Tuesday, May 24

Falling Short Loop (Cucamonga Wilderness) - San Gabriel Mts

| Falling Rock Canyon |

Usually mid-week there is some text messages or chatter about possible outdoor plans for the weekend. More often than not there is way too many good things going on. However, Saturday afternoon had struck & nothing had really formulated until we threw out the idea of finally doing Falling Rock Canyon. That sparked interest, then another person said, "Have you ever heard of Shortcut Ridge?" That's all is took, we had our 'Sunday plan'. Roughly 12 (give or take) mile loop, 4 miles on trail, 8 miles cross country with about 10,000ft gain/loss.

| Click to enlarge |

After some brief "research" on the internet I found three instances of people trying Shortcut Ridge, two fails & one make. Seemed possible with some careful route finding & smart choices. The next morning we were at Icehouse Canyon parking, taking up the last possible spot. It is no secret Icehouse is one of the most popular trails in the Gabriels.

There are several write ups for Falling Rock Canyon that have better info than I will provide in terms of route directions, just FYI. We branched off of the main trail at the right time & crossed the creek, following a faint climbers trail to the mouth of Falling Rock Canyon, leaving all the crowds behind. From here on up it will be roughly 4,000ft of gain over 4 or so miles.

The bottom sections of the canyon are wonderful choked rock features with a moment or two that will require some climbing skills. There was water coming down one of them, but easy to climb on the left side. Once up farther the scree begins to enter the canyon & a noticeable split happens. Falling Rock Canyon curves to the left & an immense scree field begins up a side canyon on the right. Don't follow earlier storm ruts or bad hiking paths, these will only serve to waste energy.

| Rocks all the way to the saddle |

Feeling great in the morning sun, we stopped for a snack & then headed on the spur trail the Sugarloaf Peak. The extra jaunt has a wonderful ridge trail at times with insane views up San Antonio Canyon to Baldy's bowl. The exposed summit is really worth the visit. Telegraph Peak looks especially massive. As a day's goal, Sugarloaf alone is great if one were to head back down Falling Rock Canyon.

| Heading to Sugarloaf |

Retracing our steps to the top of the scree field/saddle, we headed up the light path that fades in an out at times. The real ascent of steep terrain begins in earnest now. The route travels on the south/western ridge above Falling Rock Canyon proper. Helping at times to be in the pines with welcome shade. Strong gusts blew up the canyon from the city thousands of feet below.

| Around 7,900ft |

Thighs working in overtime, we find a welcomed flat spot to eat & take in the views somewhere near 8,200ft. Clouds were beginning to blow in over Mt. Baldy, but would never linger long. Packing up we had a short hike up to where the ridge plateaus & becomes covered in chaparral. Knowing the proper Ontario Peak trail was up on the ridge ahead of us we stayed on the right mostly & connected one rock out cropping to the next, landing perfectly on the top.

| Telegraph Peak in background |

Stopping for another snack, we felt great after such a big climb from the canyon directly down below. We still didn't see a single person after leaving a parking lot of fifty cars. With the weather holding out & no rain falling on our portion of the mountains we jumped on the regular Ontario Peak trail & headed down towards Kelly's Camp. There was still some sections of this trail covered in a foot or two of snow. It was nice to get all the dynamics of the hike in late season.

| Lunch looking out to Mt. Baldy (10,064ft) |

| Topping out of Falling Rock Canyon |

Arriving at the camp we still hadn't seen anyone & it was a bit more apparent why now. There was even large snow patches covering the trail leading into the camp from Icehouse Saddle. This main route was our bail out way, but looked to be more dangerous. This didn't matter though, we were headed to Shortcut Ridge from the camp.

| Kellys Camp |

| Trail leading out of Kellys Camp |

Stopping to get our bearings & re-read the one paragraph description we have of the route (haha) we head out of Kelly's Camp. We round the first ridge a bit lower than our description called for, but eventually connect to the two rolling flat spots on Shortcut Ridge. There was loads of thorns & huge fallen tress in this area. The bark beetle had ravaged the area, allowing for much more chaparral to grown between the pines.

| Heading towards Shortcut Ridge |

| Tons of things to get caught on |

| The two flat spots on the topo map |

What came next truly blew all three of our minds. The whole entire hike had led us now to a high alpine meadow, a front row seat to the high country of the San Gabriel Mountains. Counting eight massive peaks all resting over eight thousand feet, greeting the skyline, draped in white rain laden clouds. This is why we hike.

| Shortcut Ridge |

 A second look at the map & we all three went north out of the meadow & into the pines, zig-zagging to slow our decent through the pines. After success on this hike I can vouch for the tip of staying within sight of Lost Creek Canyon, but never be tempted to drop down too far into it, stay on the ridge. Eventually we reached  a semi flat spot where a noticeable canyon feeds down to the right with many young pines growing in it, this was our exit canyon.

