Will Thrall Peak
Pleasant View Ridge
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Despite my parking location just 20ft off SR2, there was no traffic that I could recall to disturb my sleep that night. All of the campgrounds and most of the side roads off the Angeles Crest look to have been closed since Nov 15, so there were few visitors to this part of the San Gabriels during the week. I was parked at the exit to the Buckhorn CG since the campground itself was closed with no available parking outside the entrance. Shortly before the 4a alarm, I was awake enough to start the car to get the heater going before diving back into the sleeping bag while the car warmed up. It was 32F outside at an elevation of 6,600ft with a good, cold wind that had pushed the trees around most of the night. I got up and dressed as the inside warmed up, ate breakfast while study the maps again, then headed out at 4:30a.
By headlamp I hiked down the paved exit road to the campground, then followed the road and signs north through the campground, across a shallow creek with a trickle of water, and eventually to the day use parking and the start of the Burkhart Trail. I took the trail heading down into Cooper Canyon, intersecting the PCT and continuing north to climb out of a side drainage to Cooper Canyon. It took two hours to ply the five mile distance along the trail to its highpoint at Burkhart Saddle which I reached at 6:40a. I had left off with the headlamp about half an hour earlier, making my way to the saddle shortly before sunrise.
I left the trail at the saddle, turning east to follow a good use trail up to Pallett Mountain, the first of many stops on today's agenda. There was a cairn with a summit register tucked inside a plastic Accelerade jar, one of a handful I found at various summits throughout the week. These seem to be Mars Bonfire's replacement choice for the standard red cans that seem to go missing regularly in the San Gabriels. The views from the summit are limited due to forest cover.
The sun was arising on the peaks to the west as I made my way back down to the saddle and then up another good use trail to the summits of first Will Thrall and then Pleasant View Ridge. There was a bronze plaque on Will Thrall to the mountain's namesake, an early explorer of the surrounding mountains and noted member of the Sierra Club. I found no register after a brief search. There was only a small descent to a saddle before finishing with a brief climb to Pleasant View Ridge. As suggested by it's name, there is a fine view of the Mojave Desert from its summit with the towns of Palmdale and Lancaster far below. Another Accelerade container held the register and after signing it I beat a hasty retreat back the Burkhart Trail, jogging most of the downhill sections. It was after 10a when I made my way back to the Buckhorn CG and the van left at the highway, almost six hours for the first two peaks.
I drove a short distance west to find the TH parking for Waterman/Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is the tougher of the two, lying about 5.5mi from the TH to the south of Waterman Mtn, with a saddle dropping some 1,200ft between the two. Most of the informational sheets attached to the boards at the TH were torn or unreadable, but from the HPS guide I gathered this was the start of the Waterman Mtn Trail. Or one of the starts, I came to find out. The trail is in no hurry to gain elevation as it winds its way around the northeast side of the mountain, maintaining its short distance above the highway, crossing a dirt road and meeting several other TH junctions. It probably would have been better to park another 1/2mi west on the road, but it was of little consequence.
Eventually the trail moves away from the highway, climbing higher to meet the main ridge crest that forms the East Ridge of Waterman. At a junction I turned left and took the fork away from the summit. It traversed around the south side of Waterman before dropping down through many switchbacks for more than a thousand feet. It was 11:30a when I reached the Twin Peaks Saddle where I stopped for a short break.
Though the maintained trail ended at the saddle, a good use trail was easy to follow up the steep north side of Twin Peaks. It took 40 minutes to climb to the summit from the saddle, and despite its remote setting, I crossed paths with another solo hiker on her way down from the summit. She was the only other person I met on the trails in the four days I was hiking. Twin Peaks' highpoint is the easternmost summit, and though it has a commanding perch off the main crest to the north, the views are marginal due to the tree cover found about the summit. The fog from the previous day was gone, replaced by the ever-familiar haze that often pervades the LA Basin.
It took another hour to descend Twin Peaks and reach the summit of Waterman. Rather than follow the circuitous summit trail back around the east side, I opted for a more direct route up the south side, leaving the trail when it began to traverse east. I found a handful of rocky outcroppings vying for the highpoint, and I climbed several of them before I landed on the highest one. Almost a class 3 scramble, too. There was a benchmark labeled "TWIN" on one of the rocks from 1930. I wondered if at some time Waterman and Twin were the two "Twin Peaks" referred to. Certainly if viewed from the west along the highway it appears a more natural fit.
I walked across the flat summit plateau heading north, eventually picking up a trail and then a road. The north side is home to an active ski area, and it appeared they were working on getting it ready for the upcoming season. I followed the road down the northeast side, getting temporarily waylaid when the spur road I followed ended at the bottom of a ski lift. I dropped down the steep slope below the chairlift, soon picking up another road on that side of the mountain. This worked so well that I dropped down cross-country several more times to avoid the winding switchbacks of the road, and shortly before 2p I was back on the highway where I'd left the van.
Northeast of Waterman, just across the highway is Mt. Akawie, the weakest peak on today's agenda and one of the lamer HPS peaks. It has barely 400ft of prominence, lies less than a mile from the road, and has no views to speak of. It took less than 18 minutes to reach the summit at a walk. Let's just leave it at that.
It was 2:45p when I had finished with Akawie and parked just up the road at Cloudburst Summit. The last two peaks for the day were Winston Peak and Ridge, two tame HPS peaks, but at least not so lame. I followed the straightforward route up Winston Peak's South Ridge, taking all of about 20 minutes to reach the summit. The highpoint was similar to Waterman with several rock piles vying for the highpoint. The highest was an easy class 3 scramble, but I found no register or benchmark marking the location. Behind the summit rocks on granite boulder was a pagan offering to the mountain gods. Fearing bad karma and some sort of retribution, I left the idol where I found it, undisturbed.
I picked up a use trail off the Northeast Ridge, dropping down to a saddle and the junction with the PCT. I took the use trail around the west side of Pt. 6,903ft, rejoined with the crest of Winston Ridge, and followed it up to its highpoint overlooking the Little Rock Creek drainage. Again I found no register, though I carefully investigated three or four rocky outcrops along the summit ridge. I could see the use trail continuing west along the ridgeline and would have loved to continue along it to see where it went. The views were open and pleasant, and the weather delightful in the last hour of sunshine. But it was time to head back once again. I reconnected with the PCT and followed this around the west side of Winston Peak, opting to leave the trail to follow the road more directly back to the TH (the PCT went to the same place, but dropped more elevation before winding its way back up to Cloudburst Summit).
It was just after 4:30p when I reached the van, the sun having just set only moments before. I had another lukewarm sunshower on the highway, just as I had the previous day. After toweling and warming inside the van with a sandwich in the way of dinner, I drove a few miles west to Three Points and a fork with Pacifico Mtn Rd. I intended to drive this road to Alder Saddle for the start the next day for Pacifico and Bare Mtn, but found a gate locked for the season only a mile off SR2 at Camp Christian. Rats. This would add about 2.5 miles each way to the hike the next day, but beggars can't be choosers - this would have to do. I parked off to the side near the gate to spend the night, hoping those at the adjacent Camp Christian would exercise some Christian charity by not rousting me out in the middle of the night. Several vehicles did go by before I fell asleep, but none disturbed me.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Pallett Mountain - Will Thrall Peak - Pleasant View Ridge - Twin Peaks - Waterman Mountain - Mt. Akawie - Winston Peak - Winston Ridge
This page last updated: Fri Jan 23 09:42:26 2009
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