Saturday, August 4, 2018

Mount Marie Louise

Hiked: 8/3/2018
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip on use trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5507'
Prominence: 547'
Elevation Gain: 624'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.5
Round trip time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass on Pilot Rock Truck Trail (2N33)
Difficulty: Easy

Mount Marie Louise is often climbed together with the Pinnacles. The trailhead is only 3 miles away from the Pinnacles on Pilot Rock Truck Trail (forest road 2N33). It took 20 minutes to get there because the last 2 miles are over rough dirt road. High clearance was required for large rocks in the road and 4x4 is recommended. Sierra Club directions can be found here.

I parked close to the start of the use trail that is marked with cairns on the right. Although the route is mostly cross country, I spotted a cairn every 50'. The first half of the route heads up a gully filled with small to medium sized boulders. It was a fun balancing act hopping from boulder to boulder. Eventually, you reach a clearing and the summit comes into view. From the clearing, a use trail with fewer cairns wove through dense brush. Losing the route at this point would lead to tough bushwhacking. The use trail through the brush was very steep with only a few short switchbacks. Half the gain on this hike comes in the last 0.2 miles. I was able to the follow the use trail to the top cluster of rocks fairly easily, then circled around to the east and scrambled to the summit. The highest boulder was class 2 and had no benchmark and neither did the others. The boulder pile immediately south of the summit held a pair of red register cans. I signed in and put them back in a crevice. Marie Louise had similar views to the Pinnacles. The boulder problems seemed different going down and I lost the trail. I back tracked and consulted the GPS to find the trail again. Once I got back to the clearing, it was easier with frequent cairns to guide me out. It was a fun boulder hop. While the stats place Marie Louise solidly in the easy category, a route finding mistake could make it a lot more difficult.

Cairns marking the start

Boulder hopping...

...and more boulder hopping

Summit block

The Pinnacles from Marie Louise

On the way down

I was curious about the name and found this from the Sierra Club web site:
Seemingly named for French Emperor Napoleon's second wife Marie-Louise von Habsburg (1791-1874), an Austrian princess whom he married in 1810. However, what (if any) connection exists between this peak and the Empress remains a mystery. It could have been named after an unknown surveyor's sweetheart, since there is no record of any early resident's wife or daughter being given this name. More likely it was a recent addition, given as a whim by a fire-boss.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Pinnacles

Hiked: 8/3/2018
Distance: 3.7 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 5737'
Prominence: 897'
Elevation Gain: 1144'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.91
Round trip time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Easy

I had 4 different hikes planned in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains, but both areas were closed due to recent fires. Instead, I decided to bag a couple of peaks north of Lake Arrowhead. The Pinnacles was first. The trail starts on highway 173. Getting there was a little tricky. Sierra Club directions can be found here or use your favorite mapping program.

I started at dawn and caught some golden hour shots of the false summit rock formations visible near the start. The area was much more beautiful than I anticipated, with low scrub, pines, and stellar granite. The first mile or so is mostly level until you reach the base of the false summit. I followed the trail up near the saddle below the false summit. This area had burned and poodle dog bush had a firm foothold. At the saddle, I was lured onto a climbers trail that ended at a 35' sport climb, one of many rock climbing routes in the Pinnacles area. I realized the summit was still some distance away and started a cross country correction to get back on the main trail. Unfortunately, I had shorts on and had to wade through some thick poodle dog. Contact was unavoidable so now I am bracing for the consequences. Once I was back on the trail, I reached the base of the true summit and began climbing. Some light scrambling was required on the way up. The summit block was stiff class 2 and capped with a battered metal pin. Whatever had been stamped on the pin was illegible. The register was below the summit block in an ammo box next to an odd pot. I climbed two other boulders at the summit to see if there were any other marks, but didn't find anything. The views were great. I looked for Lake Arrowhead but the Pinnacles is not high enough to see over the intervening mountains. While I was on the summit, I began hearing the pop, pop, blaow of gunshots from the firing range a couple of miles away. Gunshots became the soundtrack for the rest of the hike. I scrambled down and managed to stay on trail the rest of the way. At the truck, I reloaded my water and drove toward Mount Marie Louise.

False summit

Poodle dog bush intruding on the trail

Heading toward the true summit

Looking down from the summit block

Battered pin on the summit

Silverwood Lake and the San Gabriel Mountains


High desert

A couple of monoliths surrounded by poodle dog

On the way down

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wild Things v9

Hiked: 8/1/2018
Distance: 1.2 miles round trip on trail
Difficulty: Easy

Babushka the bobcat was up to her usual antics. Vlad the fox only visited twice, probably moving on to a better source of water. The coyote family made an appearance, along with the red tailed hawk, though I can't tell if it's the same one I saw last month. New to the watering hole was a roadrunner, a young buck, and a squirrel. I moved this camera to a new location on the other side of Ortega Highway. I doubt the new location will render such a variety of wildlife, but I thought it was time to explore. If it turns out to be a bust, I can always come back to this trusty spot, especially when the water returns.


