Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bauer Benchmark

Hiked: 10/6/2017
Distance: 1.8 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 806'
Elevation Gain: 612'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.49
Round trip time: 40 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on E Creekside Ave
Difficulty: Easy

I parked on E Creekside in Orange, although parking on E Stillwater would be just as convenient. The single track trail in the El Modena Open Space starts across North Cannon street between Creekside and Stillwater. The trail winds around the first bump then climbs up the ridge. At the top of the first bump, water in the Santiago Creek Recharge Basin comes into view. You can also see a second unnamed bump between you and Bauer, the high point in the open space preserve. I jogged parts of the class 1 trail, enjoying what looked like volcanic rock toward the top. The benchmark is at the north end of the ridge. The cement area surrounding the benchmark was painted using a geometric stencil creating an arrow between two painted skulls. The paint covered part of the worn benchmark making it hard to read. I could make out "Bauer" and "Dec 1977" but was unable to determine the agency that placed it, usually shown around the perimeter. An Internet search turned up additional reference marks (geocaching.com) that were placed by the Orange County Surveyor, so it is reasonable to expect the benchmark was also placed by the County. The views were good but hazy. A couple and their dog arrived from the north a few seconds after I left. At the saddle between the first and second bumps, I took a side trail down the east slope that dropped me onto Cannon Street just above Creekside. I continued down Cannon to the truck and returned to work. This was my third lunchbagging peak. Fun for a quick work out.

Start of the trail

Up to the first bump

Looking over the middle bump to Bauer

Approaching Bauer

Benchmark and graffiti

Northwest to the recharge basin

Northeast to Chino Hills

Side trail back to Cannon

Friday, September 29, 2017

North Iron Mountain and Ramona Overlook Peak

Hiked: 9/29/2017
Distance: 6 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2703' (North Iron), 2635' (Ramona)
Elevation Gain: 2055'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.64
Round trip time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Ellie Lane trailhead
Difficulty: Moderate (class 5 summit on North Iron)

North Iron Mountain in Poway is wedged between Iron Mountain and Woodson Mountain. It is higher than Iron, lower than Woodson, and far more difficult than either, sporting a tricky 50' class 5 summit block. TLDR: About 3 hours of relaxed single track and 20 minutes of abject terror. One of the great things about the Poway area is the cluster of small but interesting peaks and it's only about an hour from my house. I parked at the Ellie Lane trailhead and took the trail that runs between North Iron and Mt. Ellie. It climbs to the saddle where Table Rock marks the beginning of the use trail to North Iron. The use trail is in good shape with almost no bushwhacking.

Don't get lost now
Show no fear
And you'll be ready
For a new frontier
-- Monster Magnet, God Says No

The North Iron summit is made up of several house sized boulders piled on one another. I circled the peak and there were several possibilities for reaching the top. I had spoken to Eric Su about it and he provided valuable beta on a class 5 roped route from the northeast. (Thanks!) Eric's route required lassoing a chicken head with webbing about 12' above a class 3 ledge, then a relatively short ascent from there. Bob Burd's recently discovered unroped class 5 route from the south involved four sections: 1) climbing a tree to get above the high angle rock, 2) a class 3 slab, 3) a class 2 traverse, 4) a class 3+ ascent on the final block. (Thanks!) Lastly, I found a ~5.5 crack system on the north side that looked reasonable if you could get a top rope anchored on the other side. The top of the crack would put you at the traverse on Bob's route, however the slabs were hollow and might break off. I had my rope and gear in the car, but out of laziness decided I would try Bob's route first and if I failed, I would go back and haul the rope up for Eric's route. I packed my rock shoes in and highly recommend them regardless of the route chosen. As Morpheus said, "There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."

