Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ontario Peak: Ollestad and Falling Rock Canyons

On January 22, Patrick Moran and I climbed an obscure canyon on the northwest side of Ontario Peak to the summit. The unnamed canyon is between Cherry Canyon and Kerkhoff Canyon. I call it “Ollestad Canyon” to honor the sole survivor of a 1979 plane crash that occurred in its upper reaches.

At 5:15 AM, we left my car half a mile above Baldy Village and began negotiating the rather unpleasant, trail-less approach to the canyon by headlamp.

A memorable part of the approach.

Entering the canyon about two hours later, I was astonished to see how much less snow there was compared to last spring. Continuous snow coverage didn’t begin until the central rock buttress at around 6700 feet.

Mostly dry below the central buttress. 

It begins . . .

At the bottom of an avalanche tongue (seen above) to the right of the central buttress, we donned helmets, crampons, and ice axes, and got quite chilly in the process. From there, we ascended roughly 2000 vertical feet of 35-45 degree consolidated snow, staying in the shade the whole time. We were constantly panning around for plane debris, but saw none.

In the thick of things.

 At 11:00 AM, two tired climbers were relieved to set foot on the summit. We had ascended almost 4500 vertical feet (including ups and downs at the bottom) in under six hours.

Goode Canyon leading to West Baldy on the left. San Antonio Canyon leading to Baldy Bowl and Mt. Baldy on the right. 

The South Couloir on Telegraph Peak.

In order to keep things exciting, we decided to descend a canyon neither of us had done in its entirety: Falling Rock Canyon. It took 3.5 hours to descend, with only two short breaks. The hard and icy snow in the canyon, which lasted until around 7000 feet, necessitated crampons. At around 6800 feet, we encountered an impressive waterfall that was skirted with some difficulty on the canyon’s west side. The ground on this detour was extremely loose, requiring one of us to wait while the other descended. At around 6300 feet, we encountered another waterfall that was easily circumvented on the west side. This waterfall is at the bottom of the scree slope that leads up to the Saddle between Sugarloaf Peak and Ontario Peak. The lower section of Falling Rock Canyon was completely snow-free and, as always, tedious. A third waterfall near the bottom of the canyon was skirted on the east side.

Patrick enthusiastic about (1) successfully circumventing the precipice, and (2) discovering this awesome waterfall (which is the upper waterfall).

The middle waterfall below Sugarloaf Saddle. 

We saw nobody all day until we merged with the Icehouse Canyon Trail for the final half mile to Patrick’s car. Then we saw a lot of people. The usual battle to stay awake on the drive home was more gruesome than usual, because of doctor’s orders to avoid caffeine.

For my previous trip reports on Ollestad Canyon, see here and here.


Aaron said...

Very Nice. Thanks for posting. I really enjoy your blog.

Norman said...

wonderful descriptions. I hope to join you one of these days.

T. Bui said...

Hi, I just recently got into mountaineering and joined SGMDF and your blog was one of the first ones I came across.

Do you every plan any outings on meetup or SGMDF?

Sam Page said...

Welcome to mountaineering, T. Bui! I don't plan public outings, but I would recommend SoCal Hikers and Peakbaggers: