A Hundred Peaks - page 2

So, of course, Sunday August 10th, at 9:30 am, saw me at Icehouse Canyon Trailhead yet again.  You just have to get back on that horse. 

First change – trim down the pack.  I re-evaluated what I had taken the first time, and left some of it out, and I replaced my full-size Thermarest (3 lbs) with a lightweight folding one (< 1 lb).  I didn’t take a rain jacket, took fewer clothes to change into, even took a smaller piece of soap.  Things like that.  It paid off – my pack, wet weight, was 32 lbs – only ¾ Kelly Camp the weight from last time.  Second change – hike up in the morning.  Less rush, cooler, time to relax at the camp.  It was a very pleasant hike up, the lighter pack and cooler temperatures making all the difference.  Interestingly, the hike up took 2.5 hours, exactly the same time it took the last time.  My condition at the top was very different, though.  Plus, I hiked on to Kelly Camp (7840'), which is about 1 mile further, and set up camp, somewhere there did not appear to be a lot of hoof prints.  I also did a better job of bear proofing my food (not that it was a problem last time).  At Icehouse Saddle, I had not been impressed with the suitability of tree branches, but at Kelly I was spoiled for choice.  Ended up with a branch about 15 ft up, slinging the bag about 10 ft out from the trunk.  Take that, bears.  After filtering about 1 liter to add to what I already had, I set off at 1:50, reaching the Bighorn/Ontario trail split 15 minutes later.  I made Bighorn Peak (8441') by 2:30 (the last stretch is all up, up, up).  Back down to the Ontario Peak Trail, and reached my turnaround point at 3:35.  A mere 9 minutes later I was on top of Ontario Peak, at 8693'

Bighorn Peak       Ontario Peak        Ontario Peak        View from Ontario Peak

Bighorn Peak, looking towards . . .       Ontario Peak                                                             Looking south from Ontario Peak


Evening Back to Kelly Camp by 5:25.  The afternoon had covered 5 miles in a very leisurely 3.5 hours, with an almost empty pack – just water, lightweight binoculars, the GPS , and my point-and-shoot Minolta digital camera.  Took advantage of the fact that there was no-one at the campground to "shower" –- well a spit bath in ice-cold spring water well away from the spring – and had dinner of dehydrated pasta primavera (again, very quick to prepare, and zero cleanup).  One significant item, and I warn you, this is more information than you want, but I urinated twice today.  Last time out, when I got so dehydrated, I didn’t urinate for 24 hours.  So that was a good thing.  No more talk of body functions, promise.  Feeling much better than last time, I anticipated a quiet night.  Which I got.  There was one small rodent chewing up roots near the tent, and once or twice I heard a deer off in the distance, but that was it.  The folding Thermarest didn’t work – I'll see if I can take it back and change it for a lightweight inflatable – with the result that my left hip was sore all the next day.  It got cold enough that I had to zipper down the flysheet door, but otherwise, a good night.  I still suffered from the "first-night-out" fitful sleep syndrome, though.  I wish I could get over that – maybe I need hypnosis or something. 

A good start to the day, Monday.  A nice leisurely breakfast of coffee and granola bar, make sure I have the full complement of water (2+ liters in the hydration pack plus 1 liter of Gatorade (made form powder) and enough snacks, and off to do the Three Ts Trail.  Out at 7:15, across Icehouse Saddle and then an unbroken climb to Timber Mountain (8303').  Timber Mountain There didn’t even seem to be any level ground, it was straight up.  There are two advantages to this.  I hate giving up elevation on my way up a mountain, and I like knowing it is all downhill on the way back.  It makes for a bit of a slog up, but it was early, still cool and shady, and the first couple of miles of the day are always the most fun.  Assuming one is not stiff, which I wasn't, not even a little bit.  Reached Timber Mountain at 8:10 (photo on left), then down to a saddle, which was very windy, Telegraph Peak and up and up and up to Telegraph Peak (photo on right).  At 8985', this is highest point so far on my peak-bagging.  I strolled back down to where the spur for Telegraph Peak branched off from the Three Ts Trail and found I had dropped my map somewhere.  Thinking back, I had looked at it about ¼ mile back (I couldn’t believe that I hadn't reached the trail turnoff, since it seemed I had been hiking up for an eternity).   So I backtracked, and, happily, found the map right in the middle of the trail.  I had managed to stuff it between the pack and my body instead of into a side pocket in the pack.  Must be more careful in future.  It could have been worse though.  Someone had left a note saying he or she had found a set of car keys and would leave them at the office at the foot of the ski lift.  That's fine if the loser of the keys was hiking that way, not so good if he or she was through-hiking.