North Iron summit block from below

Table Rock and Mt. Ellie

Unroped summit block route

At the base of the tree below the North Iron summit, I ate some almond butter, put on my rock shoes and started climbing the tree. It was too far away from the rock for me to stem it as Bob had done. I literally went out on a limb, dismounted into a 60 degree crack and used the tree to pull myself on a 2' ledge about 15' above the ground. Even though this was the crux, the next section was not easy. A short friction move got me below the next slab where I briefly considered turning around. Did I really want to do this? After a short internal debate, I decided to continue going up, using an under cling on the top slab. The traverse was easy class 2 as expected along the south side to the base of the final summit block. This was the only section without serious exposure. While climbing over the traverse, my camera fell out of my pocket and tumbled over the precipice. I had dropped it on Peak 3339 only two weeks ago and this time it was finished. I found it later with the battery and memory card half ejected. It was not lost on me that a slip would have left my organs half ejected at the same crash site. I paused at the base of the final block and had another internal debate. There were decent holds on the final block but they weren't jugs. I only had another 20' of exposed class 3+ to gain the summit. My hesitation only lasted a few seconds but it seemed excruciatingly long. I still had my Ricoh Theta S 360 camera and it would have to suffice for the rest of the summit photos. I took a couple of 360s at the base, then started moving up again. The holds were plentiful but required attention. I was somewhat relieved when I topped out, but not exuberant. I knew I had to descend. The summit was larger than expected with plenty of room for several people. I stood and walked around, unable to locate Bob's register placed in April. When I saw the boulder and anchor on Eric's route, I cursed myself. More than ever, I wished I had come up that way so I could rappel down that way. I shook my head, took some 360s on the summit, then steeled myself for the descent. I started down with my left side to the rock. This was a pretty good compromise to maintain stability and still see the holds below me. It was a slow descent off the summit followed by an easy traverse back to the slabs above the tree. I thought getting back into the tree might be difficult, but I was able to walk myself down to a point where I could place my right foot between two branches, then get back on the main limb. A few moves later and I was back on the ground, still cursing myself for not using the rope. I found my camera with splayed guts and put it back together. The shutter mechanism was broken. I had to use my phone to take photos the rest of the trip.

2' ledge at the top of the crack

Out on a limb

I climbed the limb on the right, then dismounted left into crack

Lower slab section from the ledge

Looking down from the 2' ledge

Traverse section, just before dropping my camera (RIP)

Final summit block (screen grab from 360)

Looking north to Woodson (screen grab from 360)

Looking south to Iron Mountain and Ramona Overlook (screen grab from 360)

Camera crash site

I wasn't in the mood for the mild bushwhack up Mt. Ellie, but I did want to head over to Ramona Overlook Peak. I got back on the trail and followed it up to the point where the trail started to drop. There was a good use trail there heading to Ramona Overlook Peak. The views were awesome in all directions and I appreciated the walk up. I finally started to relax and sat down for lunch. After hanging out a while, I climbed the unnamed peaklet behind Ramona then headed back to the car. For the return trip, I followed the trail south of Mt. Ellie and it eventually curved back to intersect the starting trail. Despite the struggle, I was happy to have some iron back in my diet, even if it was San Diego iron. I was also happy to get the summit block. If I ever climb it again, it will be on Eric's roped route.

Approaching Ramona Overlook Peak

View from Ramona Overlook Peak

A quick look at the other possible routes...

Eric's route, the boulder that must be lassoed from the class 3 ledge, should have gone this way

The hollow crack system on the north side

Would you like to know more...?

Other Trip Reports:
North Iron Mountain, Mt. Ellie, Ramona Overlook Peak (Bob Burd)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Santiago and Modjeska via Telephone Ridge

Hiked: 9/23/2017
Distance: 15.2 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5687' (Santiago), 5496' (Modjeska)
Elevation Gain: 5432'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 4.34
Round trip time: 8 hours 25 minutes
Recommended water: 128 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Trabuco Creek Road
Difficulty: Strenuous

Before starting the fall semester, Eric asked if I had any off-trail or route finding challenges in the works. One that had been rolling around in my head a while was taking Telephone Ridge to Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak with a possible side trip to "The Scar". Santiago is the high point in Orange County and a P4k that Eric hadn't done. The Scar is a massive drainage channel on the southeast face of Santiago. It is visible on clear days from miles away, but isolated and hard to reach. From satellite imagery, it looked like a high angle packed dirt chute.

