Stranded In The Southland

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Sugarloaf, Bighorn, and Ontario the Hard Way

Sugarloaf Peak is a relatively low peak (6900') compared to many of the nearby peaks, but it makes up for that by being extremely difficult to access. The standard way to get to it is to hike down from Ontario Peak, then negotiate the steep and scree-filled Falling Rock Canyon to get down.

Instead, the HPS hike I went on Friday planned to go straight up Falling Rock Canyon, into the teeth of a 500 foot mound of talus. I was a little concerned, especially after my difficulties keeping up on steep slopes Wednesday. This was going to be a steep ascent, followed by, eventually, a relatively mild descent.

To my surprise and delight, it worked out just fine! Mars Bonfire and Karen Leverich led at such a relaxed pace that it was no problem to get up the canyon, despite some stretches of steep class three rock (requiring hands and feet, instead of just hiking) that I had to clamber up.

Once up top, we had great views of the Angeles National Forest, with more and more distant peaks wreathed in bluish haze (well, smog, I guess). As we started up Bighorn Peak, Mars spotted a bighorn sheep -- a relative rarity up there. Folks were completely astounded! If you see one every couple of years of hiking, you're lucky.

Really wonderful. Despite the endless climbing, we approached everything at a slow enough pace that I had a chance to look around and enjoy myself, while still moving quickly enough that I was getting a good workout.

In fact, the only real problem of the hike was my botched stream crossing at the very beginning -- I spent the day squishing around in soaking wet boots, and by the end of it all, my feet were not too happy to be so wet. Next time, I follow the smart folks across the log, rather than trying (and failing) to hop across the rocks. Doh.

All in all, it was a great twelve hour hike (8AM to 8PM!) letting me rack up another three peaks. Ontario and Bighorn are easy enough to get, but I never would've attempted Sugarloaf Peak without experienced folks backing me up.