Distance: 10.5 miles round trip on dirt road, firebreak, and use trail
Summit Elevation: 4275' (Monte Cristo), 5040' (Iron #3), 6316' (Round Top), 6600' (Granite), 5307' (Rabbit)
Elevation Gain: 4175'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.34
Round trip time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 128 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous (combined)
Madison and I had been talking about this one for months and we finally worked out our schedules to make it happen. I was stoked to climb the third and final Iron Mountain in the San Gabriels. Alone, it was the easiest of the three, but the loop over 5 peaks was a substantial piece of work. Here is Madison's report. We got started around 7 AM with near perfect weather. This was our itinerary:
1. Monte Cristo (unofficial)
2. Iron Mountain #3 (HPS)
3. Round Top (HPS)
4. Granite (HPS)
5. Rabbit (HPS)
The loop can be done in either direction. We parked just off the road above Monte Cristo Campground and went down to the dirt road on the left. Campers in hammocks were motionless and asleep as we started up a drainage just before the gate. It wasn't a trail, but it allowed us to get on the ridge to Monte Cristo. We found a use trail on the ridge and followed it up. We didn't find anything at the high point on Monte Cristo, so we continued on toward Iron #3. The ridge intersected a dirt road below Iron. We turned right and caught the next ridge at a bend. We made quick work of Iron #3 and appreciated the views of the back side of the entire front range. In particular, the north face of Strawberry Peak was impressive. No benchmark was found on Iron but there was a register. Unfortunately, it was soaked and unreadable. Completely ruined.
The next peak in the loop was Round Top at 6316'. You drop about 300' a saddle, then begin the 1600' climb, going over three false summits along the way. This is the crux of the loop in this direction. There was a surprisingly good use trail up the steepest part. When we reached the top, a sustained 30-40 mph wind blasted us. It nearly blew my hat away, eventually forcing me to reverse it. There was a triangle post just below the summit and a small cairn. No benchmark or register. We took a break on Round Top to refuel and rest up for the next leg to Granite, the highest point in the loop. We followed the road down from Round Top and more than half way up Granite before we left it to find the summit. Granite had a large summit area with various boulder formations and burnt trees. We wandered around a bit before finding the highest point, a 10' boulder with the register underneath. The wind was relentless, turning a pleasantly cool morning into a cold one. We took shelter on the opposite side of some boulders to finish our lunch. The Granite register was also very wet and we were unable to sign it. Our subsequent hunt for a Granite Mountain benchmark came up empty. We packed up and started down the long Granite ridge toward Rabbit.
When we got below Granite, we got a break from the wind. There were interesting rock formations along the way and an abundance of yucca. After a long descent, we hit the saddle below Rabbit and began our last climb, a couple of hundred feet to the Rabbit summit. There was large cairn there, no benchmark, and a dry register. We were able to sign in for the first time. Dropping down from Rabbit, we met three other hikers who were starting the loop in the opposite direction. Doing the loop that way gets all of the gain over at once, but seems somewhat more difficult. We had a short visit and went our separate ways. Soon enough, we hit a dirt road cutting across Rabbit. After a brief discussion, we decided to take a shortcut down a ridge below electrical towers. It probably saved us a half mile or so. We didn't consider going further down the ridge, but it proved a better shortcut when we saw where it met the road. It was an easy stroll back to the campground and we were satisfied with the multiple summits of the day.
We found two of these strange white marks, one on each side of Rabbit.
They were in areas too small for helicopters.