This was a trip up the Lightning Couloir in the Big Butch Wash of Mt. Baldy area, CA. Dave Alden, Nate Skains, Tom, Steve, and Marion Schuster were part of the crew.
The approach was fairly rocky looking, so we didn’t bring snow shoes. We got to the start of the couloir proper, and the snow quickly got deep. It was actually very nice powder, which meant that while breaking trail, at times I was crotch deep in snow in the main section. It was effort plowing up. This went on for about 700 feet. Me and this other guy, Nate, took turns breaking trail. There was also wind coming down, and blowing down a loose rock here or there to watch out for. We got to about 7600 feet, and then it got more interesting. The main path to the right was bare to the dirt. All the snow had been blown down hill. It was crumbling rock up, and 5th class climbing without the snow. It also had a lot of rock fall potential. To the left, there was a less steep rocky way going up, mainly 4th class with one or two low fifth class moves. It was mixed climbing with snow and rock for the first 100 feet. I was pretty comfortable doing this with crampons and my equipment. So, I got to one solid large rock outcropping about 30 feet up, and set an anchor with my tri-cams. I extended out my cordalette for folks to use as a hand-line to get to me. The climbing was easier above me. It was dicey in this area in regards to potential rock fall. You needed to place your feet wisely. Also, just to our side, a rock was randomly falling from above about every 5 minutes. We all got hit in the helmet at some point by small rocks. Meanwhile, Nate, had tried going up a different way and got spooked on crumbling rock and also did not feel comfortable climbing back down. He was only about fifteen feet over to my side. He had the rope on his pack. So, I set up for belay. I had Nate tie himself in, and throw over the rope to the rest of us. Put him on belay, and he traversed over. He then climbed above and went over the ridge and set himself up as a body anchor and we set a fixed line off of him.
I think we ended up doing the deviation called the “mixed steps”. If not that route, then something that started slightly above it. It was indeed mixed climbing. We descended down Baldy Brew couloir which had just enough snow so that we weren’t tripping on rock most of the way. There was a thicker part that had signs of a previous avalanche all the way to the dirt (which was only like 12″ down). But the avy danger this day was minimal. The proposed 4 hour tour got us back to the cars just by sunset. All and all a fun day.