Hike Date: February 15 2015
Miles: Approx 11.4
Hours: Approx. 9 total
A few brave folks met me at the Vons on Baseline Road in Claremont, CA at 6 AM in order to head up to Ice House Canyon to hike to the saddle and then to Cucamonga Peak. Most of these folks were already sore as we had hiked 10 miles the previous day to Bridge to Nowhere.
The hike started out pretty standard with a picture at the trailhead and then the 4 mile hike to the saddle. The hike up was beautiful as Ice House Canyon always is, with the sun coming up over the ridge leading to Ontario Peak as we were climbing towards the switchbacks. I ran into one gentleman I had hiked with quite a while back while hiking with another group, which is always kind of fun.
Once we got to the saddle, it was time for a nice break and to do a little bit of trail reconnaissance to see how icy the trail to Cucamonga looked to be. My personal best guess was that the trail was going to be mostly clear, with spotty ice/snow (which wasn’t quite correct).
Continuing on the trail towards Cucamonga Peak, we found what I was predicting, a couple of small icy spots on the trail where the sun doesn’t break through very often. These were easily traversed without using microspikes, and we made pretty good time. For those of you that know the trail, there is a very prominent rock formation with a couple of caves about 1/3rd of the way to the summit from the saddle. Since we had enough lights for everyone to have proper illumination, we decided to head into the cave and explore (I hadn’t had a chance to explore the caves very extensively before, my previous hiking companions apparently weren’t adventurous enough).
After exploring the cave thoroughly, we went back outside and started heading back up towards the summit. Things were pretty uneventful until we got up the first several switchbacks after the saddle between Cucamonga and Big Horn peaks… the trail was literally covered in ice and snow. Unfortunately, my phone was acting up so I didn’t get any good pictures of the trail (which reinforces why I really need to start carrying a real camera).
As a consolation: here is a picture of tree with a really weird-looking hole in it:
The trail up Cucamonga gets a little steep, and the switchbacks got a bit breezy, so when we finally reached the final gulch that leads up to the summit it was relief. We took our lunch right by the trail marker indicating the path to the summit, as I made the (bad) assumption that with how windy the trail was earlier the summit would be worse. As luck would have it, once we hit the summit the weather was absolutely perfect, a very gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky. There were a few other hikers up there (including one couple who came all of the way up from San Diego, and who are also doing the 52 Hike challenge!).
We stayed up at the summit for most of an hour, enjoying the warm sun, and taking plenty of pictures (none of which my phone saved, fortunately others took pictures and I certainly won’t forget this hike), and socializing.
On the way down we opted to simply go straight down the gulch on top of the snow until we hit the trail, saving us a few minutes (and having a bit of fun sliding around). Once back on the trail we all put our spikes back on and enjoyed the trip down, although there were a couple of precarious spots where the ice was really hard, making it difficult for the spikes to get purchase.
Overall, this hike was a blast, I can hardly believe it had been over a year since I had last done this one, I hope to come back up here again in a few months.