Saturday, June 10, 2017

Calamity Canyon Peak

Hiked: 6/9/2017
Distance: 11.2 miles round trip on road, trail, and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5800'
Elevation Gain: 3800'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.04
Round trip time: 9 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 120 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Haven Ave
Difficulty: Strenuous

Calamity Canyon Peak, at the head of Calamity Canyon, rises below Cucamonga Peak along a rugged south ridge. Other than a single attempt made 3/4/2012, I couldn't find any information on it. Here was Asher Waxman's account of the trip:
Peter Doggett, Janice Boyd and I approached from top of Haven Ave (2280'), up Deer Canyon to the Cucamonga Truck Trail (4900'), which is severely eroded in places and choked with buckthorn in the last 300' below the summit. From 5400' we tried the south ridge direct on remains of a trail shown on the topo. Impassable acres of buckthorn and manzanita effectively blocked that near. We back[ed] off to the the closed contour at 5560' and found the "road" at the left. With some energetic clipping and relatively clear sections we made it to ~5600'+, where passage was blocked...for now. Attaining the summit will require considerable clipping.
A group of us had been discussing making our own attempt and we met at Haven Ave in Rancho Cucamonga at daybreak. Sean, Henry, Steve and I started up a one mile paved section of road past water towers and several locked gates. Collectively, we were armed with two pair of clippers, a hatchet, and a saw. Past the last water tower, we took the dirt road into Deer Canyon. It stays mainly on the left side of the canyon, dipping in and out once before fading into the canyon for good. Some smiley faces were painted on a rocks in the canyon. Deer Canyon was a mix of sand, gravel, and granite boulders with a trickle of water in the upper reaches. When we reached the place where Calamity Canyon fed into Deer Canyon, I checked it out as a possible shortcut. We decided to continue to the West Cucamonga Truck Trail. Once we found it, we climbed up and away from Deer Canyon across dead fall and light brush. The trail was in pretty good shape until we approached the Calamity Canyon crossing. There were large washouts and loose rockfall on both sides of the canyon. I was tempted to drop into the canyon to bypass the washouts, but we stayed up on the trail. We got our first glimpse of the summit and after crossing the first washout, took a break directly above Calamity Canyon.

Henry on the road, Cucamonga Peak in the background

First section of Deer Canyon

Smiley face

Nearing the end of Deer Canyon

Start of the West Cucamonga Truck Trail

First sight of Calamity Canyon Peak

After considering the gully and the steep slope on the east ridge, we decided to continue as far as we could on the trail. The second washout crossing was a little sketchy, but we all made it without incident. The road started getting more overgrown with buckthorn and we had to break out the tools to start cutting through it. Ocassional dead branches were evidence of previous clipping. Eventually, we reached the south ridge where a short trail led up to a false summit. We spent about 10 minutes attempting to continue along the road but it was solid brush and we didn't know if there would be a pay off on the north side. We went up the south ridge trail to the false summit where we found a register with about a dozen entries dating back to 2012. From there, the true summit was only about 0.2 miles away and less than 300' above. The only thing between us and the summit was a moat of buckthorn and manzanita. It was a true Game of Thorns. We spent the next 2+ hours hacking, clipping, and sawing our way the top of Calamity Canyon Peak. We rotated fresh people to the front to keep our momentum going while everyone else cleaned up the path. The peak offered us a fair trade, blood for splinters.

Calamity Canyon and massive washouts

Steve and Henry crossing the biggest washout

Saddleback in the distance, above the haze

Henry clearing a nasty section of the road

Sean at the start of the south ridge, the sign reads Dead End

Hacking our way to Calamity

Nearing the summit

I packed up and moved the register from the false summit to the true summit. We built a new cairn in a small open area about 20' from the actual high point that was covered in brush. After the ordeal of getting there, we made the trivial effort of actually standing on the high point. I have high confidence we made the first ascent of this peak, certainly in the modern era. We got a group photo then enjoyed the amazing views of Ontario, Turtle's Beak, Peak 6786 and Cucamonga. It was somewhat hazy and smoggy toward the city, but Saddleback stood out above it. The descent back to the road went quickly now that we had blazed a trail. Sean found a rattlesnake while navigating the big washout during the return. I missed the snake by crossing too high. We debated trying a shortcut down Calamity Canyon. Henry and I decided to check it out while Sean and Steve continued down the road. We found a spot to drop into the canyon and it only looked like steep class 2 as far as we could see. However, after rounding a corner, we came to a 12' dry fall with a rotten rope anchored above it. The sheath on the rope was gone and exposed nylon fibers looked frayed. We might have been able to scramble down the fall, but another fall of unknown size loomed immediately ahead. We decided to head back up and not risk getting ourselves trapped between dry falls. Calamity Canyon would make a fun and relatively easy canyoneering trip. Henry and I climbed up a loose gully to get back to the road, sending several boulders crashing into the canyon. Eventually, we caught up with Sean and Steve and continued our descent.

(L to R) Henry, Sean, Keith, Steve

Turtle's Beak (left) and Ontario Peak

Peak 6786 and Cucamonga Peak

Fixed register with true summit elevation

New register cairn

Descending the trail we just cut

Dropping into Calamity Canyon

Turn around point, need a rope

Would you like to know more...?

Other Reports:
Sean's Report (EisPiraten)
Combined Photo Album


  1. Yeah, now I want to go back just to scramble up the Canyon. Maybe next winter with more water in there.

  2. Thanks for the pics.Its hard to know from down below how pristine it is in the mountains.I travelled the cucamonga creek truck trail up to there in the early 2000s many times and would like to hike up one day.

    1. Unknown,

      Maybe the truck trail was more clear then. Parts are clear and parts are overgrown now. Still a great place to hike!

  3. Thanks for the pics. I live in this neighborhood and have wanted to explore but not willing to go it alone.

    1. Marc,

      Deer Canyon is nice. I understand not wanting to hike wild areas alone, but it's not too rough before the overgrown truck trail.

    2. Thanks! Will give it a shot.