|Group||me and Susana from socalhiker|
The Icehouse Cyn to Cucamonga Peak trail had a little bit of everything.
Big rocks. Little rocks. Boulders. Scree. Stream crossings. Switchbacks. Ridge/mountainside traverses. Lots of shade the first part; shade spots on the Cucamonga Peak portion as there were scattered trees up to almost the top of the summit.
The weather forecast changed every day this past week. We had rescheduled from Friday due to the excessive heat warnings, but Monday after forecast called for temps/humidity to start cooling, surprise – radio on drive up said nope, more heat and humidity, and it was in the high 70s and felt like a steam bath when I pulled in to Claremont for a quick pit stop before driving up Mt. Baldy Road. The parking lot had just 3 or 4 cars in it; I think partly it was cause it was a weekday and also because the weather was just miserable even at elevation. Conditions throughout the hike were tough with heavy humidity and hot temps all the way up, so we went very, very slowly uphill and took a lot of little breaks in the shade. We brought 6L water each, tons of electrolytes, and moist food like raisins, dates and apples. We started much later than we planned as my partner hit some bad traffic, and when I first got to the trail at first light, it was totally empty and just gave me the creeps, so we gave it a couple hours in the hopes more hikers would show.
The trail surface made going slower than expected too, as there were a lot of loose rock and dirt. Poles were a must! Especially for the Peak trail, I can’t imagine doing it without poles as portions got very narrow cutting across the mountainside traversing from one mountain to Cucamonga, and there were some bigger rock and scree sections on the trail to navigate. It wasn’t super unsafe but did require mindful navigation on several sections that were not ones you could trail run speedily through.
This is NOT a hike to do if you are prone to vertigo or have a fear of heights. You are VERY high up traversing the steep fallaway sides of mountains as you get closer to the summit – kind of like half of the Devil’s Backbone in spots (that same scree fallaway but the scree mtn above you on the other side), and a more narrow path through. It is just absolutely beautiful though – we had full sight of the three Ts and a thunderstorm forming over Baldy that fortunately stayed over Baldy. We watched it like a hawk from the moment it started as a fluffy white cloud beginning our hike, ready to turn around and race down the hill if it moved or clouds formed over us. But fortunately it just sat and grew, and the clouds over Icehouse and Cucamonga stayed their pristine clear deep blue.
I will say also there are a lot of new little unofficial trails all over the place and especially in the peak area. The actual official peak trail has a spot where you have to climb over a boulder to get to the next switchback. My hike partner and I are both petite and literally could not see the trail above the rock; this is where there was another trail that looked totally legit but eventually started leading to the mountain behind Cucamonga. You cannot see Cucamonga’s rocks from the trail, as it comes up the back side of the peak from the rocks. So we spent some time just trying to figure out if that one front peak even was Cucamonga though we were pretty sure.
It was getting later and the Baldy storm was starting to anvil out, so we had just decided sadly bagging Cucamonga was not in the cards that day and turned around to head back down when we saw a guy coming up the trail – the only person we saw on the peak trail and one of very few we saw on our entire hike. My partner asked if we were close to the peak; he said yes, very, very close, and it turns out he really knows the area. He was going up to the peak anyways for a training hike for the 8000 meter challenge race, so he took us up to the summit, which was amazing – clear blue skies with thunderstorms over the desert, San Gorgonio, and the one that luckily thundered once then started dissipating over Baldy. We spent awhile eating, hydrating, taking photos and relaxing – winds were light and the summit was just such a pretty place to hang out.
Our so nice guide – who would take neither food nor money as our thanks – hiked all the way back down with us, and even he got off trail and we were in the upper creek boulders in Icehouse for awhile. Icehouse and the peak portion of Cucamonga can be very tricky to find the trails if you aren’t familiar with the park (and even if you are, because of the changes since the winter). If you are doing the Challenge and have never been, please go on a crowded weekend if you have to go alone or have never been, and ideally go with someone who has been up to the peak before and knows that portion of the Angeles forest very well.
Because we went on a different trail up to Icehouse that went on the north side of the creek and was higher and steeper than the way the guide took us back, and we did some of the not official trail after we could not see that boulder-climb switchback, we ended up actually logging 14 miles on a long, very hot and humid day. The one time I took the temp, it was at the start of the Peak trail in an area with shade and a cool breeze and it was still in the low 80s, at over 7500 ft elevation. But we did it and were very very happy the mountain wanted us to summit and sent us a helper to find the peak! We are so grateful a long day ended with an amazing peak bag and a quick, safe descent with us beating the sunset!
I have never hiked that far in my life; my max was 12 as we did a shorter, steeper Wilson hike the week before. I wore knee supports, compression shin socks, and all white which totally helped reflect all of that heat. We used 3L going up then switched over our bladders and used maybe another 1.5L on the way down. Definitely plan for 5-6L if it is hot day and even 4-5L otherwise as there are switchbacks, though they were not as steep as we were expecting, even the ones right before the peak. Still, a lot of climbing, and the scree and rocks were a good prep for Baldy, and the San B, J, and G Mtns.
I was so tired when I got home I just put on my pjs and fell asleep. Woke up this morning feeling good – no soreness, which I was super happy about! Looking forward to completing the last half of my Six Pack soon! Just Baldy, San Bernardino, and San Gorgonio to go!