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Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio
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Feb 25, 2003, 8:23 AM
Post #1 of 5 (1305 views)

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Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio
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Santiago Peak
16 miles round trip
5,700’ elevation gain
12.5 hours car to car

It was three a.m. when the dog’s bark woke me up…my alarm was set for three thirty.
I got up, got dressed…base layer, shell bottoms, insulating top…grabbed my pack and headed out the door to Brian’s house.

I was sitting in front of his house at 4 a.m. just as we had planned. He strolled out with his pack and we were on our way to the Mill Creek ranger’s station to meet up with Bob at 5:30.

We pulled into the parking lot and filled out our permit. Bob rolled up shortly thereafter.
We were on our way to the trailhead.

We geared up and set off…it was 6 a.m. and we were standing at about 5800’.

We made our way up the trail and to the Mill Creek was flowing at a little more than a trickle. Snow was underfoot and the sun was just about to come up. Temperatures were chilly but not frigid.
Once we were across the creek we had the challenge of the mile long stretch gaining 1000 vertical feet. Not a problem for the crew. Soon we were walking across the fallen log that spans the gap of Vivian Creek and making tracks towards Halfway Camp at 8100’.
Along the way we passed an elderly gentleman moving at a snail’s pace…but slow and go will always get you there…and this would hold true for him. We also came across a man with two large dogs. One was a husky but I forget what the other one was. They were both very playful. They led the way from Halfway camp to High Creek Camp. Okay…they sort of led the way. Because the ground was covered with about 12-18 inches of fresh powder the trail was absolutely hidden.
We donned our snowshoes and instead of the switchbacks that I recalled from the previous weekend’s trek we blasted straight up the hill…. gaining the next ridge at about 8600’.
We caught up with two other gents who were following the same trail. It wasn’t long before we were bushwhacking, rock scrambling, and kicking in steps up icy slopes as we made our way across the ridge. Now wait a tick…I don’t recall mixed climbing being involved the last time I did this. We stopped, checked our maps, and realized that we were about 1.5 contour lines (75’) below the actual trail. In cases like this it’s nice to have an altimeter, compass, and map. Okay, that and Bob yelled up to some guys who were higher up and asked if they we on the trail and they said yes. *grin*
Anyway, soon we were back on track and making tracks to High Creek Camp at 9200’.
We weaved our way to the base of a gully that I recall very well from the previous week. This was the way we were going to go to gain the next ridge at 10,100’. (The rest of the trek to the summit would be must easier to navigate without having to deal with all of the chaparral that’s located at the lower elevations.)
This is one of the steepest sections of the trail. It’s my understanding that the actual trail involves a good deal of switchbacking from 9200 to 10100’. Not for us…we were again going to blast straight up the gully.
The snow was a lot deeper and much more soft than it had been during the previous week. The storms from Wednesday dropped all fresh powder. I prefer ice for kicking in steps and working my way up steep slopes and gullies.

Plunge the poles…kick step…kick step…plunge the poles…slow and go…up the hill. Takes some work to gain the ridge but we made it. We made our way up and down some smaller hills before reaching the base of a large hill to gain yet another ridge. Up the hill we went. It wasn’t long before we were at about 10600’. (Only 900 more vertical feet to the summit.)

