Saturday, December 21, 2013

Modjeska Peak via Harding Short-Cuts

Walking the Harding Truck Trail from the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary to the summit of Modjeska Peak (5,496 feet) is around 12 miles one way. Factoring in the 4,000 vertical feet of elevation gain makes that a long, foot-pounding hike. In December 2013, Dave Gillanders and I decided to make the route a little shorter (and more interesting) with three substantial shortcuts.

The three shortcuts are shown on the map below:

The Harding Truck Trail is yellow. The short-cuts are red.

The entrances to the short-cuts are not obvious, so you need to pay close attention. And even though the top short-cut is a maintained trail, both ends are difficult to find from the road.

I should mention that this is not a good route on a hot day. I personally wouldn't even consider doing it if forecasted temperatures were above 80 degrees.

Here are some pics from our hike:

Dave on the first short-cut. 

Dave on the summit. 

Santiago Peak as seen from Modjeska Peak

Heading down the top short-cut. You can see that this one is an actual trail.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hail and Live Music on Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy is often underestimated, which is why I didn't bring my rain jacket on the Baldy Village Trail today. The hike went smoothly and we were having a happy little picnic on the summit. But then, with little warning, we were utterly bombarded by a rather shocking hail storm that lasted for a solid thirty minutes. The pellets were small, but they were coming down hard and stung the tops of my ears.

At Baldy/Harwood saddle, I sought shelter from the icy onslaught under a stunted pine tree. As the hail hit the branches, it melted, showering me with drips. Within minutes, I was completely soaked down to my underwear and cold. Though the hail hadn't stopped, I needed to get moving again.

I hiked as fast as I could down the Devil's Backbone Trail and was very relieved to reach the notch, where the Bighorn Music Festival was happening. Walking into the restaurant, I found my friends from the The Fallen Stars, who were about to go on. I was thoroughly drenched and feeling somewhat shell-shocked by the hail storm, but stuck around to watch them perform a great set of Americana tunes.     

'Twas another memorable day on Mt. Baldy.

The always photogenic Norma Ryan on the Baldy Village Trail.

Good times on the summit moments before the hail storm

My shelter from the hail storm, which served to completely soak me. 

Looking back at the summit during a break from the hail 

The Fallen Stars rocking the Bighorn Music Festival

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Upper San Antonio Canyon on Mt. Baldy

This route follows the Ski Hut Trail as far as the ski hut. But instead of crossing San Antonio Creek and continuing on the trail, the route heads straight up the creek. After a few hundred vertical feet of rock hopping up the creek, steep terrain forces you onto the ridge on climber's left. This is where things get interesting and a little dicey. For roughly two hundred vertical feet, you must grovel straight up sand and loose scree until it becomes hard, steep dirt. The final fifty feet is delicate, third class dirt climbing with the possibility of a nasty slide or tumble. After making the final stressful moves off the dirt and into the brush above, you're home free. Then it's just a few hundred more vertical feet of intermittent brush and loose sand/scree to the Devil's Backbone Trail.

Unexpected company on the way up the Ski Hut Trail

The start of the route up San Antonio Creek from the ski hut

Kurt Wedberg and his fellow Everest summiteers from 2012. I told them that climbing Everest was great training for Mt. Baldy. They agreed.

Unexpected company on the way down the Ski Hut Trail

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Carter Loop in the White Mountains of NH

On July 31 and August 1, I did a fabulous loop in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that included Wildcat Mt. and the Carters, with a night at the Carter Notch Hut.

Leaving southern Massachusetts at around 4AM, I was hiking by around 8:30AM. I was recovering from a little stomach virus, so the drive was rather drowsy and the four-mile hike up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail sluggish.

After last year's experience at Galehead Hut, I made sure to arrive at the hut early -- I was there before noon. You see, during last year's 2-day Pemi Loop, I got the last choice of bunks and suffered a horrendous sleep. So this year, I got the first choice of bunks and enjoyed a wonderful night's rest.  

After checking in at the hut, I sweated my way up Wildcat Mt. for some wonderful views. I then returned to the hut for a nap and then some casual exploring of "The Ramparts", which is the snout of a huge rock avalanche that cascades down from Carter Dome and ends, conveniently, at the hut. Dinner at the hut was a delicious, family-style affair, with lots of interesting conversation among fellow hikers.

A robust breakfast, including bacon, was served at 7AM sharp. Learning from last year's mistake of eating too much of the hut's morning feast, I resisted the temptation to pig out and thanked myself an hour later whilst laboring up the trail to Carter Dome.  

The stretch from Carter Dome to Middle Carter is really splendid, with lots of above-treeline vistas. Mt. Hight is the, um, highpoint in terms of vistas, but I was pleasantly surprised with the section around Middle Carter.

Hiking down North Carter Trail and the southern Imp Trail was a bit of a slog, but I availed myself of the shortcut that leads down to Camp Dodge, thus significantly reducing the length of the road walk back to the car. The night-time drive back to southern Massachusetts was fueled by caffeine and slowed by rain, but otherwise uneventful.

