MOUNTAINS are a CHALLENGE
Mount Baldy is in-between Los Angeles (near the sea) and Lancaster (in the desert). It is actually called Mount San Antonio.
Saturday morning, November 19, we (Mario, Toby, Jonathan, Hans, and Nathaniel) drove as far as we could towards Mount Baldy and stopped at a wide spot in the road. We then hiked the ridge up to Pine Mountain.
We had lunch when we reached the top of Pine Mountain. From there we could see a lot of landscape: desert on the east, LA on the west and mountains all around us. We could vaguely see Mount Whitney and the Sierras in the north. From here, we could see another mountain to climb before we could climb Mount Baldy. We should have realized our return hike would be in the dark. But, none of us wanted to seem concerned about this. Mario noticed his compass wasn’t working.
On the way, we met a group of climbers who were looking for a body. Someone had disappeared on Mount Baldy a year ago, and his mother wanted to find his body. Mario told another story of a guy he met in these San Gabriel Mountains. Mario learned this man had fallen to his death shortly after Mario saw him.
The sun sets early in November, and as we climbed Mount Baldy, trying to get a foothold in the gravel, the sun was cold. The wind was strong. At the top, Mario and Toby had some ceremonies to perform involving pushups, etc. When these were over – and Hans and I captured some video – we began our decent.
The sun set in the sea as we descended the second mountain. Pine Mountain was dark as we climbed it for the second time. After passing our lunch location, we made some cell phone calls to let everybody know we would be home late. We had great cell phone reception.
LOST is a FEELING
I had trouble keeping a foothold in the steep gravel. The trail wasn’t like this. I noticed the guys ahead were spreading out. I could see their headlamps. We shouted back and forth in the wind and agreed to look for a shortcut back to the trail. We must have missed it.
I think everyone assumed everyone else knew the way back to the trail. We headed south around Pine Mountain (as we learned later). It got steeper. The gravel was loose and rocks tumbled away downward as I tried to get a foothold. I felt disoriented. Where were we going? The distance between us grew. The risk was uncomfortable.
We stopped together and held onto a dead tree to discuss crossing a steeper slope to a place that looked safer. I brought a Surefire flashlight that showed us what was ahead. But we noticed one of our guys was gone. We figured he was scouting. Somewhere around this time, we decided to pray. Prayer forced us to get together and be quiet. We started thinking.
The scout reported it was less steep above us. Anything was better than clinging to that tree. We finally climbed onto the best flat ground in the world.
LEADERSHIP is a CHOICE
Getting lost on the mountain was the fault of our group as a whole. We were impatient to get home and we did not communicate at the important moments. I didn’t speak up when I thought we should stop. Analyzing the situation afterwards, I had the choice to: (1) be silent, (2) speak up in a complaining way, or (3) speak up in a constructive way. I took the first road. (And took the second road silently in my mind.)
It’s easiest to be silent. And if we do speak up, it’s easiest to complain. But, complaining is bad leadership. The best choice is to give a suggestion about what to do, or at least say something positive. But it is hard to find this energy. Most of the time, I just complain about the situation and not offer any solutions.
BACK on the Trail AGAIN
Mario spread his map out and we reevaluated our position. We decided his compass was working fine and we were headed in the opposite direction we should be going. We looked around at LA and Lancaster laid out in bright lights below us. The night was crystal clear.
We quickly made our way back to the top of Pine Mountain, found our trail, and climbed down the right way.
We were hungry when we got home.