I stood on the ridge and waited for Brian…Bob went on ahead. We were running about an hour behind…but that was okay. About 15-20 minutes later I see Brian’s head pop over the ridge. We chatted for a bit…letting him know that Bob wanted to turn around at 1 p.m. it was all ready nearly 12:30. There was no way that any of us would reach the summit by 1. It was still at least a half a mile away and 900’ feet up traversing a 45-50 degree slope through ice and loose snow.
I had mentioned earlier to the guys that if the snow was soft we would need to get as high as we could on the next ridge…because the previous weekend the traverse consisted of ice and the last storm brought mainly powder…and it was late in the day…the sun had several hours to soften everything up…Prime mixture for an avalanche.
I took off to catch up with Bob. It took me quite a while. It’s hard work at this altitude. I catch up to him at just over 11,000’. The wind is blowing snow and ice off the top of the ridge so I stop to take some pictures. I think they came out nicely.
I hollered up to Bob…”You all right!?!”…he returned, “Yeah!”
The higher you go the more it feels like someone has strapped led weights to your boots. Each step is a labored one and the air is thin for us who live at sea level.
With heads down and plunge, plunge, step, step we made our way to the base of the summit. I looked at my watch…only about 40’ of elevation to go.
Soon we were on top…the top of Southern California!!! 11,499’!!
This was my second time to the summit in 6 days…I was stoked.
I made a short video…Bob stated that he was too tired to talk to the camera.
I looked across the way and saw Brian about an 8th of a mile and 200’ vertical below us. I was amazed. He had really put in some serious effort.
I told Bob that there was one more peak that I wanted to check out. He replied with, “Man, we gotta get down…it’s all ready 1:30!” I told him not to worry about me, that I would catch up to him on the way down. We parted ways.
I ran…well as much as you can run at this altitude, with a pack & snowshoes, on ice…over to the peak I wanted to gain. I made another short video and took off back across the ice to the bowl below the summit. That’s where I met up with Brian. He said, “well, that’s close enough for me.” I replied, “It’s close enough for me too, let’s get down from here.” We retraced our steps through the traverse and soon caught up with Bob. I made my way passed him and got far enough ahead that I could take some decent shots as they made their way across. Soon we were back to the lower ridge at 10,600’. We were all very happy with our efforts.
I was looking forward to the relief to my knees that glissading provides…but unfortunately the snow was a tad too soft to enjoy such benefits. We did what we could and made our way back down to the ridge that leads to the gully.
Because of its steepness, the gully was much more agreeable to our glissading efforts and provided us with the opportunity to use our new ice axes. We were all impressed with how easily they stopped us…with correct technique that is.
It wasn’t long before we were back at High Creek camp and back on track making our way down the trail.
At 8600’ we came across a familiar scene…footprints went in all directions. Ah yes, the point of the lost trail.
We glissaded our way back down to the trail a few hundred feet below us. Fun fun.
A few hundred more feet down the trail and it was time to remove the snowshoes.
Bob sat down and ate while Brian and I strapped our snowshoes to our packs. He told us to go ahead…he needed to sit there and eat.
Brian and I made our way to Halfway Camp to wait for Bob.
We stood there talking about random subjects…including the amount of effort it takes to complete this kind of trek during the winter.
About 20 minutes passed and Bob made his way down the trail.
The sun was going down and soon it would be dark. The trail is a bit obscure in dim light (including headlamps) so we wanted to make sure that we were down before it got too dark.
I took pictures of Bob and Brian as they came down the trail and within another hour we were back to crossing Mill Creek.
The trek was a success. No one got injured and we all had an incredible experience.


Feb 25, 2003, 8:28 AM
Post #2 of 5 (1305 views)

Registered: Mar 1, 2002
Posts: 379

Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio [In reply to]
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What a feat! Congratulations! This isn't Mill Creek Canyon outside SLC, Utah is it?


Feb 25, 2003, 9:41 AM
Post #3 of 5 (1305 views)

Registered: Dec 2, 2001
Posts: 7255

Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio [In reply to]
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Thank you sir...actually this is in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino mountains in Sourthern California.
San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California.
We are having more storms come through this way today and tomorrow which should be adding to some serious conditions up on the "Gorg".

I did my first summit as a solo trek on the 16th (6 days prior to this last trek.)

It's a haul but well worth it in my opinion. And a great training hike for some of the larger mountains and/or winter mountaineering.

There is one more trek that I would really like to attempt. It's 34 miles long...with over 8000 accumulative feet of elevation gain that takes you to seven summits as you traverse the peaks on your way to Gorgonio Peak.
I think I will wait until some of these storms pass through. :lol:


Feb 25, 2003, 10:25 AM
Post #4 of 5 (1305 views)

Registered: Feb 25, 2002
Posts: 999

Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio [In reply to]
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Cool. Way to go Rob. Sounds like a good trip. Nice report too.



Jun 23, 2003, 5:08 PM
Post #5 of 5 (1305 views)

Registered: Nov 3, 2002
Posts: 1473

Re: Hanger, Toobig, & Ffaallliinngg climb Gorgonio [In reply to]
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Great reading this TR -- brought back lots of old memories.

Brutus, P.R. Vivian Creek Trail to summit 2 hrs. 28 minutes 36 seconds,
4 hours 33 minutes car-to-car, 25 June 1979

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