Thu, Dec 11, 2008
Eagle Rest Peak
San Guillermo Mountain
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2||Profiles: 1 2 3|
I awoke at the HPS trailhead for Eagle Rest Peak off Nesthorn Way at 5:15a. It is not your standard trailhead with kiosk and trail signs, more of the abandoned dirt road variety, this one nestled a few hundred feet behind some homes in the Pine Mountain Club development. It certainly didn't have the look of legality about it, despite assurances from the HPS guide, and a pre-dawn start seemed a good way to get out of town before someone might make me move the van.
The route down San Emigdio Creek reminded me of the theme from Heart of Darkness where the journey up the Congo River became more and more primative the further the protagonists traveled. In this case, the route starts off easily enough - hopping a fence, following a nice mixed dirt/paved road down for a mile, another fence, another mile of good trail, and then one of deteriorating quality that grew brushier and harder to find the further I continued. I lost the trail several times, usually wandering down the creekbed itself until I could find some semblence of a trail on one side of the creek or the other. Most of the time the trail could be found on the east side, including the last third of the route down the San Emigdio, but there were several sections early on that were fairly well-defined on the west side.
An hour and a half into the venture, long after I no longer needed the headlamp, I began to study the hillsides on the east bank looking for the exit ridge described in the HPS guide. I was a bit early, as it took almost two hours to make my way down to the base of the correct ridge. As a reference for future travelers on this route, there is a conspicuous pile of rocks about 30 feet high on the east bank just before the large meadow and grassy hillside described in the guide. None of the ridges coming down to the creek before this are really grassy, mostly a collection of rocky ridges covered in scrub. Upon crossing the wide meadow, a use trail can be seen running up to the ridgeline while still several hundred yards away.
I found a small duck at the beginning of the ridge portion, following it dutifully up the steep slope. The footing was better than might be expected and I had no trouble following the ridge up towards Eagle Rest. Where the grassy slopes give way to tree and rock cover, a bountiful series of ducks guide one through the bit of maze one is presented with. In the upper part of the mountain there was also a fresh set of pink ribbons that had been laid down, but these I systematically removed as both redundant to the plentiful ducks and an eyesore to boot. I actually missed the standard approach to the summit rocks, finding an alternative class 3 route further east that brought me up on the east side of the summit. Some more class 3 scrambling along the thin ridgeline (poor holds but good friction) got me to the highest summit rock.
The register was huddled with a collection of rocks below the large summit block, an easy class 3 scramble to surmount. It had taken almost three and a half hours to reach the summit, one of the more worthy peaks on the HPS list by my judgement. It's true remoteness was in marked contrast to the dozens of peaks I had climbed along the Angeles Crest over the past three days. Along with the swell views, the register was a nice treat, dating back to 1983. One of the first entries was by Tina Stough (now Bowman) when she was just finishing her first run through the HPS list. There were many other notable HPS names including Bill T Russell and Frank Goodykoontz, along with more than a dozen entries by Mars Bonfire.
Knowing the route now, I was able to cut nearly an hour off the return time, cruising through the brushy areas with far more confidence and speed. Once back at the KCL gate the trail improved remarkably, and I was shortly at the more formidable Wind Wolves Preserve gate (though seemingly abandoned, this steel gate will easily last another 100 years), up the washed out dirt road, and then back to the final gate at the Pine Mountain Club boundary before noon, for a six hour roundtrip time.
I wasted little time driving out from the trailhead, back on the main road and then taking the turnoff to Lockwood Valley. I had expected to find the road to Frazier Mountain closed as I had found it a few years earlier, but was pleasantly surprised to see it open at the ranger station. The road was paved for the first couple of miles to the campground, after which it turns to dirt and progressively deteriorates as one drives higher up the mountain. Still, I was able to safely negotiate the entire seven miles without too much trouble, the hardest part coming where I encountered some hard snow and ice on a short section protected from the sun. At the summit I found an old lookout tower in terrible shape, along with a nearby communications tower that looked to be far better maintained. In all I wasted more than an hour to do the drive-up to Frazier Mountain, more of an embarassment for the HPS list despite it's stature on the 2,000-foot prominence list. Oh well, at least it was gotten out of the way.
