May 25, 2016 at 9:44 am #81066
Saturday 5/21/16 I went back up Iron Mtn. This was my third time up and second time to the summit. Everything you read and hear about this hike says that it is tough and it’s all true. Understated if anything.
The trail starts off mild enough and is a pleasant hike to the wilderness sign. From there it continues up until you end up on the ridge and reach the helipad (white rocks) about 4 miles in. This is a good place to rest up, soak in the views and get ready for the push to the summit. Surprisingly there is cellphone reception here, so it’s a good place to check in on the way up and to call to let whoever is waiting for you on the way down that you’re going to be late.
From the helipad you drop way down to the saddle, begrudging every lost foot of elevation. At the saddle you have a very steep climb, not a scramble, but very, very steep. Get used to it, because there are a few off these sections to come. There is very little level trail to come, just almost constant uphill, broken up by some very steep loose sections and a few heartbreaking downhill sections.
The distance is not far, only about 3 miles from the helipad, but it is a long, hard 3 miles. It will take hours. More hours than you think. More than you will want to admit. On most hikes you can figure out how long it will take by how many miles it is, throw that out the window, a mile here can take an hour. There are strong hikers, part human part mountain goat who can make it to the summit in 4 hours, but I’m not one of them. This is a long hard slog.
The view from the summit, if you have one, is awesome. And when you’re up there you take a look at the traverse to Baldy or the route to the summit up the north ridge, and realize that as hard as the trail from Heaton Flats is that it is the easy route.
After rejoicing, posing and picture taking, resting and refueling on the summit it is time for the walk down. If anything this is worse than the climb up. It is extremely steep loose and slippery and skips and falls are almost inevitable. Take it slow and careful it ain’t easy, but eventually it’ll get done.
Once at the helipad the hike back seems like a walk in the park. It isn’t, it’s still a long way back to the car and there are some steep parts too, but they are anti-climatic after everything you have been through.
This is a great hike, well worth the effort, but it is a tremendous effort. I’d advise pants and long sleeves, if you can stand them, and gloves. The yuccas will slice you up and leave you bloody. Take more water than you think you’ll need and then stuff a couple more liters in your pack. I used 5 liters on a cool cloudy day and gave a liter to my hiking buddy when he ran out. If the sun is shining and it’s warm it could be 6-7 liters easy. Stash some at the helipad or the saddle if you don’t want to hump it all the way to the summit, but bring plenty. You don’t want to be the poor thirsty soul taking the long walk down to the trailhead in the afternoon sun with no water.
If you think you’re ready for a challenge this is one. It’s a tough, though hike, but well worth it. The aches and pains will go away, but the feeling of satisfaction lingers.May 26, 2016 at 10:40 am #81097
Jeff HesterKeymaster15,508 points
James — this is an awesome trail report. I haven’t hiked Iron Mountain yet, but you certainly whet my appetite. Sounds like a hike and an adventure rolled into one.May 27, 2016 at 6:39 am #81122
I can’t wait to go back. It’s painful, but it hurts so good.
It would be brutal in the heat though. More brutal.August 16, 2016 at 10:31 pm #83030
Marissa AParticipant862 points
I’ve been hearing so much about Iron Mountain. Reading this both scares me and intrigues me. Ready to take on the challenge! Thanks James!August 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm #83085
Charles CParticipant910 points
I think I found my next challenge! Thank you James.September 12, 2016 at 12:28 am #83562
I think I’ll be ready to go back in November, after I come back from vacation.
I learned my lesson from my last ascent in July. Lesson #1, don’t do it in July. It was brutal. Lesson #2, cache water. So I plan to go up in October or November and cache water. You don’t want to run out on that hike, nor do you want to carry all the water you might need. Plus it’s nice to have for the people who think 3 or 4 liters is plenty. You can’t have too much water on this hike. Cache it on the way up and if you find you don’t need it leave it for some thirsty hiker.
For anyone planning to do it, gloves and poles are recommended. Gloves are better than poles for the descent. You can grab thorny branches to keep upright on the steep parts. Long plants and long sleeves if you can stand them. I go up in shorts and tshirts, but I’m reconciled to bleeding on this trail. Bandaids and wipes are nice to have. And did I mention water and electrolytes? Bring more than you think you’ll need, and then take some more.
It’s a suffer fest, but worth it. It isn’t particularly high. Or long. But the views are good. And the sense of accomplishment unsurpassed in the San Gabriel’s.September 15, 2016 at 5:56 pm #83625
Philip YParticipant1,008 point
An excellent post and advice. I am hiking this trail with another So Cal Hiker on Oct 8th. I was planning on just about every piece of advice you gave. It just good to hear the confirmation of the need for the particular gear and water. I plan to carry 7 to 8 liter and stash some at the saddle. How much do you recommend having for the road to the peak and back down to the saddle? We are starting at 0500. So our first few miles will be in the dark. I’m headed up tomorrow to do a pre-hike and trail familiarization. I will probably turn back right about the Allison Mine Trail. At least I’ll end up with about a 9 mile training hike and a good recon.
Again thanks for your trail report and advice.September 18, 2016 at 2:13 am #83684
Nancy RParticipant1,076 point
Thank you for the trail report. Sounds like a great adventure.October 5, 2016 at 4:40 pm #84542
Sorry I missed your response. 7 or 8 liters should be good in October. More is better, if you don’t use it you can stash it for the next time.
0500 is OK to start, a little late if you ask me, but you should be good. I’m a fat old man, so it takes me a while.
The trail is easy to follow, so you won’t have any trouble in the dark. 1 mile in, at the first saddle bear left. It’s hard to believe that you have to mention it, but I’ve heard of people going right and up the other ridge and having to back track. The trail is hard enough that there is no reason to add more miles. I assume that by now you’ve already gone as far as the helipad, and that part is easy in comparison to what is to come.
Have fun.October 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm #84549
Nancy RParticipant1,076 point
Thanks for the saddle tip.
Looking forward to hearing about your experience on 10/8. I’d appreciate any advice. I’m considering doing Iron Mtn the following weekend.October 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm #85052
Philip YParticipant1,008 point
Well this is a little late, but we didn’t hike Iron Mountain on the 8th. I did a pre-hike on Sep 16th. I hike up the Heaton Flat Trail to just past the Allison Mine Trail, but short of the saddle. I ended up with about a ten mile hike. About a 1 1/2 miles from the finish I rolled my ankle. Lots of pain and lots of swelling. My hiking partner also was nursing a sore foot, so we decided to postpone the hike. Now we are looking at Nov. I’m hoping for Veterans Day weekend. If not then, either the week before or after will be the date.December 21, 2016 at 11:48 am #87247
I went up again 12/3, but we timed out about .75-1 mile from the top. Just after we did all the worst parts. My companion promised that she would be back in time for her kid’s performance.
Slipped and did a couple of somersaults above Allison Saddle and cracked my head and ribs.
I am planning on going back in January if anyone wants to go with a fat, slow old man.