Flying Above the Fall Fog
Any good book on climbing/mountaineering/backpaking will always tell you that planning is the key ingredient of a successful and safe trip in the outdoors. In my attempt to climb most of the major peaks in the Mount San Antonio area over two days I found that my plans were good and bad.
The plan was to leave on Friday evening and car camp at the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek. I would wake Saturday and hit the trail for Kelly's Camp. Then I would make a base camp and attempt Ontairo, Big Horn and Cucamonga Peaks. Sleep. The next day I would attempt the 3T's (Timber, Telegraph and Thunder Peak) and San Antonio if I was feeling good, then back to camp and out.
I attempted to drive up the Middle Fork at about 8:00pm. The rocky dirt road proved to be a bit too much for the Element to take and knowing my track record for taking vehicles off road I decided that my hide would be safer by following the backup plan. That is the next lesson in outdoorsmanship. Always have a backup plan.
I arrived at Manker Flats campground at about midnight, grabbing the last spot available. I found sleeping in the Element to be moderately comfortable once I found a comfy spot in the seat arragment.
I was up at 6:00am to prep breakfast and roll down the hill to Icehouse Canyon. This is when I found that I was low on fuel for the Svea. I figured that if I metered my usage and worked efficently I could make it through the next two days. I was right and never had a problem.
The trailhead was a zoo. I counted at least 15 people there at 7:00am. Once I was done prepping my gear I found that I was the only one in the lot. Since I am preping for the Search and Rescue fitness test I found this to be rather motivating. I was the only backpacker there and I wanted to see if I could whip the day hikers to the top.
I set off on a four mile per hour pace and ate up some trail. At the two mile mark I had passed all that I'd seen in the parking lot and I was the first one at Icehouse saddle. Kelly's camp was only another mile from there and I made a short order of the distance.
Kelly's was serene and quiet. I found a large deer to be the only other being at the spot and I made camp on one of the backfilled foundations of the old buildings. After a short rest a a review of my route I switched to fanny pack mode and headed for Ontario.
The weather was great once I hit the south ridge of the high Angeles High Country. I was moving along with my shirt off while the rest of the San Gabriel valley was swimming in a cool foggy soup that rolled in the night before.
The Ontario route is fairly straight forward without too many changes in elevation and I summited quickly. Retracing my steps I crossed back to Big Horn where the going got more challenging. The trail is much more spotty and goes directly to the summit. Unfortunately Big Horn has no summit log so I stopped and put my shirt back on for the descent along the ridge towards Cucamonga. I made the mistake of coming off the ridge too early and had to traverse on sand and scree, slippery and energy sapping.
The trail to Cucamonga is much better on the last miles and I was quickly back up to speed but I was beginning to pay for the slippery traverse on Big Horn. The views from the top were well worth the long day. Cucamonga is set off from the other to peaks so a spectacular view is available from all parts of the summit.
The trip back to Kelly's was getting tiresome and I had drank all my water. This is when I realized my plan had gone awry. I would have to back track 2 miles down Icehouse to get water. At camp, I made a meal and quickly fell asleep for about an hour, only waking because my snorting was so loud! Feeling refreshed, I ran back down to the Spring in Icehouse Canyon to fetch water. It during this trip that I decided my plan for the 3Ts would not pan out. I would have to waste too much time and energy just to get water. Next time I'll be bringing a bladder bag to fill on the way in.
At camp, I found that I was now in the company of some young Scouts as well as a group of weekend warriors. So much for a peaceful overnighter. In the morning I quickly packed and was the first to break camp.
In all I'm glad to have completed Cucamonga since I'd never been up there before. I've learned a little more about planning and I can only improve for the next trip.