Bighorn Peak, Ontario Peak, Sugarloaf Peak

7 August 2001

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich


Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal, Mars Bonfire

Byron: "There are other things in life than lists... (long pause) I'm not sure what they are."

* * *

Thirteen of us set out at oh-dark-hundred on Tuesday to visit Bighorn Peak, Ontario Peak, and Sugarloaf Peak, descending by way of Falling Rock Canyon. Thirteen of us came out late Tuesday afternoon, little worse for the wear. The same thirteen, even!

For this, my third trip up Ice House Canyon in a week, the leaders were Byron Prinzmetal and Mars Bonfire. Participants were Chris Davis, Dorothy Danziger, Doris Duval, Joanne Griego, Janet Howell, Brian and Karen Leverich, John McCarty, Ingeborg Prochazka, and Sheldon Slack. Record breaking temperatures were a possibility. Oh well, after the hike to Old Man Mountain the day before, Brian, Joanne, Mars, and I were less than impressed. I think "refreshing" was the word Mars used to refer to the temperature in Ice House Canyon. I wouldn't go quite that far, myself.

Dorothy mentioned that her peaks were out of balance -- she'd been to Bighorn and Ontario more times than to Sugarloaf. This led Chris and Brian to ponder the possibility of some kind of market to exchange peaks -- if I have an extra Bighorn and you have an extra Thunder, maybe we could just trade?

By approximately 9:38AM, we were at Ice House Saddle. Mars (surely not mocking Byron): "It's about to get dark, we have to hurry!"

Many of us had already been up Bighorn Peak, some as recently as the previous Friday. The lazier slugs (who, me?) wanted to skip that peak. Given the heat, Byron proposed we simply not do Bighorn Peak at all. Some of the group (Brian and Chris leap to mind) threw a minor riot, chanting "Bighorn, Bighorn, Bighorn!" until Byron relented and proposed that rather than heading straight up the ridge to Bighorn, we follow the Ontario Trail around Bighorn's north face, then cut up to a saddle on its west side. There, those who already had the peak could wait while those who didn't could head up the use trail. This would add maybe half on hour to our hiking, but preserve the peace. The group: "Let's do that!"

"Why would anyone want to go straight up, anyhow?" someone asked. The response: "Because it's what we do. Come to Oktoberfest and ask George!" (George is doing Sugarloaf Peak on September 29th. He writes, "4 miles round trip, 2000' gain (it will seem like 3000')".)

Clever, this Byron fellow: by the time we were at the saddle, we were less than a quarter of a mile and 200' in elevation from the peak. Even the I-don't-need-this-peak crowd mainly decided to go for it. Two or three stayed behind in the saddle guarding our precious gear (and our even more precious water), the rest of us headed on up. (Maybe the fact that there was a nice breeze made us more energetic?)

And what should we find on Bighorn, but a register! When did Mars find time to fetch the one off of Timber? But wait, this is an old register that's been here for some time. I've no clue how we overlooked it on Friday. Maybe one of the bighorns borrowed it for bedtime reading and brought it back later. Good thing Mars didn't make that detour to Timber to fetch the extra register there.

So, back to the saddle, and onwards to Ontario. Along the way, we saw some bighorns. Cool!

Karen to Dorothy: "Is that the summit?" Dorothy: "No." A little later, "How about that?" Dorothy, again, "No." Ontario Peak they make you earn, but by the time you get there, you're past the dead forest and there are some green shady trees. No trees on the summit itself (the usual pile of rock) but nearby. We stopped and had a good lunch, after which Byron (this seems to be inevitable) attempted again to talk some sense into us. We were at the point of no return, once we started down the ridge to Sugarloaf, we were committed. If we didn't want to fall off the mountain or have Falling Rock Canyon's rock fall on us, or what not, it was time to sign out and hoof back down the trail. He hoped our life insurance was paid up. As usual, we all ignored him.

I was mentally prepared for Falling Rock Canyon to be intimidating, but hadn't thought much about the ridge between Ontario and Sugarloaf. Silly me! Steep, rocky, slippery in places. By the time I had urbed (URB is an acronym Brian and I use for Unplanned Rest Break -- when your feet go out from under you and you're suddenly sitting on your butt in the trail instead of hiking like you'd intended) enough that Byron was bored silly watching me stand back up again, he explained to me that my poles weren't a nifty hiking fashion accessory (they're not?) but instead, if properly used, can keep one on one's feet. And you know, he was right? Except for one stupid slip (I was adjusting my windblown hat when I should have been watching my footing), I didn't fall again for the rest of the day.

At the saddle next to Sugarloaf, Byron explained, again, how hazardous the climb would be. His advice: "If anyone has any problems, hold your hands out and try to fly!" And a not-very-reassuring aside to Mars: "We have to talk about how we're going to get all these people down from here!"

Well, it is a bit of a scramble from the saddle to the top of Sugarloaf, and a couple places seem a bit slippery and exposed, but Mars (with help from Chris on the return) spotted us through the bad bits and I don't think anyone (not even me) managed a good slip. This definitely isn't the most inviting HPS peak I've been to, nor the easiest to go to or return from. Did we look the teensiest bit tired, posing on the summit?

And then, gulp!, it was time for the fun part -- Falling Rock Canyon. Except, you know, it wasn't that bad, especially compared to descending the ridge from Ontario. It was cooled by a breeze, it was gorgeous, very few rocks fell, the nettles weren't especially thick and were easy to avoid, and boy howdy! that scree ski at the beginning! I maybe would pay money to do that! Joanne was one of the first down, and she seems to have been the only one to get any rocks in her boots -- my theory is that she got all of them, leaving none for those who followed: a noble sacrifice for the comfort of the rest of us.

Anyhow, we figured maybe there was a kind of conservation of perceived elevation principle (CPEP?) operating -- going up it's "2000' seems like 3000'", so going down instead it would be "2000' seems like 1000'"? Still, I think I'll leave it to George's team to ascend the thing, and I'll move on to other peaks on the list. (76 and counting!)


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