|The Iron Hiker on Monte Cristo Ridge|
Not wanting to delay our adventure any longer, I scrambled to get my act together and then off we went. It was a gorgeous, cloudless morning with the early sun throwing shadows into the crevices and folds of the surrounding canyons. At the entrance to the campground after crossing now dry Mill Creek, we entered a small drainage which afforded us easy access to the Monte Cristo Ridge.
|Ascending the Ridge from Monte Cristo Campground|
|View North from the Monte Cristo Ridge|
|View South from the Monte Cristo Ridge|
On gaining the fire road, we tacked right (south) and followed it to the point where Iron's southwest ridge intersected the road. Here the road cut was low which permitted us to jump on the ridgeline and begin the push for Iron's summit. A short, stout climb later and we were atop Iron #3. On top we found a triangular post and a soggy register, but no benchmark. Views here of the backside of the front range, particularly Strawberry's north face, were impressive. Looking northeast, the steep and somewhat intimidating ridge route to Round Top was plainly visible.
|The Circuit - Iron #3 Out of Frame to the Right|
|View South from the Summit of Iron #3|
|The Route to Round Top as Seen from Iron #3|
|The North Face of Strawberry Peak - Still Waiting for a TR from Taco About This|
After some water and a snack, we dropped off the north side of Iron, crossed a fire road at the head of what the topos call Lynx Gulch (the topos also show the Gold Bar Mine in the bottom of the gulch), and began the 1,600 foot climb up Round Top. This is the crux of the route which follows a old firebreak up and over a couple of bumps (false summits) before topping out on the broad, rounded summit of Round Top. The climb along this ridge is steep in places, but the brush was minimal, footing was good, and use trails abound. Views from atop Round Top are quite exceptional even though the summit itself is somewhat uninspiring. To the east you can see Mt. Waterman, the Twin Peaks, Mt. Hilyer, and the entire Chilao area. To the north, Granite and Pacifico Mountains loom large. To the west the Gleason Ridge stands out. And looking sound affords a good look into the entire Upper Tujunga drainage.
Once atop Round Top's exposed summit, the winds really began to pick up, so we quickly refueled and then made haste for Granite Mountain by way of the Round Top Truck Road which we followed north for a short distance to the toe of Granite's southeast ridge. A mellow ascent through some light brush and dead fall led us to the big, broad, burned-out summit of Granite which is appropriately dotted with a number of large, granite outcroppings. Here, like Iron, we found a damp summit register, but no benchmark. The winds were now howling at a sustained 30-40 mph so we huddled behind some rocks while we ate lunch, appreciating the fact that the next leg to Rabbit Peak was almost all downhill.
|The Steep Firebreak Leading to Round Top|
|Cross-Canyon View Toward the Gleason Ridge|
|Over-the-Shoulder Look of the Ridge Leading to Roundtop - Iron #3 Center-Left|
|Keith Contemplating the Final Push to Round Top - There are a Couple of Bumps Along the Ridge|
|Into the Light|
|Pacifico Mountain from Round Top|
|Granite Mountain from Round Top|
|View East from Round Top - Hillyer, Wintson (I think), Waterman, and the Twins|
|Mt. Gleason from the Fire Road to Granite|
|Granite from the Fire Road from Round Top|
|The Iron Hiker Atop Some Granite on Granite|
|High Desert View from Granite's Summit|
|Remnants of the Station Fire Atop Granite - 7 Years and Counting|
From Rabbit, we descended the steep and loose south ridge to a jumping off spot which deposited us onto the fire road in the canyon bottom near the Black Cargo Mine. Hindsight being what it is, we should have just followed the ridge to its logical terminus further down canyon, but we hadn't done our homework and so were not aware that was even an option. In the canyon, we walked the fireroad adjacent to Monte Cristo Creek (which still had some flow) back to our starting point at the entrance to Monte Cristo Campground.
It is worth noting that this route can be done in a clockwise direction instead of the counter-clockwise variation that we followed. In fact, Cucamonga Man and Cecelia recently completed the circuit in that direction. But after descending the ridgelines off of Rabbit and Granite, the counter-clockwise variation that we took appears to me to be the better option.
More info and pics about this route can be found on Iron Hiker's fine blog here.
|Our Route Down the Southwest Ridge - Rabbit Peak in the Center|
|The Ridge Route Off Granite as Seen from Rabbit|
|Mt. Gleason from Rabbit's Summit|
|Keith Taking in the View Atop Rabbit Peak|