On tap for the remainder of the afternoon were two similarly, but not-quite-so-lame summits in Lockwood Peak and San Guillermo Peak south of Lockwood Valley. The last time I had tried to do one of these peaks it was 9F outside and I lasted only a few minutes before abandoning the effort completely. This time the temperatures were more comfortably in the 40's, making the hike a good deal more enjoyable. I found the turnoff to Mutau Road with little trouble, happy to find the road paved at least for the first mile or two. This gave way to dirt, in excellent shape, though somewhat washboarded. All of the roads I plied in this area were comfortably negotiated by the van. I headed west on Piano Box Road and drove a few more miles to its end and the trailhead for Lockwood Peak. The area had been badly burned a few summers ago, with most of the surrounding trees caught up in the conflagration. Pockets of trees and some hardy (or lucky) individuals had survived, but most were charred. Still, the land was beginning to recover, first with grasses, and more recently with the chaparral covering.
The route to Lockwood Peak is open to motorcycle travel, a more heavily-used means of transporation than hiking in the area, judging by the tire treads and lack of boot prints. From the trailhead I followed the road down and across a small creek before it climbs back out to a trail junction. Turning left, or east, I followed the Yellow Jacket Trail for several miles along an easy grade as it makes its way through several meadows on the way to the peak. At the last meadow, just before starting up the gully towards the summit, I found a series of trees flagged with blue duct tape around the burnt trunks. It provided a path to follow to the gully, but for the most part was unnecessary - much like the pink ribbons I had found on Eagle Rest, they are more of an eyesore than they are helpful. I didn't try to remove them, not wanting to cover my hands in charcoal/soot from the dead trees. The taped trees led to the gully as expected where thankfully their place was taken by the usual set of HPS ducks that easily survived the fire. I followed a use trail up the gully, then followed the easy route through the trees to the summit. It was 2:45p, having taken just under an hour to make the summit. The views were rather bland and devoid of any real character, mostly due to the fact that most of the summits (Pinos, Frazier, Alamo) of consequence are rather rounded with boring relief. The register had survived the fire, but not without some cooking, much as I had found on Grays Peak in the San Bernardinos earlier in the year. The register book was very dry and one edge had been singed, probably where it came in contact with the edge of the metal cans it was ensconced in. It dated back to 1982, with Tina Stough's name again appearing on that first page. I returned via the same route, taking about 45min on the way back to the van. I still had an hour of sunlight and it looked like I might make the last peak of the day without needing the headlamp.
I drove back to Mutau Road, then turned off at the Pine Springs CG and drove to its highest point as described in the HPS guide. There wasn't another soul to be found anywhere in this nicely appointed, but hard to get to park. The route description to San Guillermo sounded somewhat complicated for such a short hike, but it turned out to be rather trivial. There are some scattered ducks in the vicinity of the campground that don't mean much, but once one crosses the shallow creek southwest of the CG it is almost impossible to miss what might be the most overducked route on the HPS list. With a duck found almost every six feet or so, it would be hard to get lost even at night. The route follows the SW side of the creek upstream a short distance before heading up a slope SE of the peak. This led up some 800ft or so to a lower summit just south of the highpoint, and then a short hike up to San Guillermo itself. The sun, hidden behind thin clouds for most of the day, was just now making an appearance only minutes before it would set. This made for some nice lighting on the otherwise non-descript surrounding hills and mountains.
The outing to San Guillermo took under an hour, and it was 4:45p when I made my return. The solar shower I had left on the dash had considerably cooled by this time, but I made use of it anyway before starting the long drive back home. It had been a good four days, totalling 30 HPS peaks, a bit more than 10% of the list. With about 70-80 still remaining, I ought to be able to finish up sometime in 2009 or the following year.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Eagle Rest Peak - Frazier Mountain
This page last updated: Fri Jan 23 13:18:13 2009
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