Friday, March 20, 2015

Mt. Deception, Mt. Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak

Hiked: 3/20/2015
Distance: 8 miles round trip on road, trail, and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5796' (Mt. Deception), 5960' (Mt. Disappointment), 6161' (San Gabriel Peak)
Prominence: 1561' (San Gabriel)
Elevation Gain: 2180'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.74
Round trip time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate (combined)

Mt. Deception lies west of Mt. Disappointment, part of a long ridge line that connects to the local high point at San Gabriel Peak. It is the one peak in the San Gabriel cluster I had not visited in my previous trips to the area. I wanted to hit Deception and make my second summit of Disappointment. I ended up hitting up San Gabriel Peak a second time mainly for the workout. I parked at Red Box and followed the winding Mt. Disappointment Road up. I had not been up that road before and it was actually quite pleasant. There are great views of the Arroyo Seco, Josephine, Strawberry, and Lawlor along the way. Pines and their aromatic scents are thick on both sides of the road. When I got to the firebreak on Mt. Deception, I left the road and followed it up to the ridge, then over the false summit to the uninspiring true summit. The most remarkable thing about the summit area was the burned vegetation making a slow recovery. Deception is an HPS peak, but not a USGS peak, so there was no benchmark and no register. Most of the peaks in the San Gabriel cluster are too pedestrian for a register. I continued a short way past the summit to a clearing with better views, then returned to the road on the regular use trail.

Approaching Mt. Deception summit

The nondescript summit of Mt. Deception

Mt. Disappointment (left with towers), San Gabriel Peak (behind),
pinnacle at the end of the ridge of Mt. Disappointment

Close up of the ridge and pinnacle

Back on the road, it was a short trip to the summit of Mt. Disappointment. The radio clusters are second only to Mt. Wilson and there is a well maintained heliport. The launchpad for 1960s era Nike missiles is also in good shape. On my trip down Bear Canyon last year, Sean and I noticed the 85' pinnacle jutting up from the SW ridge of Disappointment. It has no official name, but I considered climbing it. To get to it from the top requires a 280' descent down the ridge, then the climb. I took a hard look at it from Disappointment and I thought my chances were pretty good of getting up it. The ridge, however, looked more dicey. I decided to start down and see what was what. The rock on the ridge is not very sturdy, and other than a few shrubs and small burned trees, the only vegetation is dead or dying poodle dog bush. Sections of the ridge are class 3 with some exposure on both sides, and poodle dog blocks the main path. I put on my gloves and parted the poodle dog, climbing over the rocks and through some small burned trees. I took a photo part way down, then started contouring left where it looked like I could descend. That didn't last long as the loose gravel pushed me back closer to the ridge line. I got down to less than 100' from the saddle in a slippery gully just left of the ridge. It looked like I needed to slide down, but it also looked like a one way trip. I estimated my odds of scrambling back up the gully to be low, so I reversed course, got back on the ridge line and looked at descending that way. I soon ran into a steep, loose down climb that I also didn't like. I decided to head back and stuck to the ridge. It was tricky getting back up and I had one foothold and one handhold break loose on the way, but without mishap. Back on the Disappointment summit, I checked the time and decided to add San Gabriel Peak to the tour. At the top of San Gabriel, I met a very friendly lizard who was ignoring me in favor of the tasty bugs flying around. The lizards were out in force today, meaning the snakes are probably on the way. I took the Bill Reilly trail on the way down for a change of scenery.

Mt. Disappointment benchmark

Mt. Disappointment summit

Mt. Deception from Disappointment

Lizard on the Disappointment ridge

The pinnacle from the top of Disappointment, ridge drops out of view

Part way down the ridge, I got to the end of the white section where a steep drop convinced me to return

Approaching San Gabriel Peak

San Gabriel Peak benchmark

Friendly lizard on San Gabriel Peak


  1. Ahh, finally got Deception I see. I guess that pinnacle hanging off the back side of Disappointment is more difficult to get to than it looks from afar.

    1. Madison,

      Yeah, this was my make up for missing Deception on the Bear Canyon hike. From a distance, the ridge to the pinnacle doesn't look so tough, but I found it quite unfriendly. I wondered why I could not find any beta on it anywhere. All other approaches involve long cross country treks. Maybe drop off the San Gabriel-Markham saddle, then up the gully to the saddle?

  2. Replies
    1. Kimberly,

      Glad you liked the report. BTW, I did finally get to that pinnacle, see the Desolation Pinnacle report. The view from there is worth it if you want to spice up the trip.

  3. Where can you find the Mt. Disappointment benchmark? I did the 3 peaks yesterday and i was having trouble finding the Disappointment benchmark. I looked around for a while and wasn't able to find it :/

    1. See the photo above with the caption "Mt. Disappointment summit". It is somewhere on a flat concrete area near where I was standing, or slightly higher by the flat helipad. It is not near the buildings or towers. I didn't find it on my first trip.