Friday, April 20, 2012

Mt. Islip Snow Hike - 4/15/12

We were grossly deprived of snow this year in these stubbornly dry San Gabriel Mountains and only got in a grand total of two snow hikes over the course of this 2011-2012 winter season... until last week when Tlaloc finally decided to grace us with the snow storm we were so desperately awaiting.

We were planning to revisit Mt. Baden Powell to get our last glimpse of snow before it all melted, and we were expecting the usual measly few inches of snow that we've gotten used to over the last few months.

Our hike started out at the ever-crowded Crystal Lake Campground and as soon as we stepped out of the car, it was time for the microspikes. (And time for the better-prepared among us to grab the snow shoes and ice axe.) We slowly made our way through the campground to the Windy Gap trailhead to get the snow party started. The ranger manning the parking lot warned us that we wouldn't make it to Baden Powell with our minimal gear, but we scoffed in his naive face and continued on our journey.

We were planning on bagging Throop, Hawkins, Burnham, and Baden Powell, but it quickly became obvious that naive parking lot ranger was right. Our new destination was now Windy Gap to Mt. Islip.

Sal to the rescue
We tried to follow the Windy Gap Trail, which is aggressively maintained by the good folks who volunteer with the San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders, but it was buried under several feet of snow and nowhere to be found. We ended up on a steep chute that wouldn't have been possible to cross without our well-equipped hiking buddy creating a trail with his snowshoes and ice axe.

After an exhaustingly steep half mile, we ended up at the saddle between Hawkins and Islip. From there, we descended another half mileish and found an unusually frosty Windy Gap. Another strenuous mile and we were on top of Mt. Islip where we were greeted by a pair of crazy peakbaggers checking out the crazy spectacular views. It's only 8250', but isolated enough to show you some amazing shit.

The descent involved lots of glissading, self-arresting and post-holing, and we finally made it back to the campground. Farewell, San Gabriel Mountain snow. Until next year.

Up to the saddle

Islip summit

Amazing shit

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mt. Wilson via Bastard Ridge - 4/7/12 (with cameos by Jones Peak, Hastings Peak and Mt. Yale)

We tried climbing Mt. Wilson from The Mt. Wilson Trail once a few months ago. We reached the summit and it was enjoyable.  But in the interest of avoiding insanity by climbing the same trail repeatedly, we took a very different and much more exciting route this time. (The quote doesn't really apply to hiking though; climbing the same mountain over and over again will always yield different results, e.g. Mt. Baldy Ski Hut Trail <3 <3 <3)

Bastard Ridge Trail
Start out at the Mt. Wilson Trailhead off of Mira Monte Ave. in Sierra Madre and continue on the Mt. Wilson Trail for about a mile, keeping an eye out for a very steep but obvious use trail going straight up Bastard Ridge (Yes this is the real name. No we didn't make it up.) toward Jones Peak. It's just under a mile from the start of the ridge up to Jones and the elevation gain is about 1700'. Bastard Ridge continues to be a bastard for a few more miles, but after summiting Jones Peak, you're past the toughest part.

The trail gets a bit overgrown in spots, but it's pretty hard to lose the route since you're just sticking to the ridge the whole way. After climbing down the North side of Jones, continue up the ridge straight ahead instead of turning left for the Bailey Canyon Trail. About another mile (and less than 1000' of gain) and you'll end up on Hastings Peak.

Continue on the ridge for another 3/4 of a mile or so. As you look ahead toward the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, you'll see only one option for climbing up to the road. It looks like it'd be impossible to climb without a rope, but it's not quite as steep as it looks and we discovered that it is indeed possible, albeit steep as hell.

The trail leading to the toll road

The trail to Mt. Yale
The trail gets a bit less exciting once you reach the toll road. Follow the fire road around Mt. Yale until you get to the Northwest side of the mountain where you'll see something that looks semi-climbable. It's a short ascent up to the peak and it's your last chance for solitude before you rejoin the Mt. Wilson Trail. From the bottom of Mt. Yale, you have about 2 miles and only about 1000' of gain left to go until you reach the summit of Mt. Wilson.

Once you get to the top, you not only have the opportunity to feel superior to the suckers who drove up, but you're also way cooler than all of the people who took one of the four established Mt. Wilson trails. You added three bonus peaks to your hike and cut about a mile and a half off the ascent. So give your hiking partner a well-deserved pat on the butt and feel proud of your accomplishment.

Downtown LA from Jones Peak
Mt. Yale, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Wilson from Bastard Ridge

Los Angeles from the Mt. Wilson Toll Road