Sunday, June 19, 2016

Telegraph Peak via Icehouse Canyon

Hiked: 6/19/2016
Distance: 13.5 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 8985'
Prominence: 1183'
Elevation Gain: 4500'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.6
Round trip time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Recommended water: 140 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous

My second trip to Telegraph Peak started at Icehouse Canyon. The previous visit was from the other side via Manker Flat. This wrapped up the initial set of training hikes with my wife for Half Dome. Telegraph enjoys a uniquely central perch to see both the Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) constellation of mountains and the Cucamonga Wilderness mountains. It might be the best view from any peak in the area.

We started early to escape the hordes that flock to Icehouse Canyon on weekends. There was a heat wave that hit the area this weekend but we were comfortable above 8000'. It was a routine ascent to Icehouse Saddle. We made a short stop there for fuel, then continued up the 3Ts trail toward Timber. Beyond Icehouse Saddle, the forest is mostly large pines with very few small plants. It is a beautiful area and reminds me of the San Bernardino forests at similar elevations. We bypassed Timber thinking we might get it on the way back. The trail dropped about 250' feet down the north side of Timber to a saddle, then climbed about 1250' to the summit of Telegraph. This part of the trail was new to me. The south face of Telegraph has some jagged looking cliffs and crumbling rock. The views from the summit did not disappoint. It was the clearest day I've seen in a long time. Downtown LA was visible, Saddleback, the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains, and the ocean. The photosphere came out especially nice. We had the peak to ourselves, but noted that parties had signed in nearly every day in June. This is a peak that deserves the popularity. We signed the register and took photographs. After more fuel, we returned the way we came. Leisa wasn't interested in adding to the hike, so we skipped Timber on the way back.

Heading up Icehouse Canyon

3Ts sign at Icehouse Saddle

Telegraph Peak from the flank of Timber Mountain, summit to the right

Grinding up Telegraph Peak

Cliffy south face

View of the summit from the plateau


Leisa and I on the summit

Looking down on Thunder Mountain and up at the Mount San Antonio cluster

Descending back toward the saddle with Timber

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Trabuco Peak via West Horsethief Trail

Hiked: 6/4/2016
Distance: 9.5 miles round trip on trail and dirt road
Summit Elevation: 4604'
Prominence: 817'
Elevation Gain: 2900'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.32
Round trip time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 72 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

The third highest peak in the Santa Ana Mountains was the goal for another training hike with my wife. We drove up Trabuco Canyon Road, the worst dirt road in Orange County, until it ended at the West Horsethief/Trabuco trailhead. There is enough parking for 6-7 vehicles. I strongly recommend a high clearance vehicle for this road, but we saw a few sedans that braved the road at a crawl. I had been to Trabuco Peak once before, with my daughter, via Main Divide Road. The West Horsethief approach has three distinct sections:
  • Trabuco Canyon trail - shaded, bugs likely in spring and summer
  • West Horsethief switchbacks - most of the gain is done here
  • Main Divide Road and firebreak - loose dirt on the firebreak to the summit
The Trabuco Canyon trail follows the creek and climbs gently along the left side on the way out. There was quite a bit of poison oak along the side of the trail. Annoying bugs were an issue in the morning so the bug nets came out. We could hear some water running in the creek. It is a straight shot to the junction with West Horsethief trail. The Trabuco Canyon trail continues to climb up the canyon, eventually ending at a saddle on Main Divide Road below Los Pinos. A lot of people do a loop hike using Main Divide to connect West Horsethief and Trabuco.

The start

Cruising up the canyon

Junction with West Horsethief

West Horsethief trail is where most of the uphill work is done. The lower part of the trail had more poison oak, some of it intruding onto the trail. It was more overgrown than my last time here. Multiple switchbacks carve up the slope, growing longer the higher up you go. Once we started to rise away from the creek, the bugs and vegetation eased up, and we took the bug nets off. About half way up, we got good views of Yaeger Mesa, a flat grassy area across the canyon. The vegetation also changes, with more manzanita lining the trail. The nicest part of the trail is near the top where pine trees dominate and the trail gets sandy. Unfortunately, that part was short and we soon hit Main Divide Road. We stopped here for a break where a truck was parked. Within minutes, a group of three hunters came up the trail with a cardboard blind and one rifle in tow. They appeared to be done for the day. My guess is they were hunting deer, but I didn't think it was deer season. After the break, we headed toward Trabuco Peak, roughly 1.25 miles north.

