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Introduction to Snowshoe Travel/Mt. Baldy
Total posts: 1134
Joined: 48 year(s) ago
Posted 11:08 AM 1/2/2005
This thread has been created as a forum to discuss the following trip:

Trip Name: Introduction to Snowshoe Travel/Mt. Baldy
Date: from 1/8/2005 to 1/8/2005
Posted by: Ken Murray

Please post any question or comments about the trip below.
Click here to view trip details
Total posts: 1
Joined: 14 year(s) ago
Posted 4:54 PM 1/2/2005
I will also need snowshoes. Looks like there will be lots of fresh snow!
Total posts: 307
Joined: 17 year(s) ago
Posted 9:42 PM 1/2/2005
Just to emphasize what Ken wrote in his trip description, the road to Baldy deserves serious respect, given the current conditions. That road is crazy-twisty toward the end, and considering you will be sharing it will other drivers who may be under-equipped, it's not a bad idea to err on the side of safety. E.g., chains for AWD/4WD vehicles without true snow tires (not M+S tires, which are standard-issue).

Total posts: 1134
Joined: 48 year(s) ago
Posted 9:51 PM 1/2/2005

Liz is right.   2-3 years ago, I spent most of a nite trapped up on that road, with hundreds and hundreds of others, as the roads had become so icy, that it was basically impossible to move without going into a skid.  Many accidents occured, and it was strange to see cars floating past doing 360-degree skids.

The problem was staying up in the canyon too late in the afternoon, when the temps dropped, and everything froze.  We should be down well before that.

There is no problem at all, getting to the Ranger Station in Baldy Village. 

Every car going up the hill from the ranger station must have chains, and should carry a shovel.  We'll travel together if the weather is not good, which will tremendously increase safety.

As of right now, the weather for saturday is forcast as clear.

Total posts: 176
Joined: 14 year(s) ago
Posted 8:58 PM 1/3/2005

I was driving up Mt. Baldy yesterday, Sunday, around 3ish and was turned back by the rangers just before the Ice Canyon hiking trail due to heavy traffic and extremely icy conditions.  Dont worry, I dont think traffic will be too bad if you guys get there early.

Total posts: 1134
Joined: 48 year(s) ago
Posted 9:18 PM 1/3/2005
Thanks, Kevin.  Yeah, that is a pretty typical action about that time in bad weather.
Total posts: 302
Joined: 16 year(s) ago
Posted 10:17 PM 1/3/2005

Just curious.  The three years I lived near Tahoe I never needed chains on my 4WD Explorer and never had a problem.  The signs all said something like "chains needed except for 4WD"

Do they really require 4WD trucks with snow tires to have chains on Southern California mountains?  Will I be turned back if I don't have them?

Total posts: 307
Joined: 17 year(s) ago
Posted 10:44 PM 1/3/2005
Jeff, from all I've read, it's pretty rare that a 4WD vehicle would be required to put the chains on (or even have to show them to the coppers). Usually, at that point, you're looking at conditions severe enough that the road would probably be shut down anyway.

It never hurts to have them along, of course, just in case you run into sketchy conditions and need them. Again, it's not just about the road conditions, or your vehicle, but also the other drivers sharing the road who may force you into some tricky driving maneuvers, like sudden stops, where the extra traction will help you. There's not a whole lot of wiggle-room on that Baldy road, unlike some of the wider, more maintained Sierra highways.

Total posts: 1134
Joined: 48 year(s) ago
Posted 10:54 PM 1/3/2005

Excellent question, Jeff.

This is the official Department of Transportation Website:

Some particular points:

There are three levels of requirements:

Types of Chain Controls

During the winter months motorists may encounter traction device controls in the mountain areas of California. When chain controls are established signs along side the road will be opened indicating the type of requirement. There are three requirements in California.

Requirement One (R1): Chains are required, snow tires are allowed.

Requirement Two (R2): Chains are required on all vehicles except four wheel drive vehicles
with snow tires on all four wheels.

(NOTE: Four wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas)

Requirement Three (R3): Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.

As you can see, when there are R3 controls, yes, even a 4wd with snow tires MUST have chains ON.  With R1, and R2, they technically must be in possession.  However, my experience has been that with R1 and 2, they just wave 4wd through, they are too busy to mess around.  R3 controls are apparently rare....but I'll bet they're happening this last week.  I know that I once came over Donner Pass and was one of the last cars through.  Went off the road into a snowbank, and saw no one for 2 hours.  Another time, went through just before they closed the pass....I was on a motorcycle.

However, when I was on this particular road up Baldy a few years back, they did not allow anyone to come down, as the road is very steep and curvy, it was a solid sheet of ice, and something like 30 cars had already gone over the side.  The problem is, it is not just the vehicle, but the skill and knowledge of how to drive on ice...most people in my experience in SoCal have neither, and you can't tell by looking, I guess the CHP can't, either.

Total posts: 132
Joined: 17 year(s) ago
Posted 8:22 AM 1/4/2005
It should be noted that 4WD will not stop a vehicle from sliding on black ice. In that case you are nearly as helpless as 2WD. Regardless of your "drive", once a tire begins to slide it is very difficult to stop it, due to the extra "slipperyness" of sliding (vs. stationary) friction.
At the top of the road to Baldy, the extra weight and high center of gravity of most SUVs will totally negate any minor benefit of 4WD when trying to descend through the switchbacks.
Total posts: 45
Joined: 18 year(s) ago
Posted 11:57 AM 1/4/2005

Do they really require 4WD trucks with snow tires to have chains on Southern California mountains?  Will I be turned back if I don't have them?

Last year, in our bad snow year, they were stopping 4wd vehicles and asking to see the chains.  If they didn't have any, they were told to turn around.  We don't have as much snow as other places, but 38 going into Big Bear is windy(sp?  sorry) and real busy.  Plus a good slide could take someone down a pretty long way (Maybe someone else with them).  Just get chains and have them in view.  I get annoyed with waiting for 4wd owners to dig their chains from the back, when I have already took the time to put my on. (I have to---2wd) 

Total posts: 248
Joined: 16 year(s) ago
Posted 12:02 PM 1/4/2005

Several years ago I drove to Tahoe - 6 hours to Sacramento from OC, and then an additional 5 hours to Tahoe because of near blizzard conditions. As usual, I paid the $20 to one of the yellow jackets to put my chains on and was very happy doing my 25-30mph.

However, at least twice, traffic came to a complete standstill for 30 to 45 minutes because emergency vehicles had to get by and perform people/vehicle extraction. Why? They had to tend to 4WD vehicles that had gone off the highway. These were the same 4WD vehicles that had been passing all the people with chains.

You see, as temperatures dropped heading into Tahoe because of nightfall, the rain froze on the road and then the snow covered the icy patches. As J-D said, 4WD could not prevent these vehicles from sliding - only slow moving vehicles with chains had adequate protection.

Another time heading into Mammoth, I saw a 4WD Explorer lying upside down in the median just north of Bishop. The weather "zone" was just past the point where rain was turning to snow and temps were beginning to drop. And just past where I had put chains on (not me, actually, the yellow jackets)!

So, the bottom line - everyone should have chains with them in the mountains, no matter what kind of vehicle you are driving!