Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sugarloaf Peak

At 6:00AM this morning, Dave Gillanders, Patrick Moran and I began hiking by headlamp up the rutted San Juan Trail toward Sugarloaf Peak.  By 8:30, we were trying to negotiate the summit boulders whilst talking each other out of attempting stupid things.

I was hoping that Sugarloaf Peak was the picturesque pyramidal peak I've been seeing from various vantage points in the Santa Anas.  But alas, it wasn't.  That pyramidal peak (which I now know is called Old Sugarloaf, thanks to an anonymous comment below) was a mile west and 100 feet higher.

The numbers: ~13 miles, ~2400 vertical feet, 4.5 hours.

 Dave and Patrick a little after sunrise. 

 Sugaloaf Peak is on the right and Old Sugarloaf is on the left. 

 Patrick stemming between the summit boulders. 

Old Sugarloaf

Los Pinos Peak

On Monday, Abby and I left the kiddos with their grandparents and disappeared for a few hours in the Santa Ana Mountains.  After some confusion on Long Valley Canyon Road, we located the trailhead and began strolling up the gated Main Divide Road at the pace of a very curious botanist.  Upon reaching a grove of Coulter Pines (and their somewhat worrying "widow-maker" pine cones), we left the dirt road and began hiking up the Los Pinos Trail. At the "summit" we realized that the true summit was a half mile further.  So we plodded on, eventually reaching a proper rocky summit.  There I took note of a somewhat picturesque pyramidal peak and resolved to climb it soon.  

 Looking up the Main Divide Road toward the Coulter Pine grove (and the junction with Los Pinos Trail).

 Widow-makers!  They are as big as pineapples.

 Abby with the San Gorgonio massif in the background.

 The view from the summit toward the ocean . . . and that pyramidal peak.

 Santiago Peak.

Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriel range.

Annual WPSMB Baldy Climb

That's right, Friday was the annual Whitney Portal Store Message Board (exhale, inhale) winter climb of Mt. Baldy.  Although turnout was decidedly, um, meager, five of us had a great time battling the winds and chilly temperatures.  And we could even see Mt. Whitney from the summit!

I'll leave it at that and show some pictures:

 Patrick is bundled up, so it's cold!

 San Gorgonio (L) and San Jacinto (R) from Baldy summit.

 Clowns on top.

 Jeff fighting the wind for the summit prize with Ontario Peak in the background.

A bare bowl kept us on the Ski Hut Trail.  It also made for light packs. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santiago Peak, Power Line Ridge

While we were climbing Mt. Baldy a few weeks ago, Ryan Bracci mentioned a route up Santiago Peak that I had never heard of anyone doing. Of course, it had to be done.  So on December 17, David Gillanders, Patrick Moran, Ty Sutherland and I did it.  Ryan unfortunately couldn't join us.

Dave had rubbed his heels completely raw and bloody on a hike two days prior, so he kept saying that he would be turning around early.  As expected, he not only completed the entire route, but set the pace all day, spending considerable time waiting for me to catch up.   

Here is the route (roughly):

Our route follows a dirt road to the Santiago/Joplin Trail.  It then parts ways with the Santiago Trail, drops 100 feet into a notch, and follows the power lines straight up the ridge.  The power line stretch is unmaintained and rather brushy, to put it mildly.  Eventually, after the worst of the brush, one emerges onto the Main Divide Truck Road and revels in the wide open space afforded by the road.  Walking up the road toward Santiago Peak, one is keenly aware of not being dragged down by thorns, branches, and other whackables.

On top, we enjoyed two inches of snow underfoot, cold winds, and a snow squall.  Since the power line ridge was "rather brushy", we opted to descend the surprisingly pleasant Joplin Trail.  On the Joplin Trail, we realized one benefit of brush-choked routes: they deter bikers, which were in full force on the Joplin Trail. 

The numbers: 4800+ vertical feet; ~14 miles; 8 hours car-to-car.

Power Line Ridge follows the sun/shade line just left of center. 

 Ty starting up the overgrown ridge. 

 Ty (orange) thrashing through the final section below the Main Divide Road.  The winding Santiago Trail is visible below. 

 Dave just below the tippy top with Modjeska Peak in the background. 

 Rainbow over Modjeska Peak.

On the Joplin Trail.

On the Joplin Trail near Old Camp.

Old Camp.

Someone had a bad day on the road up to Santiago Trail.

Someone else had a bad day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Folly Peak, NW Face (Gas Can Ridge)

 The NW face of Folly Peak from my spring 2010 recon.

After climbing the notorious Snow Creek route on the north face of San Jacinto Peak in 2010, I became intrigued with the equally impressive face around the corner – namely, the northwest face of Folly Peak. Though accounts of climbing the north face of San Jacinto are legion, I was only able to uncover one sketchy, second-hand reference to anyone climbing the NW face of Folly – and that party was alleged to have been several days overdue. This, of course, made it even more intriguing.