At this point, I had a decision to make.  Would I complete the Three Ts, or would I go ahead and quit for the day?  A water check revealed well over half my water remaining, so that was good.  It was still early, about 10:30, but there was quite a drop to the next saddle, and I would almost certainly want to come back up it if I ever wanted to see my tent again.  I looked at the map and figured it to be a descent of about 580 ft followed by a climb of 350 ft to Thunder Mountain.  I compared that to the unbroken 760 ft from Icehouse Saddle to Timber Mountain, and decided I could do it relatively easily.  I have to say, the trail off Telegraph Peak towards the north is one of the best-designed Thunder Mountain trails I have ever hiked.  The descent is oh-so easy on the knees, and the ascent coming back was certainly work, but it was walking up a slope, not climbing stairs.  To whomever mapped out that trail, my Thunder Mountain congratulations.  Up from the saddle to Thunder Mountain (8587') was not too bad, and I arrived on top at 11:10.  I had not known there was a ski lift and a ski patrol hut (both abandoned for the summer) until I saw them from Telegraph Peak, and when I arrived there I was surprised at how trashy they make the place look after all the pristine country I had been walking through.

On Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain looking back to Telegraph Peak

The walk back was, for the most part, very pleasant.  The slog up Telegraph Peak was, as expected, hard going, but the rest of the trail was very easy going, even though it was getting quite hot.  Actually, that may not be correct.  Trail sign The official temperature at Baldy Notch, the saddle beyond Thunder Mountain, was about 71 degrees.  That s presumably in the shade, where it is indeed very comfortable where available.  It is just that the intensity of the sun is extreme, and it feels much hotter in the sun.  The 5 miles or so back to camp took 2 hours 40 minutes, including 20 minutes for lunch.  Given the aforementioned 1000 ft or so of elevation gain, I don’t think that's too bad, a pace of 2.14 mph. 

Once back at camp, filter some more water, make up some more Gatorade, pack up the tent, and off back down.  I arrived back at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead at 4:35.  I felt so much better this time than last, it's hard to believe they were only just over a week apart.  I even stopped in Mt Baldy Village for a beer and a celebratory burger.  Not a good idea, as it turns out, since the restaurant I went to was high on ambience but not too much else.  The sort of place frequented by locals who think they should support it and who like the staff, and by tourists like me who don't know any better.  Oh well, even that disappointment couldn’t really dampen my day.

Wildflowers I am looking back at my log of the Coast to Coast Walk, from St Bees on the west coast of England to Robin Hood's Bay on the east coast, that I did 33 years ago, as a young pup.  Looking at the time taken and mileage covered, it is not a bad comparison: in that walk I did 185 miles over 11 days, at an average pace of 2.03 mph.   My overall pace today, on the same basis as the Coast to Coast, that is from setting off in the morning until packing it in at the end of the day (although I did not stop at pubs in the San Gabriels), was 1.67 mph.  How well I would sustain a 2 mph all-day pace now, I don’t know, but I'm not too worried.


For now, I have "summitted" seven peaks towards the 100 peak target.  What's next?

Mt. San Antonio, that's what.  On Sunday, August 17, I decided to celebrate the last weekend of the summer break with a hike up the tallest peak in the San Gabriels.  I had a bit of a late start, so I didn’t set off up the San Antonio Falls Rd until 10:20.  I was a little concerned about the late start, as well as about my stomach, which was feeling a little out of sorts, possibly as a result of the can of menudo I had for dinner on Saturday.  As it turned out, neither was a problem.  Today was interesting for a number of reasons, the first of which was the realization that I really am doing this for the joy of walking, not just for the accomplishment of bagging peaks.  There is a ski lift up to Mt. Baldy Notch, elevation 7800', which runs on weekends during the summer.  I could have taken it, but instead I added 3.6 miles, and 1640' elevation gain, by starting the walk at the San Antonio Falls Rd.  (My plan On Mount San Antonio was to get the lift back down afterwards to save my feet the trudge down.)  That turned out to be a good decision.  The road, which is asphalt for the first little bit, up to the falls themselves, then turns to dirt, was actually a very pleasant walk.  It hugs the canyon side, and it offers some nice views, including the parking lot at the ski lift, and it comes close to the lift a couple of times at one point crossing under it, so one can see the schmucks who take the easy option.  The only mild downside was the number of vehicles using the road – three pickup trucks.  Two of them were fine, but the third barely slowed down, leaving a thick cloud of dust.  Jerk.  But, it didn’t affect my mood, and the gentle nature of the slope meant I could get my stride going, and I was at Mt Baldy Notch by 11:35 – 3.6 miles in a hour and a quarter.  This was a very auspicious start to the day, since I felt in good shape at that point, I had remained hydrated, but used very little of my water (I went up with 2.5 liters of water and 1 liter of Gatorade).  I know I promised no more bodily function comments, but it is fairly easy to know if one is adequately hydrated, and I was glad of the restroom in the restaurant at the Notch, since the road up lacked for discreet spots.

