Former Gardena man brings ‘Baldy for the Blind’ to Hollywood screen

By Chris Lynch

On a clear day – and from the right location, you can see Mount Baldy (aka: Old Mount San Antonio) looming like a sentinel east of the Los Angeles skyline. At over 10,000 feet, it’s the highest point in Los Angeles County, and the third highest peak in Southern California. 

It’s also one of the most dangerous. Which is why it makes it even more amazing that anyone would venture to train and lead a group of blind, inexperienced hikers to its summit. But that’s exactly what Christopher J. Lynch.

A former Gardena resident, he’s also an experienced mountain climber who’s summited Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Whitney, as well as trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp. For all his adventures however, he counts Baldy for the Blind as his greatest accomplishment. What’s even better; Baldy for the Blind is now a documentary film that will be premiering at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on July 2.  So we can all relive the experience with him.

Where did the notion for leading a group of blind hikers come from?

I noticed on some of the hikes I did with various hiking groups, that the leaders tended to go at their own pace, and that some people got left behind. So, I became a hike leader with LA Meet-up, and started a series of hikes called, Slow Poke to the Summit. I took a slower pace, more frequent breaks, and most importantly; kept tabs on my hikers to make sure no one was falling behind. I was able to lead dozens of people to summits – including Mount Baldy, who never thought they could ever do it. It was very satisfying. 

And that success led to Baldy for the Blind?

Yes. I thought, “Hey, if I can lead these people, why can’t I lead blind people as well?” I approached the Los Angeles Braille Institute and before you know it, I had eleven visually impaired students who I was now in charge of training and leading for the next four months.

How did you manage it?

I used my connections with LA Meet-up to enlist a group of other hikers to function as ‘Sight-Guides.’ The Braille institute trained us and it was at this time that I was approached by Drea Castro, who is an accomplished actress and now a filmmaker. She recognized the potential of such a unique story and before long we were hitting the trails with cameras documenting it for posterity. 

How did those training hikes go?

Very well. We started out with an easy 3-mile hike with 300 feet of elevation, and then continued to build on that.

What were the blind hikers like?

Far different than I expected. Like most people, I thought that all blind people are totally blind and had been from birth…which is not the case. They each had varying degrees of visual impairment, and only one hiker had been blind from birth, with the remainder having lost their vision within the last 5-7 years. They also lost their sight from a variety of factors. One woman, Melissa, lost her sight as a result of having Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as a child. Another man, Ward, lost his vision due to an infection that destroyed the optic nerve in his brain. 

Christopher, this sounds like such an incredible story. How can our readers see the Baldy for the Blind documentary?

Those over 55 can sign up for the bus trip that the Gardena Seniors group is putting on (flier). If you are under 55, or want to simply go on your own schedule, you can click on the link:  Or, use your phone to scan the QR code. 

Chris Lynch is an author, mountain climber, and is featured in the documentary film Baldy for the Blind.