Trail near summit

Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top Trail Race Brief History By Tracy Sulkin 7/19/18 (Updated June 12, 2024)

Story has it that the race (established in 1966) was the creation of Mt. Baldy volunteer firefighter Herbert Leffler, who also was the manager of the Ski Lifts at the time. The Ski Lifts sponsored the event, according to the race results sheet for an early year (the 1st or 2nd). Leffler is shown as race manager/director on the results sheet for the 1st or 2nd year. I believe that the fire dept organized it every year until it was given to Town Hall in 1976 or soon after, to be used as a fundraiser.

• A 1968 newspaper article wrote: The race was “…considered a novelty race and mainly designed to promote the ski lift facilities.” (The race went from being a “novelty race” to one of the most respected and feared races in Southern California. The race even has a following. Many of the participants have been running it for years and some for decades.)

• In the early years, the race may have been referred to as the “Mt. Baldy Climb” or “Run to the Peak” or “Run up Mt. Baldy.”

• In the first year, there were only 45 participants. The numbers started creeping up. Now, the max is 650. We hit that number twice, first in 2014 and then in 2015 (the 50th annual).

• First women in 1971 were actually three young girls.

• Very first “1st Overall Female” was future Olympian Mary Decker (Slaney) when she was 12 years old, in 1971. (1:34:02) (Famous Olympics incident: In 1984, during the 3,000meter track race, she got tangled up with Zola Budd and fell, claiming then that Budd had tripped her.)

• Began using a helicopter to get station supplies to the summit for about 40 years. Starting with Life Flight, likely soon after it began service in late 1976, and then eventually Mercy. One time, a helicopter wasn’t available, so Daven Gray and Richard Wingate carried up two 50 lb. water containers each, from start of the Backbone, and the exertion nearly did them in. Mercy Air discontinued their support in 2022, so the Ski Lifts placed water bottles at the Notch water station for the runners to carry. In the following year, 2023, Charlie Ellingson, of the Mt. Baldy Lodge Restaurant, organized a water carry of about 600 16-oz bottles to the summit by about 15 volunteers, including the race director. In 2024, the race hopes to have helicopter support once again, this time from LA County Fire.

• It takes 65 volunteers (half from Mt. Baldy and those mostly regulars) to help put on the race, plus 30 from West Valley SAR and about 10 from Mt. Baldy Fire.

• Men’s record set in 1987 by Matt Ebiner, age 26 (1:00:49) (Matt has been our MC for the awards ceremony since 2015)

• Women’s record set in 1988 by Carrie Garritson, age 11 (1:15:32)

• Water station #1 Captain Olivia Parker has been volunteering with the race since she was 4 years old.

• In the earlier years, the timing was done manually by using mechanical timers and clicking the time when someone ran across the line. Another person was pulling tabs from bibs and sticking them on a spindle (like a coat hanger). After about 50 tabs or so, the spindle would be run down to the Notch, where they were manually sorted by gender, age and division.

– Over the years, different methods of communication from the summit to the Notch were attempted to transmit the results. Ham radio, which didn’t work well; early cell phones didn’t work well either.

– Computers came into use in later years.

– Then came running flashdrives down to the Notch.

– Then came satellite phones to transmit the data in real time to the Notch to an electronic timing program.

– Then came Wi-Fi to transfer a datafile in real time. Thanks to Pavel Dvorak.

mary decker

Olympian Mary Decker was the very first winner for “First Overall Female” in 1971. The note on the results sheet reads:
Mary Decker 1:34:02 marathon wonder at age 12 years old set a record for others to shoot at in the years ahead.


Mary decker


Early Years






1968 Ray Hughes Article. Click images to view.


Ray Hughes Run Diary




Ed Powlesson

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