Monday, March 16, 2009

Bighorn Peak

Saturday Cary and I tried out our new crampons on Bighorn Peak in the San Gabriel mountain range. I was still feeling under the weather with a nagging cold on it's tenth day of inception. Not sure if I was going to complete the climb I woke up at 4:45 am and got ready to head out. Cary and I met up at San Antonio park just off Mountain Ave in Upland. From there we carpooled up to Icehouse Canyon. We hit the trail around 6:50, as the sun was slowing making the trail visible we were eagerly awaiting putting on our crampons to start our ascent. It is important that you climb early in the morning so that the snow is still hard/icy so that the crampons could be effectively used. By mid day on a sunny day the snow could become mushy and make for a very difficult climb up.

Around 8:30 we started to hit snow and ice. We put on our crampons and hiked up the canyon following the the steam. Around 10 we hit the base of Bighorn Peak. It was here we started to climb using the cross over step. This is a climbing technique that makes climbing steep slopes alot easier. Along with the cross over step we traversed back and forth for about 2 hours until we reached the summit. The climb was steep enough to make me forget about being a little sick which was nice, it also made Cary and I forget about being tired. Once climbing all my focus was traversing, the cross over step and navigation. Once we reached the summit it was a relief, I thought it was going to be a false summit and we were going to have to climb another 500 feet or so. The summit stands at 8400 feet. We found the register (which made Cary happy) and found that not no one had signed it since Feb 2. Our buddy David from WTC had signed it last. We didn't see anyone climbing the peak or surrounding peaks, we had it all to ourselves! On the summit we had a stunning view of Ontario, Timber, Telegraph, Baldy, and other peaks. We were above the clouds. Words, or my lack of writing ability can't describe the feeling I get summiting and eating lunch on the summit. Cary was pretty excited as well, he has climbed Timber, Ontario and now Bighorn in three consecutive weeks!

On our way down the snow was starting to get punchy which made going down alot easier. I tracked our route on my GPS, check out below on the google map. You can also download the file and view it in google earth. Overall, the climb was great. I am feeling more and more confident on snow and ice in preparation for Rainier in June. I do, however, know that I have alot more to learn and experience, specifically with navigation and dealing with extreme weather.


Start: 6:50 (Icehouse Canyon)

Summit: 12:00

Return: 3:20

Elevation Start: 5,000 ft

Summit: 8,400 ft

Total Elevation: 3,400 feet

Mileage: 5.5 miles

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Timber Mtn via Icehouse Canyon

Saturday Cary and I climbed Timber Peak from Icehouse Canyon Trail head.  We didn't set out to climb Timber peak, really we just wanted to climb peaks with lots of snow and elevation gain.  We started around 7:30 from the trail head and grudgingly hiked up the canyon.  The trail had a light layer of frozen snow/ice.  It was slippery and hard to hike on considering we didn't have crampons.  Our snowshoes would have done us no good on the narrow trail either.  After about 1.5 miles of hiking up we decided to veer off the trail and start our climb.  The great thing about climbing in the snow is that you don't have to follow trails and you can climb more direct routes.  Due to the frozen layer of snow that made the slopes slippery we put on our snowshoes and started climbing.  Crampons would have come in handy here but neither Cary or myself have purchased them yet(we're still waiting for our REI dividend).   With snowshoes on we had a tough time traversing so we basically climbed straight up.  This was one of the steepest climbs I have done.  At points I was on all fours climbing up.  It was really nice to effectively use my ice axe as well. The bottom picture show me climbing up the slope where we deviated from the trail.  After about 5 hours of climbing we reached the summit.  Unfortunately, I ran out of batteries in my GPS unit so I did not track our hike.  It would have been interesting to see our route up.

On the way back down we took the traditional trail down to the Icehouse saddle and then back to the Icehouse Canyon trail.  During that time we took the liberty to take a few short cuts by glissading down the mountain.   Cary and I put on our rain/snow pants and had a blast glissading down while also practicing our self-arrest techniques.   The video below shows one of my glissading runs.  

Along our trek, Cary and I took interest in Ontario Peak which is along a beautiful ridge off the Icehouse Saddle.  The peak is now on our to do list.  We are climbing San Jacinto next weekend so maybe the weekend after that.  Good times!

Start Time: 7:30 Icehouse Canyon
Summit: 12:15
End: 3:30
Elevation start: 4,990 ft
Summit: 8,303 ft