drove around to the north side, road 41, parked at Copper Creek TH, walked upstream, past the bottom of Starway Trail, looking for the bottom of Little Baldy's north ridge, which I would ascend, then drop down the south ridge, and retrace my steps back to the car. Struggled to find the bottom of the north ridge. Lots of tiny map errors, just enough to make it confusing. Trail required a ford of Copper Creek. I balked, wasn't willing to do that if I wasn't quite sure where I was. I gave up and decided to go up Starway instead.

Starway is just as relentlessly steep as I remembered. At the high point, and the rocky viewpoint down to the south, I had clear views. Last time here, there were just little gaps in the clouds now and then. I love days like that, but it was fun today to see everything at once. Continued towards Bluff Mountain Trail, expecting it to be fun seeing where the trail was. Last time (only previous visit) it was almost entirely under snow. Well, seeing it bare wasn't that great. After the pond (saddle) it was just a boring trail through forest. I veered east, looking for a more direct route to Baldy. Ran into a fun mossy flowery spiny ridge. I was aware of the prominent lower end of the ridge, but hadn't realized it ran so high up the slope. It's not a tall ridge, except at the bottom/north, so it's mostly hidden in the trees. After the ridge abruptly ended, I angled up towards Bluff Mtn Trail. Was surprised to encounter it a little north of ridgecrest, but soon realized I had run into Starway again, just a few feet below the Bluff junction.

Headed east on Bluff Mtn Trail. At Baldy's south ridge, left trail and bushwhacked down the ridge. It was pretty miserable just below the trail, but soon opened up. The dominant vegetation was beargrass. I descended to 3100', beyond which it didn't appear there was anything interesting. It was too brushy to bother with further exploration.

Returned up the south ridge to Bluff Mtn Trail, then continued to the top of Baldy. Seems like I must have been here before, but long ago, not quite sure. From the top, I could see the north ridge was even more obvious than expected. Should I descend? I knew the bottom would be sloppy/confusing, and I was leery of descending an unknown route, but finally decided to chance it. After the fun well-defined upper ridge, things got sloppy and brushy for a while. Soon, the ridge was better defined than expected, rockier than expected, more exposed than expected. It wasn't great, but not the forest slog I thought it would be. Reached a vantage point where I could see the rest of my ridge. It seemed so broad, and densely forested, that I wondered if I'd be able to stay on ridgecrest, but it worked out okay. In a couple spots, I veered off a bit, but eventually the ridgecrest was fairly crisp, and brush was minimal.

Encountered a road perpendicular to ridgecrest. It was long-abandoned and heavy with moss, but not overgrown. I continued down the ridge briefly, but didn't like the looks of it, so went back to the road and followed it down, to the west of the ridge. It gradually faded, and by the time I reached Copper Creek, the road was gone. I spotted a road on the other side of the creek, found a way across, and followed it down to the ford I had balked at in the morning. So yeah, I crossed Copper Creek twice in just a few minutes.

Advice: The south ridge wasn't nearly as great up close as it looked like it would be. From the side, and looking straight down the ridge, it looks very enticing. On the ridge, it's just okay. Worth it? Barely. The north ridge has its rewards. I would probably recommend it as an ascent, with Starway for the descent. Finding the bottom of the route is a bit tricky. Even having been there, I would struggle just a bit to get on route if I went back. GPS recommended.
Attachments
1.jpg
My Starway-alternative ridge. I don't understand why the trail doesn't follow this beautiful route.
2.jpg
At the top of the ridge, it just abruptly drops into open forest. So much more fun than ridges that gradually fade into slope.
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Looking up the south ridge. This must have been my turnaround point.
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A little higher up the ridge.
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Looking down the south ridge. This is below Bluff trail, after bushwhacking.
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At summit of Baldy, looking down south ridge.
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Long break at Baldy summit, looking down north ridge. Trying to find courage to take the plunge into the unknown.
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Lower north ridge. Horribly indistinct. Could be horribly brushy. Worked out okay.
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Woof! Looking over at Silver Star from Baldy's south ridge.
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Bonus pic from a different vantage. Baldy at left. I cropped this at the extent of my travels down the south ridge, at the right edge.

Webfoot
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Re: Little Baldy (Silver Star): north ridge and south ridge

Post by Webfoot » June 2nd, 2020, 6:07 pm

Nice. :)

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acorn woodpecker
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Joined: January 4th, 2013, 8:35 pm

Re: Little Baldy (Silver Star): north ridge and south ridge

Post by acorn woodpecker » June 3rd, 2020, 9:00 pm

Nice reminder of the splendors of that area. June is a good time to go. Those southern off trail ridge routes have some pretty horrific brush. I recall some past Pablo TRs vowing "never again." Never been on Little Baldy's south ridge, but the upper reaches above 3000ft look great. It's been a while but the northern ridge of LB was a fine descent and I thought the route finding was fairly straightforward. The drainages flowing into Copper Creek are like handrails to get one to the old road before the ford. Doing a loop going up the NE ridge of Starway and descending the N ridge of LB would be a delight.

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Chip Down
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Re: Little Baldy (Silver Star): north ridge and south ridge

Post by Chip Down » June 3rd, 2020, 9:19 pm

Yeah, I know the Pablo report you speak of. Next ridge to the east, on Bluff Mtn. Indeed, terrible bushwhacking, will leave one in tears. Bring a chainsaw.

Agreed, the crest of Baldy's N ridge was surprisingly easy to follow. Staying on the crest of a broad ridge, on descent, is tricky, but either I got lucky or I'm just good; always managed to realize when I was getting sucked west, and corrected appropriately. Not much risk though really, it's not as if one could get lost.

That old road was a hoot. I now realize it was mentioned in an old Pablo TR I forgot about. If you can find that road, it's pretty easy to realize when it crosses the ridge. I think the lower part of it appears on openstreet. In case anybody wonders, it gets overgrown and marshy soon after the ridge crossing. Unless it clears again, it's not worth trying to follow.

The NE ridge of Starway looks slightly promising, but probably not enough to ever do it. Heck, even this route was on my to-do list for a couple years, and it's something I really wanted to do.

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