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Iron mountain via Heaton flats - California, United States

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Story:
I did this hike with 4 other guys, Matt who I knew previously, his friends Victor and Chris, and Mark whom Matt met on the SGMDF forums.

We got an early start around 6:30 first light.  We spent a few minutes in the parking lot getting to know each other.

So off we went in the wee hours of the morning up the Heaton flats trail.  At the start we all were making good time, the trail was in good condition, the grade was average, taking short breaks for water or photo's.

Once we got up to the ridge line Iron mountain came into view and we got our first photo's of the beast.  Baldy was also seen sparingly and I caught a photo of the wind wisping the snow off the peak.  There must have been high winds on baldy that morning.

From here the trail begins to increase in its incline and difficulty.  Gone was the well defined trails, and easy grading.  Now we faced hordes of Yucca plants encroaching into the trail.  Their stems draw to a needle like point, and the naitive indians used to use them as a sewing needle.  We encounter our first class 3 scramble of loose scree and steep incline.  Most of these are a choose your own adventure path up the side of the ridgeline.  We all seem to take slightly different routes up and yell down if the route was less difficult or to try another path.

We reach the first flat spot of the 3 big mini peaks one must climb to tackle this King and take an extended break in the shade of a lovely oak tree.  I down the cliff bar I brought and others munch down some snacks and energy gels.  Chris is out of water at this point and Victor graciously gives him a full litre of water.

We trudge on, first decending the mini peak and then start to climb the second.  This section is even more steeply inclined and the trail becomes difficult to define.  More of the choose your own path up and relay information on said path down to the others.  Lots of loose dirt / gravel / scree so it's slow going.  Our pace has dropped considerably.  We are now doing around 1mph.  We make it to the top of the 2nd mini peak and Victor and I find some shade to take another break.  I woof down another energy gel pack and the others munch on snacks / energy gels.  At this point I run out of my initial 3 litre bladder and switch over to my back up 2 litre bladder.  

After the recovery break we decend again the 2nd mini peak and notice a ranch off to the side of the ridgeline in the valley below.  Victor pulls out his usgs topo map and announces the name of the ranch, which I have forgotten.  From here we can see the carrot at the end of the stick.  The final of the 3 mini peaks comes into view along with Iron mountain itself.  I note to the group that the terrain map on my iphone shows another flat section we can break on before summiting.

This section is yep you guessed it, even more steep and even more climbing and scrambling up the loose scree, dodiging the stabbing yucca along the way.  Our pace has slowed even more considerably, now doing 0.3-0.5 mph.  We stop often to let catch our breath and to keep the group close together.  Finally we make it over the last of the 3 mini peaks and take another break.  Everyone seems high spirited with the peak being less than a mile away.  Most are getting their second wind so to speak.

We decend the mini ridge slightly and the mountain rewards us with a very well defined trail section for about a half mile with out any of the steep scrambling we did up to this point.  We're now in the alpine enviornment and pines addorn the slopes.  The fresh smell of pine fills my nose.

We start to see patches of snow in some of the shady sections, and the trail gets lost as we find a large snow patch.  We find the trail trudges straight through some thorny nettle bush and we have to high step through it.  We make it across and I being to pull ahead, as the peak draws into view.  I scramble up the last 100 yards or so and let out a loud howl that the others hear and realize the peak is within reach.

High fives abound and photo's flying we made it!  I open up the registry and find entries dating back to 2004.  The last entry was from feb 1st 2011 and before that november of 2010.  I pass the notepad around for the others to sign and we start the round robin of group and individual photos.  The wind begins to pick up and I pull out my down jacket and long sleeve shirt.  

The views from the peak were incredible.  Iron mountain is a true cone peak with a 360* panorama and it sits right smack in the middle of the san gabriel range with numerous peaks visible from its summit.

By now we note the time and its fast approaching 3:00.  Time to pack up and head down the mountain.  The goal was to get down the steep scree sections before nightfall.  That unfortunately didn't happen.  One in the group has a fear of heights and the steeper scree slopes posed a challenge for him to get down.  He eventually made it down with a lot of coaxing and encourgement but it slowed our pace.  Another was also starting to feel the effects of fatigue.  The sun began to set and I pulled out my spot headlamp, and Victor pulled out his.  Mark realized he had forgotten his in the car this morning and the others forgot to bring theirs.

So we had to make the best of it, decending the scree slopes was done in 10-20 foot sections with either vitor or I at the lead.  I'd take 10-20 steps stop turn around to light the way for mark/chris/matt and victor would shine down to light the way for them.  We'd rotate the lead between victor and I bringing up the rear several times.

We get back down to the less steep sections and we figured we'd be able to make up time but one of the group is starting to show signs of severe fatigue and dehidration.  We need to stop every 10-15 minutes to let him rest, I walked behind him and could tell he was running on empty.  I tried to keep a conversation with him to take his mind off his fatigue.

We eventually made it to the last half mile and matt hiked on ahead to his car to grab a drink for our weary hiker from his car.  It helped him make the final hike out.  We got back to the car at around 10:30.  In total we spent just under 16 hours. 

Photos: See all pictures and videos from Iron mountain via Heaton flats
Comments (1)
aklackner
Did this hike 11-23-13. It was tough but fantastic. It had rained recently so the ground had just enough moisture to keep it from sliding all over the place, making the steep sections much nicer. Clear views from the peak all the way past Catalina, probably also due to the recent rain clearing the air. Beautiful 360 of San Gabriel Mtns. Round trip took about 8.5 hrs. For GPS: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/408726846
by aklackner on Nov 25, 2013
Trip Info
February 04, 2011
Trip Location: Azusa, California, United States
Length: 14.0 miles
Duration: 15 hours
Activity: Hiking
Trip viewed 2,497 times
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