Looking back at Trabuco Canyon and the mesa

Pines and manzanita near the top of West Horsethief trail

Junction at Main Divide Road

Trabuco Peak from the junction

The road drops a little before rising again to a firebreak on the right leading to Trabuco Peak. A fancy wooden sign has been added marking the spot to leave the road. I think these signs were created and placed by Mark Allen, thanks! Views opened up on the east side of the mountains. Unlike my first visit, the sky was clear all the way to San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. I got a good look at Lake Elsinore and the other local peaks. From the firebreak, it's only a little over 100' gain to the summit. The firebreak is a combination of loose dirt and boulders. A little bit of class 2 is required to make it to the top. The summit also had a fancy wooden sign. The old register and benchmark were still there. I found a scrap of paper signed by Adam Walker and Anish. I added our names to the scrap and put it back in the register. The bugs were also a problem on the summit so we didn't hang around. The summit itself is surrounded by brush so there aren't any views anyway. Heading back to West Horsethief, we were passed by several trucks and a couple of motorcycles. Back at the junction with Trabuco Canyon, we surprised a trail worker taking a leak. He nervously cracked a joke saying "well that was bad timing". Dude, why not move a few feet away from a trail junction? He asked us about the poison oak on West Horsethief and said he was there to clear it out. He wasn't in a uniform and I guessed he was a volunteer. The rest of the return was uneventful. We only saw three other hikers the whole trip.

Firebreak to the summit with a nice wooden sign

Like daughter, like mother. Leisa striking a Shelby pose

Friends in high places

I also have friends in low places

Register scrap with Adam Walker and Anish

Leisa on the summit with another fancy wooden sign

See Also:
Trabuco Peak via Main Divide Road

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Flat Black Peak

Hiked: 5/30/2016
Distance: 9 miles round trip on dirt road, use trail, and firebreak
Summit Elevation: 2580'
Elevation Gain: 1905'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.52
Round trip time: 3 hours
Recommended water: 56 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Black Star Canyon Road
Difficulty: Moderate

Many small peaks dot the ridge lines on both sides of Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains. The canyon and its seasonal falls are far more popular than any of the surrounding peaks. This trip started as a scouting mission to check routes to Peak 2600 and Peak 2710 on opposite sides of the canyon. After a few miles, I found the most direct routes were restricted. The trail to 2600 was only open to the public one weekend a month. A utility road to 2710 had a No Access and No Trespassing sign. Black BM (Peak 2710) can also be accessed from Black Star Canyon Road on a far ridge, well past the peak, so I continued up the road to see what I could find.

There were more than a hundred cars parked at the trailhead on this Memorial Day forcing me to park farther away than usual. I started late in the afternoon, so most of the crowd was returning along the road. A handful of people and bikes were parked at the access point to the canyon for traveling to the falls. A wooden post has been added since I was last there directing people toward the falls. I continued parallel to the canyon on a mountain bike trail that shortcuts a long switchback in the road. I connected with the road and took a second shortcut. From there, the utility road was visible to the west, but across the north fork of the canyon. I continued on the road, being passed by mountain bikes in both directions until I entered the Marisposa Reserve. Just across from the Mariposa sign was a third mountain bike shortcut. This one led to a large oval dirt area. From there, I spotted a use trail heading up a ridge to the local high point I called "Flat Black Peak". I concluded every peak along this canyon should have "black" or "star" in the name. The peak was protected by a row of cliffs on this side. I chose to follow the use trail not knowing if it would get me past the obstacles. The trail climbed directly up the ridge to the cliffs, skirted about 40' to the right, then, continued up a class 2 section of dirt and rocks.

Black Star Canyon from the first shortcut

Mariposa Reserve

Use trail to the cliffs, the second bump on the ridge
had a mysterious BT8 made of rocks

Starting up the short cliff section

Just below the top, I climbed a small boulder on the left and found the use trail cutting through 20' of brush to a flat dirt area. This was the first of several bumps that offered nice views. I marched up the ridge through light brush on the firebreak. The second bump had a set of stones arranged to read "BT8" -- a mystery. The next couple of bumps held no surprises, then I reached the top of Flat Black Peak. I didn't find a register or any marks and didn't expect any. According to the GPS, I was only 0.4 miles from Peak 2710. I drifted that direction through a grass field looking to see if the firebreak continued. It didn't as far as I could tell. Without time to bushwhack to the next ridge, I decided to return another day and get Peak 2710 the long way. Even though the routes I scouted were a bust, I was pleased to find this consolation peak.

First bump

BT8 rocks on the second bump

Flat Black Peak summit, Black BM in the background

Looking down the ridge, comm towers barely visible on the horizon from Pleasant's peak