Our small group of 6 gathered at the Old Baldy trail head and shoved off at 7am as planned. At 5400', the air was pleasantly cool as we began the 2.4 mile ascent to....
.....Josephine Saddle. One of us, at about .5 mile, had begun not feeling well so turned around. Even though the return was obvious, we all felt better when she texted hiking companion Marc to confirm she had made it.
Although the average grade of the climb to Josephine Saddle via Old Baldy trail is only 12.7%, it always seems steeper and I was glad to get off it and onto the mellower Super Trail. The trail winds counter clockwise around Mount Wrightson with frequent glimpses of....
....great views although they are muted by area fires.
We pass beneath this interesting rock formation with Mount Hopkins in the background. Every time I see that mountain I can't help but think of my little adventure of 2 years ago. Getting lost, finding the remains of a hiker, finding my way out and helping with the recovery effort of the long dead hiker tends to be something one never forgets.
We reach Riley Saddle and get a good look at Josephine Peak along with the formidable brush that stands between us and the peak. Hiking up the ridge facing us is possible but I've read it's sketchy with some class 3 scrambling and exposure. Instead we have to hike clockwise to a far ridge and then head up.
There is not an official trail through the thicket but an area hiker did go in and make some improvements on a social trail. Despite that, it is easy to lose the trail so eventually we just....
.....headed for the aforementioned ridge. Bill and I took turns leading the gang as I look back to see two of our group emerge into a small clearing. Mount Wrightson is in the background. Bill, who has summited Wrightson 257 times, later stated today's hike is harder than the Wrightson hike. With that experience, I'll take his word for it, lol.
It was kind of tiring to hike around Josephine Peak so midway we took a short break. Sitting on the log, you get an idea of how steep is the peak's side. The surface is very loose so often I had to "post hole" my left foot into the ground to gain enough support to take a step forward.
We close on the ridge where I find a large cairn, probably indicating this is where we start up. Sure enough, more cairns were found as we ascend a steep slope. Looking back....
....there are great views! A fire swept through here a few years ago and there is plenty of evidence of it including.....
.....what appeared to be a grassy field but instead is thousands of young ponderosa pines. At last....
....we reach the peak. We looked for a summit register but alas, we suspect a certain over zealous park ranger has removed it because it wouldn't fit with the wilderness experience.
Even with the smoke, the views are still awesome.
Josephine Peak offers little shade and is kind of nondescript but again, the views and getting a....
....different perspective on Mount Wrightson is neat. Soon, we put our packs back on and begin our return.
A few hedgehog cactus are blooming which is a surprise given how dry is the region. We reached our cars having hiked 10.3 miles and gaining 3400'. Tough hike for sure. With breaks and waits it took a hair over 6 hours to complete.