We started on Trabuco Creek Road (33.6717554, -117.5593322) around sunrise. I led us up a steep, trashy gully with a rusted out car that probably didn't save us any time. I recommend sticking to the road at the start. The road climbs up to the Joplin Trail and we followed it east to a clearing where it splits. At the clearing, the Joplin trail drops down to Old Camp while a maintenance road continues right toward the Telephone Pole Ridge. We cached a little water there for the return trip, the took the road until it ended. The weather was unusually cool for this time of year and neither of us ended up using all the water we brought. At the end of road, we dropped about 75' down to the base of Telephone Ridge. The brush was mostly light and there was a reasonable trail to follow beneath the poles. Although not recent, there were occasional signs of trail maintenance. The ridge climb was really pleasant and views back into Orange County got better by the minute. Eric found a snake skin under a rock, but it was too cool for the snakes to be out. The ridge would probably be snakey in warm weather. When we got to the spot we had planned to leave the ridge toward The Scar, we were already in fairly dense brush. It was worse off the ridge and pretty far away, so we made the game time decision to skip it. As we got close to the road, the trail drifted right of the poles into thick buckthorn. We thought maybe we had gotten off track and bushwhacked back under the poles only to find worse conditions. We headed back to the buckthorn and pushed our way through a nasty 100' section before it opened up again. We emerged onto the road and took it to the tower filled summit. Not content with the terrestrial summit, Eric sought better views but that is a story for another time. We walked to a view point I had not visited on my previous visits and checked out some view tubes. The tubes were ineffective with the usual haze covering the OC. Clouds started rising from below and would end up keeping us cool later on the descent.

Top of Santiago near the start

Shortcut gully, 3/10 would not recommend

Telephone Pole Ridge

Staying under the poles

Trabuco Canyon and the OC from the ridge

Snake shed

The tower closest to the summit

Next we headed to Modjeska. I knew there was a trail that led down to the saddle between the peaks but had not been on it before. We followed my GPS track down the other side of the summit to where it started. The trail was surprising good all the way to the saddle. There is a good trail to Modjeska that also leaves saddle on Main Divide Road. A newer sign had been placed on Modjeska, but some loser had sawn it off and taken it home. On the summit, we met an odd motorcycle rider who felt compelled to explain to us the details of the government's weather warfare program, chemtrails, and the end times. We did our best not to trigger him while resting up for the descent. We returned down the trail to the saddle, then took the Joplin trail down into the canyon. The trail was slightly rutted in some places from mountain bikes, but otherwise was in fine condition. There was a lot of shade on the trail from deciduous tree coverage. There was also a lot of poison oak, often growing into the trail. I am pretty sure I brushed it several times but probably not enough to cause a reaction. It remained cool in the shade under party cloudy skies. We reached Old Camp and there wasn't much to it. It is an unmaintained campground with an abandoned broken lawn chair. We crossed water in a creek not far from the camp, but the creek next to the camp was dry. On the way out, we picked up our water cache, which turned out to be unnecessary, and hiked back to the car. This was my third visit each to Santiago and Modjeska, but my first time to summit both on the same trip. The scar remains elusive. A descent from the road seems like the best chance to reach it, although an ascent from the bottom of the canyon is a possibility. Telephone Ridge is now my favorite route to Santiago. It is guaranteed to be uncrowded and offers views along the way that can't be matched by the Holy Jim trail or Main Divide.

Start of the trail down to the saddle

Wrecked truck on the trail

Modejeska from the trail

Ridge use trail to Modjeska

Santiago from Modjeska

Clouds building to the west

Starting down the Joplin Trail

Zoomed view of The Scar from the cache clearing

Would you like to know more...?

Other Trip Reports:
Santiago Powerline Ridge (Mountaineering Review)