After one last break, we took to the most ankle busting section yet. The final canyon is full of large talus & just requires concentration & focus. We took turns weave in and out of the pines over the rocks until making the final drop into Icehouse Canyon.

| Heading into last canyon, looking back up Shortcut Ridge |

Jumping now on the main Icehouse Canyon trail, heading down towards the parking lot we covered the miles easy & smooth. Along the way we dubbed it the Falling Short Loop, though in no way does it fall short of challenge, skill, elevation & absolutely amazing views!

| Back in Icehouse Canyon |

Sunday, May 8

Banff Mountain Film Festival Trip - Canda

It all started with an Instagram post... In the Summer of 2015 I had seen an Osprey contest that was looking for video entrees about "How Nature Inspires You". Grand prize was a trip to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, airfare, screening tickets, lodging, the whole sha-bang. Seemed right up my alley after amassing footage from years of outdoor adventures, along with being a satisfied customer of Osprey long before this opportunity came to be.

Below is the video I submitted after about a week & a half process writing, recording the voice over & editing together some of the most memorable outdoor moments that have inspired myself & friends likewise. Thank you to Jesse for helping with the audio portion & everyone else for letting me put a camera in their face all these years!

A little time past & along came an email one day that set the gears in motion. Grand Prize Winner!

Melissa & I hopped a plane from Burbank at dawn & were touching down in Calgary several hours later. Our first night at the festival was very eventful, starting with the awards ceremony for the book portion of the festival. Which was a perfect introduction b/c we knew what to look for in the coming days on the grounds at The Banff Centre. Following the awards was a conversation with Alex Honnold, world famous free climber, about several of his recent accomplishments, including a film we would see the next night. The evening concluded with a wonderful feature docu-drama called Hadwin's Judgement that I really wish to see a second time.

The next day we walked the downtown area of Banff, had great waffles & headed to a presentation that was being given by Kelly Cordes. He was speaking about his book & the controversial history surrounding mountain climbing on Patagonia's Cerre Torre. We knew nothing of this going into the event & the history nerds in us were blown away. A+ presentation & such a cool story. That afternoon we took a fun hike all along the river that leads out of town to some wonderful views of Mt. Rundle. It was a brisk 32 degrees on a good day.

That night was another double line up. First was a talk with renowned mountain climber Tommy Caldwell along with several screenings of two of the best films of the week. A Line Across the Sky detailing a first traverse of multiple summits in Patagonia over many days. The second being an in depth documentary called Sherpa, about the life & culture of high altitude porters in the Himalaya. Finishing around midnight a very chilly walk back to our hotel rounded out a great day.

The next day we had all open to explore outdoors before the nighttime screenings began. This is also the day that snowed... In our rental car we head up to do some of the planned things we had on the docket. Alas, too much icy snow in many places brought us to "Plan B". Throwing on our hiking gear we set out on one of the few trails we saw on our map & hope for the best. Falling lightly, the snow was so dry & perfect, I had never experienced any kind like it in California. Following along a river we made a large loop & didn't see another soul. Wonderful bliss.

 It was also on this day back at the Festival we I ran into an outdoor filmmaker that I admire from Los Angeles as well. Jason Fitzpatrick was a co-director on the wonderful John Muir Trail documentary Mile Mile & A Half. He & a colleague had a new film in the festival detailing a paddling trip in Alaska, following two genuine lifelong friends.

Another evening of screenings that didn't disappoint. I had picked The Rocky Mountain Traverse specially b/c the adventure sounded too cool not to hear about in person. Two men para-glided the entire length of the Great Divide Trail in Canada (700+ miles). From summit to summit they flew & camped. Outstanding! The film was great, a wonderful crew & the two guys gave enjoyable insight on their experience. Paddle for the North was the last film. A classic story of six guy friends on a 63 day mission paddling in far far far remote North America.

The last day of adventures & screenings was here. Although, the days goal was try something new & different. We had reservations at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, outside Banff. Without gushing too much about how cool this experience was, just do it if you are ever in the area! The Sanctuary is an open space with large areas for "full content wolfdogs" & "low content wolfdog". We got the chance to sit in with all the various wolfdogs & interact, feed & connect with them as much as they wished. 

On our way back into town we stopped for another classic little Banff tourist hike. The hoodoo trail takes you high above the braided river, looking down on weather sculpted sand stones. Forming odd towers sticking out amongst the pines dotting the hillside. 

That same evening, I took a hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain outside the town & Melissa got a chance to hike to the waterfall along the river & get views of the beautiful chalet. A last "whora!" for Banff!

That night was the film awards & the last of the screenings. Eclipse was a ski film I have watched several times since the festival, check it out. Lastly, The Great Alone, an award winning documentary about a come back dogsled racer, overcoming substance abuse & competing in the Iditarod. Marvelous end to the night all around. 

I can't thank Osprey enough for the opportunity & their wonderful support making this memorable experience for Melissa & I.