One of several crossings on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. 

Moss, conifers, and ferns on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. 

The larger lake at Carter Notch.

One of two bunkhouses at Carter Notch Hut. 

Carter Notch and Carter Dome from the summit of Wildcat Mt. The hut buildings are visible next to the lake. 

The Ramparts.

Scott the AT thru-hiker on the smaller Carter Notch lake. 

Carter Notch and Wildcat Mt. from the trail up Carter Dome. 

A typical stretch of White Mountain trail. 

Ruben, the 70-year old AT thru-hiker, on the summit of Mt. Hight. He had never been backpacking before setting off solo on the AT in Georgia back in February. 

On top of Mt. Hight with the Presidentials in the background.

Somewhere near the top of Middle Carter Mt.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tina Fiori Denali summit celebration hike

In May, SoCal trailblazer and all around mountain maniac Tina Fiori summited Denali. Many of us in the southland mountaineering community rejoiced at the news, because we've observed her grit and sustained determination first hand. If anyone deserved it, it was Tina!

Tina Fiori on the summit of Denali, May 2013

To celebrate her accomplishment, a bunch of us convened at dawn on Father's Day to ascend Register Ridge on Mt. Baldy. Though everyone else slogged on to Dawson and then back up to Baldy summit, I convinced Patrick to do the "gentleman's variation", which involved a leisurely stroll down Devil's Backbone and then ... I hesitate to admit this ... a ride down the ski lift.

Heading up the bottom of Register Ridge.

Taking a break on Register Ridge.

The final moon slog to Harwood summit. 

Gettin' goofy on Harwood summit. That's Mt. Baldy in the background.

Devil's Backbone

Patrick on Devil's Backbone

Patrick reacting to the news that we would be taking the ski lift down. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dobbs Loop

It took Dave Gillanders and me about 10 hours to do a (new?) loop on Dobbs Peak (~10,500 feet) near Mt. San Gorgonio. Stepping off the trail at Vivian Creek Camp, we ascended the West Ridge of Dobbs (which is also called Dobbs Ridge) to the summit. The entire ridge route was marked (read: littered) with squares of pink duct tape. The ascent involved 4500 feet of elevation gain. We then descended the South Ridge of Dobbs to the vicinity of High Creek Camp. There were no signs of prior travel on the class 2 South Ridge.

Dobbs Loop. Dobbs Peak is the upper right corner of the loop. 

 Dave crossing Mill Creek in the morning.

 Dave heading up the West Ridge with Yucaipa Ridge in the background. 

Looking up the West Ridge. It's easy off-trail terrain.

Yucaipa Ridge with Mt. San Jacinto in the background. 

Dave on the broad sandy summit ridge. Dobbs Peak is at the end of the ridge. 

About to descend the South Ridge.

Dave descending an easier stretch of the South Ridge.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The South Ridge of Mt. Baldy

The South Ridge route on Mt. Baldy

 The South Ridge of Mt. Baldy is the ridge between San Antonio Canyon and Goode Canyon. It starts at 5600 feet and is intersected by the Ski Hut trail at 8800 feet.

At 6:30AM on April 6, Patrick Moran, Dave Gillanders, and I left the car at Manker Flat and descended 400 feet to near the bottom of the South Ridge. The 100 foot drop into the canyon is hazardous. I took a 20-foot slide down there once and Patrick got caught in a rock/dirt avalanche there once, escaping bloody and battered with a severed finger tip. It came as no surprise, then, that we spotted a fixed line dropping to the canyon floor. But instead of using the questionable line, we opted for an alternate and thankfully uneventful way down. 

From the floor of San Antonio canyon, we descended 5-10 more minutes until the canyon narrowed precipitously. We figured that this would be a good place to gain the ridge. What followed was a stressful, 30-minute, 200-foot climb of a rotten, third class slope. I wouldn't recommend it.

Once on the ridge, we managed to avoid the bushwhacking that had plagued Dave and I on our previous ascent by sticking to the sandy and laborious right side of the ridge. 1.5 hours after leaving the car, we finally got above the nastiness and began the pleasant 2000-foot ridge climb to the intersection with the Ski Hut trail. We then followed the Ski Hut trail up the remainder of the South Ridge to the summit.

It took us five hours to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the ridge and then climb 4300 vertical feet to the summit.  

Dave about to get into the nastiness as we climb out of the canyon and onto the ridge.

 The beginning of the nice part of the ridge.

 Patrick getting into the good stuff.

Dave on the ridge. 

 Patrick among the blocks.

Above the point where the Ski Hut trail intersects the South Ridge, I got off the main trail and stumbled into airplane alley. 

More wreckage in the upper reaches of Goode Canyon. It was all over the place. 

200 feet above the airplane wreckage and back on the main trail. 

Baldy summit. 

That's one portion of the South Ridge up there.