10 February 2008

Condor Peak (initially trying Mount Gleason)

Mount Gleason

Angeles National Forest

Taking off for a nice drive and a little hike, I headed for Mount Gleason. Which hopefully wouldn't be too high for snow. The plan was to take the trail down from Deer Spring, which goes along the canyon I hiked last week.

The road is off the old crest highway. Even though the local mountains aren't so high, a few were obviously a little splotched with snow especially on the north side of the mountains. As the road wound up, it quickly gathered its own splotches nearby. They seemed to get thicker and then as the road passed into a north side slope it became clear it had been plowed.

So it's looking good for getting to the trail, but not so good on actually traveling down it. Luckily it is down and a southern slope, so it might be okay. On the other hand, a canyon will generally keep snow longer. Anyway, see when I get there.

But I didn't get there. Turns out the road is only plowed to "County Camp No 16" which is also where the pavement goes, but that is not the way the public is allowed to go. The public follows the dirt bypass road to the left which the plow parked to the right has not gone down. Little Scion wasn't going to make it over the foot or so of snow and it wasn't likely to be plowed again on the other side.

The view south over the city from Mount Gleason.
But it is pretty. The view south from Mt. Gleason, looking out over the city, though none of it is actually visible under a blanket of fog.

It really is pretty.

smaller but crisper image of the fog shrouded city
The sprawl of city hidden under fog a bit more crisply than it turned out in the panorama.

Ah well. Plan B.

Condor Peak

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

It's in the picture above, somewhere. The trail actually starts in two places. The longer one starts in Vogel Flats somewhere but should be easy to find since it is supposed to be signed. I passed a lot of people but there were only two cars by me when I parked, and only one soon after so it must also be the most popular. The less popular but still very well traveled route starts at some drainage marked with "4.50" directly on Big Tujunga Rd. Someone has cleared the brush a little since that first hike up this (doesn't seem to have pictures, it was shortly before the first go up Trail Canyon Trail and was already 90F when we started), so I had a lot of room to stand up on the first part where I hadn't before. Taking this route that is clearly signed, but only if you know what you are looking for takes about a mile of the route. It's over seven to the top of the mountain, that mile can be important.

This trail knows about up. Once it starts up, there are only the very briefest thoughts of down before it climbs some more. The climb is around 4500 feet according to the guidebook. There is, however, plenty of down all around it.

Looking nearly directly down a gully as the trail takes a rare dip on its inevitable upward climb.
The trail dipped down briefly to cross from a small peak it had climbed up around to the main mountain again. To the side, a steep cliff. Trees below aren't looked directly down on only because they're somewhat far away.

Down the other side, the hills roll away for quite some distance.

Hills rolling into the distance.
The other side of the ridge, not in the direction of a road for many many many miles, rolls off seemingly forever.

Nearing four miles in, I started feeling the need for a bit more energy. All that up was taking its toll. The trail is just a naked bit of dirt on the side of the mountain and there is only rarely a spot off the trail that is accessible. There's nothing to do but sprawl out on the trail and take in the view when the need for food hits.

Back the way I came, the trail can be seen distantly.
About 3.5 miles along the trail, the way back looks to be a long way down and quite a distance.

Oh, the horror of just having to take in the view with lunch.

The view of green hills from my random lunch spot along the trail.
Even with nowhere to sit but on the trail, there's always a nice view to take in with a spot of lunch. It's all quite green right now and the creek bed carries water, although that particular one usually does anyway.

Another half mile or less and I found my way to the one stream that had had water the last time I was on this trail. Then it was already over 90F when we started and this stream was an incredibly welcoming sight. The water was frosty cold and squeezed out of a bandanna onto us could even leave us shivering. That day, it probably left me able to go a couple extra miles. Today it was cool enough by this elevation to leave the crisp water alone.

The orange of "lunch" hadn't really been enough, so I added an apple to by the stream. Apples sure are nice hiking food. It was quite pleasant under the trees that find a living by this one reliable water source. The other streams along this trail do not have trees, only bushes.

The five mile mark is just around the bend. The trail between mile 5 and mile 6 had many small trees that had slipped in the rain and were now stretching just across the trail making it difficult to pass. Multiple times, I had to brave the loose dirt beside the hard trail bed. Near the end of that stretch was the first hint of things to come.

Just a little bit of snow remaining on the trail from the last snowfall.
Just a little bit of snow left on the trail. This presents no problems and was likely melted in a couple days, but it hints at what may be to come.

