Distance: 13.3 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 9399' (Baden-Powell), 9001' (Burnham), 9142' (Throop)
Prominence: 2799' (Baden-Powell), 197' (Burnham), 618' (Throop)
Elevation Gain: 4320'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.45
Round trip time: 7 hours
Recommended water: 168 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous (combined)
I had been itching to spend some time in the middle high country of the San Gabriels. I got my chance with this triple play of high peaks. Coming from south OC, it was a long drive around the mountains to get to the trailhead at Vincent Gap. I left at 4:30 AM and pulled into the parking lot at 6:15 AM. It was still very dark, the dark side of Baden-Powell being like the dark side of the moon. I expected the temperature to be in the high 30s at the trailhead, but it was 45F. That would not last, and the cold nearly turned me back at one point. The first storm of fall had dropped a few inches of snow on Baden-Powell the previous week, and I could not decide if I needed to prepare for a real snow hike. I decided to go with trail runners and extra socks in case they got wet, and also brought head protection, gloves, and three upper layers.
I rigged my lighting and followed the sign to the Baden-Powell trail, which is part of the PCT. The trail was mostly clear except for a dozen or so places where snow and ice covered short sections. Until the next storm, I expect the snow patches to dwindle. I needed artificial light for about 30 minutes before the sun could illuminate the trail. The early part of the trail was a mix of deciduous and pines, which eventually turned to just pines, then just limber pines the last few hundred feet. The temp dropped into the high 30s and stayed there all the way to the top. When I got to the Wally Waldron tree, my hands were very cold from taking my gloves off to take pictures. On the Baden-Powell summit, named after the founder of the Boy Scouts, there was a constant 25-30 mph wind and that put my hands into deep freeze. I am definitely going to invest in a pair of those gloves that can operate a phone without taking them off. I took some quick pictures and signed the summit log. Due to the wind, I only stayed on the summit for a few minutes, then immediately started down to get out of it.
The Wally Waldron limber pine tree, estimated to be 1500 years old, named after a local Boy Scout leader
I descended back to the Wally tree and PCT junction and sat in a patch of sunlight to eat something. My fingers were now completely numb and becoming a concern. I had to use my knife to open the pull top lid on some chunk white chicken. I considered heading back down, but thought the Grabber hand warmers I had might bring my fingers back to life. I had to use the knife again to open the package, then stowed my single trekking pole, and put my hands in my jacket pockets with kung fu grips on the hand warmers. Within a couple of minutes, I could sense the heat, but my fingers were still useless. I decided to continue along the PCT toward Mt. Burnham and turn back if I my hands did not improve. There were more snow and ice patches covering the PCT in the shadow of Baden-Powell, but they cleared out once I got in the sun. When I was half way to Burnham, my fingers were starting to tingle and warm up. As I hit the Burnham summit, they were pretty much thawed and the constant sunlight on the ridge was warming me up in general, though the temp remained below 50F. This was enough motivation to continue to Throop.
I kept warming my hands until they were balmy and sweaty, then broke out the pole for the ascent of Throop Peak, which had some of the best views of the day. From the Throop summit plaque, I discovered that Throop Peak was named after Amos Throop, founder of Throop University in 1891, now known as the California Institute of Technology. I had planned to also tag Mt. Hawkins, but opted to bundle it with a pack of peaks some other day. I met two solo hikers on the way down, the sum total of my human interaction in the mountains that day. During the drive back, I stopped to take a parting shot of Baden-Powell from Highway 2.