| 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 |