Young buck

Babushka runs the place

Vlad the grey fox

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Antsell Rock and Apache Peak

Hiked: 7/20/2018
Distance: 7.2 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 7679' (Antsell), 7567' (Apache)
Prominence: 519' (Antsell), 687' (Apache)
Elevation Gain: 3156'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.52
Max Slope: 68%
Round trip time: 6 hours 50 minutes
Recommended water: 96 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Apple Canyon Road
Difficulty: Strenuous

Update 8/1/2018: The entire San Jacinto Wilderness area has been temporarily closed due to the Cranston Fire. Please avoid this hike until it reopens, possibly as soon as the end of the year.

Named after a local artist, Antsell Rock is the most difficult peak on the Desert Divide, a high and jagged ridge running south from San Jacinto Peak. Jerry Schad called it the jewel of the Divide. From his book, Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire:
...its stony buttresses make an impressive sight from most directions. It is also one of the few mountaineers’ peaks in Southern California that requires more than the usual plodding to reach the third class summit.
Sean and I drove up Highway 74 to the Zen Mountain Center visitor parking lot. The last mile of Apple Canyon Road is a good dirt road and the parking lot was on the left. We walked past the entrance gate and stayed left at two road splits. We continued up the dirt road past three water towers on the left, then continued straight past the first switchback to the start of the trail. The climb up the Zen trail is steep in parts, gaining about 1300' in a little over a mile. Vegetation is starting to encroach on parts of it, but cairns and orange ribbon kept us on track most of the way. There was still a lot of burn damage from multiple fires in the past. Near the top, it got a little confusing where deer trails competed with the eroded main trail. We managed to stay on track and emerged onto the PCT at the saddle between Antsell Rock and Apache. From there, it was a quick half mile to the east ascent gully, marked with its own rock cairn. There was no visible damage to the PCT.

Water tanks, trail starts directly ahead past road switchback

Looking down Apple Canyon

Start of ascent gully

The ascent gully was very steep, rising about 750' in a third of a mile. It was sandy, loose, and challenging. We both dislodged huge rocks on the way up and I often used vegetation to assist my climb. As the gully narrows at the top, some class 3 scrambling over boulders and trees was necessary. I was a sweat faucet when we reached the top of the gully, the base of the Antsell summit. The other popular route to reach the base is the north ridge. At the base, I instantly recognized the starting class 3 crack from Hikin' Jims 2013 report. I collapsed my trekking pole and placed it in my backpack, then started up. The pole got hung in part of the crack, so as soon I reached the first ledge, I removed it from my pack and threw it down to the base. It would have been a dangerous hazard the rest of the way. Sean waited until I reached the top of the crack before starting up. We continued over the top boulders to find the dead pine tree, a sign we were on the right track. We passed left of the tree, then ducked under some small pines on a down sloping slab. This got us into the "brushed up" gully. It appeared that someone had done some clipping, because we found a relatively clear path to the next class 3 section. I went first again and when Sean made it up, we angled left for easier terrain. We took different class 2 lines to the summit. Sean opted for a more direct, but more exposed track, and I switched back more to the right. On the summit was a pole marker and a small US flag. Standard HPS red cans held the register that went back to 1998 and was a little more than half full. I searched to find Hikin' Jims entry and noted the others climbers I knew. We didn't find a benchmark. The views were magnificent. We took a fairly long break to enjoy the summit and tried to capture photos that did it justice. I don't think we succeeded in the latter. After signing in, we reversed course. Going down the steep gully was as slow and difficult as going up. Once back on the PCT, we hiked past the Zen trail and headed for Apache Peak.

Narrowing gully

Sean above a scramble section

Sean climbing the first crack

Continue over these boulders

Dead tree section and brushy gully

Next class 3 section

Sean reaching the summit

North ridge, the ascent gully is on the right before the bump

West ridge

Apple Canyon

South ridge

The dual peaks of Apache were not far from the saddle, less than a mile. Although it is lower, the east summit looked higher to me most of the day. I misread the GPS and led us a short distance past the place we needed to leave the trail. We back tracked past a giant rock outcrop and Sean stashed his pack before the ascent. A patchy use trail led to Apache. It cut through shin level buckthorn that had grown over the trail in places. There was no register or benchmark among the boulder piles on the summit. Like Antsell, Apache had great views down into Apple Canyon. Since the east summit was so close, we paid it a quick visit, but found nothing of note. Dark clouds had boiled up as the afternoon approached, keeping us cool. It looked like it was raining on top of San Jacinto, but rain never felt imminent where we were. We cruised back down the Zen trail to wrap a memorable day.

On the way down, my trekking pole where I threw it

The desert side of the desert divide

Sean climbing up past the giant outcrop

Apache Peak summit

Antsell Rock from Apache

Sean on Apache East with Apache in the background

Other reports:
Hikin' Jim (north ridge approach)
Peaks for Freaks (east gully approach)