Crampons to Cucamonga
Date: February 25, 2021
Distance: 11.58 miles
Total Elapsed Time: 9h 16m
Total Moving Time: 7h 7m
Summit Elevation: 8,859 feet
Elevation Gain: 3,978 feet
Trailhead: Ice House Canyon
Previous Ascents: June 2, 2020
Back in the Saddle Again!
This morning started out with a bit of Déjà Vu, albeit a much earlier start than Monday's trip up to Ice House Canyon Saddle. I pulled into the parking lot around 0630 and was headed up the familiar trail about 15-minutes later. Based on my trip to Ontario Peak earlier in the week, I knew the trail conditions to the Saddle and I expected to make good time, too I was traveling a little lighter. Monday I used my Osprey Aether 70L pack, had my showshoes strapped on, and my JetBoil MiniMo cooking system (in addition to the usual essentials and safety gear), fully loaded my pack was right at 40 pounds. My 'everyday' pack weight on day hikes typically ranges from 30-35 pounds, so these few extra pounds weren't even noticeable to me (the benefit of ALWAYS hiking heavier)
Today I switched back to my Osprey Stratos 36L pack, left the snowshoes home and opted for crampons and ice axe instead. I swapped stoves and brought my smaller JetBoil MightyMo stove and SnoPeak Titanium cup, pared back a little on the food and water, and dropped a couple other 'non-essentials' to bring my pack down to 33 pounds. I wasn't so concerned with the weight, but I did want to use my smaller pack as it sits lower and the brim of my hat doesn't hit it when I'm moving. 🤣
I made good time to the Ice House Canyon Saddle, I really didn't stop to take pictures except for my "I'm on the trail and underway" selfie (above). I met one guy coming down, I think he must be local because I saw him Monday morning as well and judging from his lack of gear, he was likely doing a 'saddle-and-back' trip. I was passed by one hiker on my way up, we spoke briefly and he was gone. I'd ultimately see him again at the Saddle and the Summit.
I didn't waste any time at the saddle dropping my pack and putting my crampons on. Rule Number 1 with new gear: ALWAYS try it on and try it out BEFORE your first trip with it where you have to depend on it. When I was preparing for my Sawmill trip a few weeks ago, I got all my winter gear out and tried it on, walking around in the sand of the horse corrals in snowshoes and crampons to get the feel of moving in them.
I have the Grivel G-10 New Classic Crampons and it took me a while to sort out the lacing pattern to ensure a secure fit, and what to do with the extra strap (TIP: don't just cut it off! You want to keep enough so you can pull them tight). Trust me, it's MUCH easier to do that on my patio in 75º weather with no pressing issues than on the trail in 39º, windy conditions when all I want to do is get to the summit. 😉 Too, if for some reason the equipment doesn't work, you don't want to find that out when you're in the middle of your hike.
The Section of the Cucamonga Peak Trail from the Ice House Canyon Saddle to summit is 2.4-miles long.
The first 1.1-mile of the trek traverses around the Eastern side of Big Horn Peak to the Cucamonga Saddle, mostly between 7,400-7,600 feet of elevation on a narrow path carved into the side of the mountain. On this first section, the trail alternated with stretches of bare dirt and rock (a pain and just a little tricky in crampons) to ice and snow.
I was extremely happy to have my crampons for the sections of ice and snow because the path was narrow and the slope to the east was very steep in places. This is one of my favorite parts of the trail because the views are simply breathtaking and due to the steep slope, its exposure gets your attention.
Following the normal switchbacks last June, I logged 1.5-miles from the Cucamonga Saddle to the Summit and I covered that distance in 51 minutes. Today, taking the more direct "snow" route (due to the tracks I was following), my Saddle-to-Summit distance was 0.9-mile, which (coincidentally🤔) I covered in 51 minutes.
Waitaminit...Whaaat?! How did I know that?
I use a program called GPX Editor, it allows me to open a GPX file and edit it. This is useful for either splitting a large file into smaller 'legs' or combining multiple files into one. Personally, I use it to analyze my trips. Whenever you use an app that records your track (GAIA GPS, Peakbagger, AllTrails, Strava, MapMyWalk, etc.), it's constantly recording data points along the way, my trip to Cucamonga Peak and back today included 2,225 individual "Track Points". Each track point is number consecutively from the beginning of the trip and is represented by a string of information.
I put together the composite graphic above using a couple different screenshots that shows the track points (blue arrows in direction of travel) and the corresponding track point data. I highlighted 10 TPs that represented 92.1 yards of travel. I can pick any set of TPs to determine, distance, time, elevation gain, etc., it is VERY cool.
Back to the trail...
The last stretch to the summit leveled out somewhat but I found I was starting to post-hole more frequently. I could see Nick (the guy who passed me earlier) already at the rock where every takes their pictures. This is not the actual summit, but the ammo can that holds the register and the summit signs are located there, and the spot DOES make for good pictures!
I dropped my gear and headed over to the summit to make a quick scan for the survey marker, with the snow I didn't spend a lot of time looking for it and headed back to make lunch and take pictures. I was happy that winds were minimal (less than 5 mph) and the temperature was 61º, still my hot coffee tasted great with my regular lunch of Spam, fruit, and cookies.
This was my 6th Peak on the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks 2021 Challenge, so I'm officially a "Finisher" on the SoCal Challenge (I completed the San Diego Six in January). I still have three peaks left on the list of nine available for the SoCal Challenge: Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. Baldy, and Mt. Baden-Powell. The descent was relatively uneventful, there was one point where I bailed out back onto the switchbacks as opposed to following the direct route down. When you're climbing up and it's just steep, you deal with it. Going down is a whole different story as you have to take gravity and momentum into consideration, what was just a hard climb going up, can become a sketchy/scary descent.
After passing back through the Ice House Canyon Saddle and stowing my crampons, I headed down the familiar IHCT. I had briefly considered taking the Chapman Trail back as a change of pace on my descent, but I had to get back home and it would have added more time onto my overall trip. Perhaps next time I'm out here. Once again, another awesome day spent in the San Gabriel Mountains!