Saturday, January 26, 2013

Modjeska Peak

Hiked: 1/23/2013
Distance: 10.8 miles round trip on dirt road and trail
Summit Elevation: 5496'
Prominence: 536'
Elevation Gain: 2528'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.02
Round trip time: 4 hours
Recommended water: 96 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Modjeska Peak is the lower peak on Saddleback Mountain in the Santa Anas and the 2nd highest peak in Orange County after Santiago. It is also free of radio towers and provides much better 360 degree views than Santiago.

I approached Modjeska from Maple Springs Road, starting where the road turns to dirt and taking the single track trail on the left of Main Divide Road right after the intersection with Maple Springs and Harding Truck Trail. The trail cuts a fair distance off the round trip compared to the road. I was surprised to find a patch of snow clinging to the trail around 5000', despite the temperature hovering around 56F. The trail intersects the road again near the summit, turn left to continue on the road. After turning left, you can follow the road to the summit or take the ridge immediately on the right. When I first reached the top of the trail, I saw two deer on the road that quickly sprinted up the ridge. I was able to grab a photo before they disappeared.

Rock outcroppings on the peak make for several fine resting spots to take in the scenery and hydrate. I didn't find a USGS benchmark, but there was a geocache and summit log to sign. Instead of returning on the road, I went down the ridge (where I saw the deer) to spice things up. There is a very faint use trail that looks more like an animal trail than human. It is not very steep and navigation was easy. I noticed later on Google Earth imagery that most of the road can be bypassed using fire breaks and use trails. On my next ascent, I'll try to avoid the road as much as possible and see how much distance it saves. Climbing Modjeska was more fun than I expected.



Single track trail shortcut from Main Divide Road just past the intersection with Maple Springs Road


Modjeska dead ahead


An unexpected patch of snow around 5000', stubbornly hanging on despite it being 56F


Rock formation near the summit


Deer on the ridge are hard to see without the full size picture


Modjeska Peak summit looking east



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Monday, January 14, 2013

Los Pinos Peak

Hiked: 1/13/2013
Distance: 5.4 miles round trip on dirt road and trail
Summit Elevation: 4510'
Prominence: 610'
Elevation Gain: 1400'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.12
Round trip time: 2 hours
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Los Pinos is the 4th highest peak, and one of the southern most peaks in the Santa Ana mountains. It can be reached from trails north and south. I started from North Main Divide road. Getting to the trailhead is an adventure itself as you wind up a narrow road with potholes to a turn out. To get there from the OC, take Ortega Highway (74) from the I-5 about 25 miles toward Temecula, then take the first paved road on the left past the candy store (Long Canyon Road). Follow the road past the probation facility, bear right and follow the signs to Blue Jay campground, then continue past the campground a little until you see the North Main Divide sign and a closed gate (it will probably remain closed all winter) on the left. I suggest driving slowly and watching out for other cars.

There was no snow, but the ground was frozen and temps hovered around 40F. Because of its location, Los Pinos provides a unique view of Santiago Peak and great views of San Gorgonio. I think Los Pinos would be more fun to approach from the south using the longer, more difficult ridge route.


Use trail leaving Main Divide Road toward Los Pinos


Santiago peak viewed from the south on Los Pinos summit



Snow-capped San Gorgonio in the distance



Los Pinos benchmark



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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Timber Mountain Winter Ascent

Hiked: 1/11/2013
Distance: 8.5 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8303'
Prominence: 583'
Elevation Gain: 3375'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.7
Round trip time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Recommended water: 88 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

It took two tries to bag Timber Mountain in the dead of winter. I had to turn back about 2/3 of the way in December due to the cold. I came with extra layers this time and had no issues with the cold. I was surprised by 40-50 mph wind gusts near the top of the canyon that blew my hat off several times. That was the only time I felt a little cold. I used Grabber toe and body warmers and they added a little warmth. On the way down, the toe warmers were rubbing my feet uncomfortably so I stopped and took them out. I gained some good experience in the snow. Maybe I'm ready for an ice ax (maybe not).

The Three Ts trail that leads to Timber, Telegraph and Thunder mountains was completely buried in snow and invisible, so I went straight up the ridge line from Icehouse Saddle to the Timber summit. Leaving the saddle, I had to put on the Kahtoola microspikes to have enough traction. Otherwise, it would have been too steep and slippery. The spikes performed well over all on both snow and ice. I lost the one on my left boot on the way down and had to back track a bit to find it.

I met one hiker resting at the saddle on the way up, and half a dozen on the trail on the way down, but I was alone on the Timber summit. The Sierra Club classifies this route as moderate, and in the summer, I would agree. With the added difficulty of ice and snow, it felt strenuous. The final trudge up the ridge through the snow was pretty tough.


Snow trail in Icehouse Canyon


Looking up at Timber Mountain


Climbing Timber ridge line looking back toward Icehouse Saddle


Ontario Peak from Timber summit


Timber Mountain summit




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