Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thunder Mountain, Telegraph Peak, West Telegraph Peak

Hiked: 3/23/2014
Distance: 12.2 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8587' (Thunder), 8985' (Telegraph), 8900' (West Telegraph)
Prominence: 387' (Thunder), 1183' (Telegraph)
Elevation Gain: 4460'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.56
Round trip time: 7 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 138 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous

This was a group hike with Rod, Sean, and Cecilia. Sean organized it and had the idea to go over the top of Telegraph Peak in the Cucamonga Wilderness and about 4 miles down the northeast ridge to an unofficial peak he called Chalk Peak. I wanted to go at least as far as Telegraph and maybe one or two unnamed peaks down the ridge. We started a few minutes later than planned at 6:40 AM at Manker Flat. Sean suggested we climb up through Big Butch Wash, a steep gully to the right of the ski lift. It was great fun scrambling over the rocks with some class 2 and bushwhacking near the top. We weren't moving fast as a group, but the hike was off to a roaring start. We stopped at the notch to refill some water and picked up a few extra snacks.

Sean and Cecilia climbing Big Butch Wash

Rod, me, and Cecilia at the flowing stream in Big Butch Wash

As we started up the road toward Thunder Mountain, it got colder and I put on my balaclava. There were some patches of hard snow on the road, but they were easily bypassed or walked over. I had considered bringing my crampons, but brought only microspikes instead. As it turned out, I didn't need either. We summited Thunder and took a few pictures. There was another group there with a plan to do the entire 3Ts trail. Sean gave them directions, then we headed toward the 3Ts trail and Telegraph. The trail switchbacking up Telegraph was shaded and there were more snow patches. A few sections were touchy, but everyone made it up without incident. I was surprised by the quality of the 360 degree views from Telegraph. The high desert was visible and everything in the Baldy area. It rivaled and was maybe better than the views from Twin Peaks.

Telegraph Peak behind the Thunder Mountain summit sign, Sean chillin', West Telegraph to the right

Rod, Sean, Cecilia, and another hiker on Thunder summit

Coldwater Canyon from the Thunder-Telegraph saddle

Approaching Telegraph Peak

Telegraph Peak benchmark

Thunder Mountain below, Baldy and friends in the distance from Telegraph Peak summit

Looking north from Telegraph Peak

Timber Mountain, Cucamonga Peak, Bighorn Mountain, and Ontario Peak from Telegraph Peak

After a short break, pictures and register signing, we started a very steep descent down the southeast ridge of Telegraph, trying to traverse over to the northeast ridge. This was the way to Chalk Peak. It was slow going because of the angle, loose soil, and lingering snow. We reached Point 8735' on the ridge when Sean determined the use trail he had planned to take was completely covered in hard snow. Without enough equipment, this killed further exploration along the ridge. We headed back over Telegraph Peak for the second time and continued to the far west side of the Telegraph ridge to the unofficial West Telegraph Peak, or sometimes Terry Peak according to Sean. There was another register there we all signed. Sean and Cecilia were going to rest there and have lunch, but I had planned to be back by around 4:00 PM, so Rod and I headed back. We made good time descending and even the slog back up the side of Thunder Mountain did not put much of a dent in our pace. We followed the road down from the notch and completed the descent in just over 2 hours.

Snow covered slope preventing further progress on the NE ridge

On the West Telegraph summit

As a side note, I realized my GPS had been off since we left the notch on the way up, leaving a big hole in my track. I started a new track from the far side of Telegraph at Point 8735' so that I would at least have half of the track. This let me calculate the gain, but the distance is a best guess, based on Rod's data and an estimate of the distance saved by going up Big Butch Wash.

The return elevation profile from the SE ridge of Telegraph Peak (after trying to get to the NE ridge)

See also: Telegraph Peak via Icehouse Canyon

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