Tuesday, March 6

Icehouse Canyon - Backpack Training

The gusts of wind came continually down the canyon with an icy freshness that both invigorated me & had me in total wonder of the new region of the San Gabriels I was exploring. Icehouse Canyon had been living up to it's name without question.

| Backpack Training Mt. Baldy in background |

 A local favorite among pretty much ever hiking book & website, I figured it was my time to give it a try. Short history of the canyon, in the 20's it was a major ice production area due to it's location, along with timber cutting pulled by oxen from upper reaches of the side canyons. I was in awe that anyone made this possible.


 This trip was the beginning of endurance building for longer backpacking trips planned over the next few months. Carrying a fair amount of weight up the 2,700 ft of elevation change & 4 miles of trail was an excellent first test back. The rock strew trail winded up to a mountain spring that I missed on my way up, but thoroughly enjoyed on my way down (video w/ new sterilization techniques to come).

While part way up the trail I passed into the Cucamonga Wilderness, a sub-alpine protected area little over 12,000 sq. ft. The snow was plentiful & pristine all along the north facing ridges. One could even make out animals tracks coming down from the denser upper forests to the creek side.

| Lunch off the ridge below Timber Peak |
 At the top my body had eaten through all the energy my breakfast had provided & was ready for a remote lunch. I spent close to 2 hours reading, shooting photos, & randomly sending the most remote text message I have had the chance to. The above photo shows base camp, looking out into the Cucamonga Wilderness.

| Natural Icebox at 7800 ft |

Another great thing I found out over the day about this trail was it was the more adult cousin to Chantry Flats area. Though somewhat populated, I found that all the hikers seemed to be in training mode, trail camping or out for the features of the snow country. No families, no teens, no trash, and almost no graffiti. Hiking solo on this journey allowed for me to stop and talk to almost 15 different people. Some eventually heading all the way to the Grand Canyon & Yellowstone. However, later in the day on my way down the trail, it was strew ever so often with late afternoon families enjoying the lower creek area.

| Switchback on Icehouse Canyon Trail w Mt. Baldy in background |

The upper reaches of this canyon allow for almost six different routes & I only made it a bit above the 7,555 saddle. This allows for more adventures down the road. Along with great beauty, one of the funniest wilderness moments happened while I was having lunch looking out into the hills, ponder something profound, a deep voice called from miles across the canyon, "Vote for Donnelly!" I laughed, replied the same, & never stopped smiling the rest of the day.

| Video of the Days Adventures - Two minutes |


Maureen802 said...

I am looking to go through Ice House Canyon up to the top of Cucamonga this weekend. How was the snow coverage on the north side? Are crampons/snow shoes necessary?

JDB said...

Hi Maureen,
As far as the canyon portion is conerned, no problems, some snow and ice, but trail shoes will manage fine. At the saddle, the snow going out to Ontario Peak and Cucamonga Peak started right at the saddle and was def ankle to a bit more deep & everywhere on the trail. I didnt travel out to Cucamonga, but some other hikers said two weeks ago they couldnt make it bc of ice so they were trying again this past Sunday, not sure if they made it out there though. It looked pretty snow covered the whole way from my vantage point I had lunch (pictured) but I didnt venture on the trail. Another couple said that the trail to Ontario Peak had so much snow on it they couldnt make it to Kelly Camp. Leads me to believe there will be a fair amount on Cucamonga. Noticed to the other day there was a 60% chance of snow in the Baldy area, not sure if that actually amounted to anything.

JDB said...

Also, the three guys attempting Cucamonga peka I saw where all jus twearing work boots or some decent trail shoes. No crampons or ice axes. Good luck and have a safe trip. As long as you make it to the saddle it will be stunningly beautiful no matter how far you go after that.

EnriqueFreeque said...

Great post. Icehouse Canyon has long been a favorite destination of mine. Someday I'd like to head up Icehouse and go over Cucamonga Peak and on over to Etiwanda Peak and then descend down to the Joe Elliott memorial and San Sevaine Flats. Access to San Sevaine Flats and timing have prevented me so far.

I posted a brief piece on Icehouse last year that might interest you: http://enriquefreequesreads.blogspot.com/2011/10/ruminating-at-and-wanting-to-move-into.html

And I left a reply to your question on the Saunder's book too. I'm glad you stopped by.