Around the curve from there, I got a good view to the east. By this time the trail has climbed high enough to see the very high peaks in that direction over the closer peaks that are not so high. The snow covered Baldy stands out against the mountains with much less snow nearby.

Mount San Antonio, AKA Baldy, in the distance showing off its snow cap.
The highest and snowiest peak in the area standing above the local area peaks that only have splotchy snow. Some of the splotchiness of the local peaks may be an illusion since they actually have growth on them while San Antonio is so high that it is bald, which would also be why it's more commonly called Baldy.

The trail near the top had an increasing number of slides. All little things, but often very rocky and somewhat annoying to climb over. None were especially difficult to traverse, still some trail work would be nice. Further along, another of the rare sheltered areas hinted more strongly and things to come.

Thicker snow on the trail, this time a solid patch.
A rare sheltered area of the trail, this time higher up, is covered in a continuous piece of snow and forces at least a few steps on the cold, wet stuff.

Fox Mountain, the peak about a mile before Condor Peak, looked fairly well covered with snow. The trail goes around it rather than over it. Last time I was up this trail, I got to the far side of the trail around this peak where the mile 7 marker is. I had lunch under the trees that come up the north side, sheltered from the summer heat. At the time, I quite liked the shelter from the summer heat under them. The wind was blowing fairly well over the ridge between the two peaks then. It was fairly still comparatively this time.

If you want to claim Fox Mountain as a packed peak, there's a usage trail on this far side that doesn't look too hard to go up. At least when it's not full of snow as it was at this time.

It was getting well past time to turn around, but by now the peak looked ever so close. I continued on down the ridge and up the other side.

The trail was fine until it did something that I would be quite thankful for in summer. It slipped onto the north side of the peak. I found myself looking up some hundred feet worth of foot deep snow going up a fairly steep bit. It would have been annoying enough without the snow because it was so steep, with the snow it would take at least twice the time and energy and I didn't have the time. I finally turned back because of the snow.

A foot of snow covering a steep portion of the trail for about a hundred feet, with hints that further up has at least as much snow on it.
The snow covered trail ahead. Sure, there's sort of dry stuff around it that might be able to serve as a path, but this is just the beginning and it probably just gets more snow covered as it goes. Also, the stuff that's actually on the trail is a foot deep.

Northeast from Condor Peak area, the south side of mountains including Mt. Gleason area.
Off north and a bit east is the area I was in the morning. The panorama was probably from the stretch of road that can be seen here. Of course that means that somewhere in that panorama is the mountain I'm on now.

I walked back to Fox and ate my pear I'd been saving for the peak. It would help fuel the quick downward haul. All the rough spots save one are on the top half of the trail, so going down too late wouldn't be much of a problem.

The way up Fox Mountain, which starts on the far side of the trail from the trailhead.
The way up Fox Mountain which starts on the far side of the mountain from the trailhead. People like to come here from a dirt road near Iron Mountain accessible from Mt. Gleason and hit Iron Mountain, Condor Peak, and Fox Mountain all in one day. Driving back up Mt. Gleason, they can strole about the top of it and pack four peaks in one day. That's a really good day for the peak packing type.

Rounding the bend from the marker with a "5", but only about four miles left for me, the sun seemed to be really getting ready to set.

The sun just above the edges of the mountains to the west.
The sun seems to set that much quicker for the mountains that jump up to it.

But there's still plenty of light to hike by. For now, anyway.

The same as above, but the iris is opened longer to see the landscape including the trail snaking away in the direction of the sun.
However, it really isn't that dark yet even if the sun is falling below the ridges.

It was still light for the next couple of miles, but then I had to get out the light. Headlamps are not so good for following trails. I like to hold the light so that there are a few shadows to help see the bumps in the trail and it gets the light that much closer to what I'm looking at so it's brighter even on the dimmest setting. Holding the headlamp sure is annoying.

Got down fine, though. Didn't end up having that extra bit to Vogel Flats that would have come if I missed the one turn I needed to hit. Missed my chance to say "hi" to the firefighters. Ah well.

Photographic proof I almost, but not quite, got to Condor Peak. And on this hike is only me! A second person might have been useful to say "Hey, really is past time to turn around," before getting to here, but there wasn't. Besides, some of them would just say, "You got your light, right? Because I don't."

Here we see the photographic proof that I... didn't actually finish up the hike.

©2008 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 February 2008
Last updated 23 February 2008

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