02 November 2014

Rabbit Peak, Graphite Mountain, Roundtop, and Iron Mountain

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

A couple people from the group who do the Wednesday night Sierra Club conditioning hike decided they would get back into doing Hundred Peaks Section hikes by joining a triple list finish. Like the conditioning hikes and the Friday social hikes, the HPS hikes are open to the general public. It is as good an excuse as any to poke around a part of the forest I have not seen much of and to visit the brand new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument requiring almost no planning on my part, so I joined too. Besides, I seem to be on an effort to tick off these peaks of recent and what better way to do so than on an official HPS trip with three people finishing off their lists while bagging four new peaks?

The group gathers slowly in Monte Cristo Campground. The air is almost frosty in the shady bottom of the canyon, but quite pleasant a little higher in the sun. We are already an hour after the start time by the time everyone has gathered and a little bit later by the time the usual waiver is signed by all. We start off as a band of about 30 people, expecting a few more to join on the final mountain, heading down the fire road that leaves the campground to the north.

six heads bobbing their way along the fire road
A small fraction (seven) of the group heading forward along the fire road.

sixteen more heads
Another sixteen behind me.

The group stops at a seemingly random ridge line and is given a choice between climbing up along this ridge to where it meets the road again or continuing along the road. Most choose the ridge, which seems fitting for a hike that is almost entirely ridge travel. There is no visible trail in front of us, but we certainly leave one behind us. There is little hindrance to our cross country travel. Yucca lie in wait for the hiker who lets their attention drift from their immediate surroundings and poodledog bush still lurks around the place although most seem to be dead. Gaining the road again, we wait a few minutes for the group on the road.

view over the campground
Looking back toward the campground at the result of the Station Fire that burned the area in 2009. This was one of the last areas reopened.

We follow the road a short way again, then start up the hillside again. The group is clambering slowly up a short and steep piece of rock at the bottom of a tiny creek, or would be if it was raining. I point out that that is not a trail, then notice the well used track to the left of it and follow that instead in a brief bit of mutiny. I have a good number of followers until I decide to cut up the hillside rather than follow the trail around the edge. My followers then leave me and follow the rest of the track around to a power tower and then climb along an old fire break. I take a quick route to join them on the fuel break and those who were willing to clamber up the steep rock eventually do too, although they have a lot more and heavier brush to deal with as they do so. We all keep to the climb until there is no more climb left and we are all on Rabbit Peak.

fuel break climbing
The slightly thinner vegetation along a strip of flat land about the width of a bulldozer shows the old fire break.

HPS crowd on Rabbit Peak
A crowd collecting on Rabbit Peak circulating the summit register.

It is easy to guess which bumps are the other three peaks we will climb today, but it is nice to get a summary to confirm my suspicions. Since this is a list finish day, we take a group photo and then get started on Granite Mountain. The skeletons of trees populate its top and I am told we are lucky to have a cool day since that now sunny peak was once the only real shade of the route. Clouds seem to be forming all over in the LA basin and are just starting to top the mountains from our point of view. We drop down to a saddle and then start climbing to the highest point on the route. The clouds on the other side of the mountains thicken and start coming over.

the group heading upward
Following the fire break ever upward toward Granite Peak in the right hand corner.

looking north
A northward view to Lancaster.

people gathering on an outcrop of granite
People gathering on the outcrop of granite that appears to be the highest on the large top of Granite Mountain.

The shade what is left of the trees contains ice from the weather system that came through a few days before and still lingers in the form of the cool air we are enjoying. The poodledog bush was looking a more green as we got higher and here we have a few very healthy looking specimens ready to give all who touch it a rash reported to be at least as bad as poison oak.

poodledog bush looking healthy
Poodledog bush at the top of Granite Mountain.

snapped tree trunk and ice
Ice from the storm in the shade of a snapped tree trunk.

We gather again for a group photo and then start down the slope to the third peak. We drop down to a fire road and follow it except for one shortcut. Loomis Ranch can be seen below surrounded by saved vegetation. There is green along Alder Creek so there is hope that the alders that posed for the sketch in my current banner survived. I am chatting away about computers with a USC sysadmin when the last hiker along tries to move us along a bit more quickly. She wants to be down before sunset and I think there is an hour to spare to do so, so the pestering does not work all that well as we continue along the road to Roundtop. This is the only mountain that is shown on the map to have a benchmark, but the flattened top looks like a place they do not last long.

one very large tree
A few good trees remain on the mountain. Pacifico Mountain rises in the background.

Loomis Ranch in Alder Creek
Alder Creek flows past Loomis Ranch far below us.

Mt. Gleason area
The view out over Rabbit Peak to Mount Gleason and surroundings.

HPSers on Roundtop
The group pauses again on Roundtop to pass the register and regroup. (Panorama on Roundtop.)

We gather again for a group photo, then start down a steep slope to the last mountain of the day. Cairns mark the way along this section although there does not seem to be a reason for them. The slope is long and my knees are about ready to scream about it when we finally level out. There is just a gentler drop down to another road that we follow for a short way before again taking to a fire break up the side of Iron Mountain. This one is also steep, but short and we quickly gather at the top.

white fir cones
Cones on a fir tree that is a blast of green in an otherwise grey landscape.

Iron Mountain below a steep slope
Going down. Iron Mountain awaits in the distance.

Granite Mountain and Roundtop
Granite Mountain and Roundtop from Iron Mountain.

Since this is a triple list finish, hitting the last mountain triggers a party. There is sparkling wine and sparkling cider for all, depending on their tastes. Cookies, candy, and homemade bread is passed out. It all has a common refrain of, "Please eat it, it takes the weight off my back." There is another group photo, of course. The expected few people joining us for the last mountain arrive a little late for the festivities because in spite of the earlier prodding to hurry, we have arrived on the mountain earlier than planned. We ready ourselves to go and have one more choice of road or ridge walk to complete the hike. To walk the road, we would go back along the fire break we climbed and then take the road we briefly walked down to the campground. Most opt for the ridge.

walking the ridge back to Monte Cristo Campground
Walking the ridge back to Monte Cristo Campground in the late afternoon.

Rabbit Peak
Rabbit Peak from the ridge below Iron Mountain.

moon rising
Moon rising over Iron Mountain.

The ridge delivers us into the campground with plenty of time to spare before sunset. Those who took the road also down with plenty of time, some arriving before us. Once done, we head off to the cars and make our way home.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 November 2014


Michael Pettit said...

how many miles was this trip total? nice write up.

Valerie Norton said...

Seems to me this came in at 10 to 10.5 miles. The map line claims 9.42 miles, but that will be short. (I see Google doesn't display that information to the general public anymore.) And thanks.

Chris Tyndall said...

I just did this hike today. Fantastic! Being in the Station Fire burn area, I think that hiking when there's some snow around (as there was today above about 5500'), makes the scenery a lot more interesting. I would recommend bringing a GPS or very good topo map if doing this for the first time.