On Mount San Antonio From the Notch, it's all uphill to Mt San Antonio (aka Mt Baldy).  Leaving the Notch is a relatively steep dirt "road" (presumably used by the odd service vehicle) that then turns into what I affectionately named the Stairmaster.  That is a ridiculously steep stretch with no switchbacks, that ends at the ridgeline, the delightfully named Devil's Backbone.  That coincides with the top of another ski lift, this one only operating in winter.  From the Notch to this point took 25 minutes, and it was pretty grueling.  But now the real fun began, the reason I walk in the mountains.  The hike along the Devil's Backbone is one of the most enjoyable hikes I have ever done.  It is truly walking for the absolute joy of it.                                                                                  

The trail is pretty much all uphill – there are only a couple of spots where it dips down, but for essentially no loss of elevation.  Most of the way, though, the slope allows for a good pace, only becoming heavy going for the final assault on the peak.  The first stretch is pretty much right along On Mount San Antonio the ridge, with On Mount San Antonio dramatic drops on both sides, then for a couple of hundred yards it becomes an acrophobic's nightmare.  The trail, just wide enough for one person, traverses a slope that is very steep down to the left.  The surface is very loose dust, and there is one bit which is a substantial climb.  I do not consider myself afraid of heights, but I tried not to look down and to my left, concentrating instead on the trail.  A stumble along that bit could have had very unpleasant consequences.  I felt unworthy when I stepped to the side at one of the only two passing places along that stretch to make way for a young man with a little girl on his shoulders.  That impressed me.


After that, the trail traverses a much more gentle slope, on the south side of the ridge, which, happily, is the windward side.  The temperature up there was delightful.  The sun was warm, but there was a real chill in the breeze, which made for about as perfect a temperature as one could want.  The sky was cloudless (actually, I saw one cloud off over the desert way to the east), and there was no chance of any kind of adverse weather.  I probably would have enjoyed the hike less in cloud or a raging blizzard, for example.  I had intended to summit Mt Harwood en route, but the instructions for that on the Hundred Peaks Section webpage were rather vague ("Follow this trail up the Devils Backbone to about 9200' where the trail begins to pass Mount Harwood on the left (south) side.   Leave the trail here on the right and go cross-country up the slope to the summit.") and I missed it.  No matter, Mount San Antonio I figured I'd be able to see a route looking back from the top of Mt San Antonio.  After passing Mt Harwood completely, the trail crosses a very short saddle and then goes up to the peak.  This is a fairly hard uphill, and Mount San Antonio it looks quite daunting from below, but in fact was quite straightforward (but it really was a strenuous hike up).  The reward is instantaneous – no false peaks, nothing but the summit of Mt Baldy, at 10,064'.  I will actually refer to it by its vulgar common name here, because the top is, indeed, bald and dome-shaped.  There were about 15 people already up there, enjoying lunch, and the glorious views.  I arrived at 1:20, having taken 1 hour 40 minutes from Mt Baldy Notch, a distance of 3.2 miles and 2,264' elevation gain, and just 3 hours from the start (6.8 miles, 3900').  I felt pretty good about that.

The hike back was by no means an anticlimax – every step was enjoyable.  I positively scampered down from the top (no choice, Mount Harwood the trail was so steep and quite loose in places) and found an appropriate spot to cut off up to Mt Harwood.  Interestingly, a few yards in I found boot prints, and I kept finding them as I hiked up, so obviously great minds think alike.  Mount Baldy Ridge The top (at 9552') is pretty obvious, and, again, there are some glorious views.  The route back to the trail was very simple – I just traversed a scree slope, and if I were to offer suggestions to anyone else doing this, I would suggest leaving the trail at the start of the scree slope (coming from the notch) and angling up to one's right straight to the top.  Maybe that is 9200', but I think the scree slope is a better landmark.  On the way back, the single-track seemed much less daunting, as is so often the case, though The Stairmaster hiking down the loose steep bit required full concentration.  Then the ridgeback, the glorious ridgeback, to the top of the Stairmaster.  I half jogged down this.  That is a trick that Amber and I discovered on the Inca Trail some years ago.  Coming down one particularly long and steep part, we found that a sort of bouncing gait put less strain on the knees than plodding down step by step.  I found the same to be true coming down the Baldy Stairmaster, but one does have to concentrate on the ground.  I didn’t really want to go headlong down the slope.

From the Notch I decided "To heck with the lift" and walked back down the road.  Even more vehicles, the driver of one of which actually did a sort of war-cry whoop as he blazed past in a cloud of dust.  I assume the only ones on the road work at the ski lift, since it is gated, so if anyone who works there reads this, pass on the message that next time I won’t step to the side, and the jerk drivers will have to go down at a sedate 3 mph or try to get around me, which will probably put them at the bottom of the canyon, which is where they deserve to be.  However, even this crass redneck rudeness didn’t dampen my spirits, and I arrived back at the car at 3:55, having taken 5 hours 35 minutes to do 14 miles (and did I mention the 3900' elevation gain and loss?), a pretty respectable 2.5 mph for the day.  This is as good a pace as my best day on the Coast-to-Coast Walk, done was I was 21.  That was a 14.5 mile day, with about 1500' elevation gain,  Damn.

A celebratory dinner was called for, so I stopped off and picked up some barbeque brisket to take home, then relaxed with a homebrew on the balcony before scarfing it down.  Ahhhh.

 The post-mortem.  I reactivated a blister on the ball of my right foot, and my heels were a bit sore.  I might try to find some gel insoles.   I'm writing this on Monday morning, and my hips are a bit stiff.  That's it.  So, nine peaks so far.  My goal is about 10 a year to stay on target, so I think this was a good start.


First page Previous page Home Next page Last page