Friday, November 13, 2009

First Snow of the Season in SoCal

Still reading Crazy for the Storm, primarily about a plane crash on Ontario Peak, I couldn't resist the urge to get back on that mountain for the second time in a week.  But which route should I take?  I wasn't about to go groveling in Falling Rock Canyon again, and the standard trail was not even worth considering.  So I turned my head slightly to the left of Falling Rock Canyon and found an unnamed ridge for which no information was available on the internet.  Satellite imagery indicated some precipitous sections that looked questionable.  It was perfect.   

Arriving at the Icehouse Canyon parking lot before dawn, I noticed that something didn't look right high up on Mt. Baldy.  After a regrettable experience in the dark public restroom, I focused more closely on Mt. Baldy and came to the conclusion that the upper slopes were covered in the first snow of the season.  Hmmm.  Would Ontario Peak be covered in snow?  I looked at my sneakers.

At about 6:00 AM, I started hiking up Icehouse Canyon.  I turned right into Fir Draw, which I followed for only about 100 yards before turning right and ascending a scree slope to gain the steep, sharp ridgeline.  I then followed the ridgeline straight up to Peak 8688, just east of the main summit of Ontario Peak.  I summitted at 9:00 AM after roughly 3,700 feet of elevation gain.  By 11:15 AM, I was comfortably seated in the public restroom back at the parking lot.

Looking down at the lower third of the ridge.

Looking up at the middle third of the ridge.

Looking down at the crux of the ridge (about halfway up).

Mt. Baldy viewed from the upper section of the ridge.

Wasteland below the summit of Ontario Peak.

 View from the summit of Peak 8688.

This ridge is excellent.  I think it is better than Sugarloaf Ridge and possibly even Register Ridge.  The crux of the route is the 3rd class, 20-foot, narrow gully pictured above, which is surmounted by repeated stemming on mostly secure rock.  There is also some rock scrambling lower on the ridge which probably rises to 3rd class as well.

A ridge this good needs a name.  Two names that immediately came to mind were "The Sam Page Victory Ridge" and the "Sam Page Conquered This Ridge".  However, upon reflection, I came to the opinion that these names are rather imperialistic, and perhaps even a bit self-aggrandizing.  You are of course entitled to your own opinion.  Regardless, I have tentatively settled on the name of "Falling Fir Ridge" for the following reasons.  First, the ridge is in between Falling Rock Canyon and Fir Draw.  Second, as depicted in the image above, there are many fallen trees at the top of the ridge.  The name would be perfect were the fallen trees fir trees, but Wifey PhD thinks that they are pine trees, which she insists are not fir trees.  Well, as Steven Wright says: "You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?"      

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