Climbing the NW face of Folly from bottom to top would involve 9000+ vertical feet of elevation gain up the east branch of the west fork of Snow Creek (the standard “Snow Creek” route up the north face of San Jacinto actually follows the *east* fork of Snow Creek). The lower section of the east branch of the west fork is trail-less and densely vegetated. After Patrick Moran, Zach Cyrus, and I made two unpromising attempts (one in 2010 and one earlier this month) to find a way up the lower section, we decided to approach from a completely different direction. Thus it was that in the wee hours of December 10, the three of us pulled up to a locked gate that a ranger had assured me was open.

With one eye on our maps and another on the full moon that was becoming increasingly eclipsed to the west, we reviewed our options for accessing the trailhead that was now several miles beyond the unexpectedly locked gate. This was an inauspicious start to what was already going to be a pre-dawn to dusk (hopefully) outing. After driving around on dirt roads for another half hour and encountering two more locked gates, we finally settled on a plan and parked. It was pitch black and cold when we finally set off at 6:00ish, following an unsuccessful search for a missing wallet (another inauspicious development).

Nearly 3000 vertical feet of walking on trail and off landed us on the sunny crest of Fuller Ridge. There we swapped trail shoes for mountaineering boots, replaced trekking poles with ice axes, and donned helmets. Then, at 10:00, we stepped into the cold shade and unconsolidated snow on the north side of Fuller Ridge and began our descent into the other Snow Creek.

Our first view of the route.  We climbed the couloir to the visible bottleneck chockstone, then ascended the ridge on the left to the top.

Since daylight was in short supply and we were descending into terrain for which there was no known record of prior travel, we opted to enter the drainage at a relatively high point, which turned out to be roughly 7800 feet. The snow in the couloir was about three feet deep and mostly unconsolidated. Patrick led the way through the snow until we reached a chockstone at ~8300 feet that we deemed to be impassable. At that point, we scrambled up rocks on the left and aimed for the sunny ridge that would put us even further into the NW face.

Patrick and Zach accessing the couloir.

 Our destination is the highpoint 2500 vertical feet above. 

 Patrick and the chockstone that blocked our way up the couloir.

While we were scrambling up the hillside toward the ridgeline, Patrick made a surprising discovery: two large, rusted gas cans. They were sitting right next to each other in the snow and were barely dented or scratched. A speculative discussion immediately ensued about how they got there.

Zach presenting the mysterious gas cans.

We gained the ridge at around 8800 feet and for the next two hours labored through unconsolidated snow, boulders, and branches – the kind of tiring terrain I’ve become well-acquainted with on Mt. San Jacinto. As expected from satellite imagery, the ridge steepened considerably at the final headwall, involving 100+ feet of strenuous third class scrambling over big boulders.

 Looking up the ridge. 

 It's a loooooong way down. 

 Zach on the ridge.

Topping out at ~10,350 feet, we saw what we thought was the summit at roughly ~10,420 feet. Reaching that point after fifteen minutes of tedious boulder-hopping through loose snow, we saw the true summit of Folly Peak at 10,500+ feet a few hundred yards further. The time was 2:30 and we were very tired. Concerned that we only had 2.5 hours of daylight left, Patrick and I stopped there while Zach powered on to the tippy top. By the time Patrick and I finished eating and hydrating, Zach was back and ready to descend.

That's the tippy top over there.

 Patrick on the subsidiary summit with the 5000 vertical foot NW face below.

It took a little over an hour to descend 1700 vertical feet down the trail-less and brush-covered Fuller Ridge to our gear cache. After a hasty break there to replace mountaineering boots with trail shoes, we moved as fast as possible downhill in the hope of finding the trail before dark. We never did find the trail, but eventually found ourselves on a road about one hour after sunset. Shortly thereafter, a brilliant full moon rose to light our way back to the car.

Racing down to the trail at sunset with our route in the background.  I think Zach is finally tired.

The numbers: ~5500 vertical feet (including ~2500 on the NW face); 12+ hours round trip.

 Photo by Norma Ryan.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Register Ridge . . . again

Here is a quick, belated post about our jaunt up Mt. Baldy last Sunday.  We started moving a little after 6:00 AM and summitted via Register Ridge at 9:00ish. There was virtually no wind, which was almost eerie.  We didn't really encounter snow until intersecting the Devil's Backbone Trail.  However, there was quite a lot of snow on the Ski Hut Trail from the summit down to the bottom of the bowl, which made mini-spikes useful.  We were back to the parking lot (sans port-a-potty!) around noon.

Ryan and Patrick finding Register Ridge to be hilarious.

 Tina showing off her fat lip. 

 The final push to the summit on the Devil's Backbone Trail (above Register Ridge). 

 Tina and Ryan doing something rare on Baldy summit: having a quiet conversation in unusual wind-less conditions. 

 Patrick tele-commuting on the summit with Mt. Baden Powell in the background.  The snowy Sierras were also visible in the distance. 

 A Rick Graham sighting on the summit -- this is apparently a common occurrence. 

Baldy Bowl.  The Ski Hut Trail goes through the steepish snow on the left.