By: Gabriele Rau
Leaders: Gabriele Rau, Ron Schrantz
This was a regular scheduled trip Lower Peaks/Orange County. Unfortunately, it was published in the Southern Sierran for Sunday, March 2, but everywhere else it was listed correctly. I got a few calls and hope nobody showed for the Sunday hike. The group started with 8 people, one person joined us on the trail. Since there was a large group meeting in La Canada for a Valley Forge Hike with John Depoy, some people got confused.
We started on the road at Eaton Saddle, through the tunnel. The road keeps getting worse, several recent rockfalls block the road but one can climb through and over them easily. Then the snow started! It had rained and snowed during the week but we were doing a Lower Peak, less than 5000’ in elevation. The snow on the road was hard and easy to walk on. We met Fred Goodykoontz and Harriet Edwards with a small group, returning from a conditioning hike. We continued walking on the road, loosing altitude continuously, the road was finally free of snow after about one mile. At Tom Sloane Saddle we took the marked trail on the right side past the water tank, and then headed downhill the good trail. At the next crossing (signed, but no Brown Mtn sign!) we stayed straight ahead. The instructions talk about a firebreak, it is more a use trail, going over and around several bumps. Sometimes several use trails seem to exist, but as long one stays close to the ridge, they all lead to the summit. At every bump I got asked: is this the peak? It really seems forever, and the terrain is often steep, rocky and slippery. Especially the last major bump is very rocky. I chose the left side, but others chose the right side, on the top we met again for the final rather mild gain to the summit. It had been cool all day, clouds drifting in and out, so the views were less than spectacular. It took us 2 ¼ h to get to the summit. We talked about Owen Brown, a lesson in history, somebody just had hiked to the grave site the previous week.
After lunch we returned the same way. The last hill before reaching the water tank is a 800’ gain, and this time nobody complained about it being too hot. By now the snow was slushy, much harder to walk on, but everybody was back to the cars at 3:00 PM. At the saddle we were in thick fog, lots of people and children playing in the little snow near the road. The fog cleared quickly driving downhill to La Canada.
This peak is harder than it looks on the map, and it is an upside-down hike: 900’ gain going, 1600’ gain coming back. Downhill is not any easier because of the rocky ground.
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