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Ascent of Smith Mountain on 2014-09-19

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:Blue the dog
Date:Friday, September 19, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Smith Mountain
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:5111 ft / 1557 m

Ascent Trip Report

This peak was part of a three and a half day port call to San Diego by my ship, the USS NIMITZ. As soon as they let us free, I rode my bike to the car rental place and drove to LA to see my son for the entire port call. On Friday morning, I walked Aidan to school in La Puente and then hopped into my rental car for the ~45 min drive to the trailhead from his neighborhood. I had to be back that afternoon for his parent-teacher conference, so I had plenty of time for a shorter HPS or LPC peak in the San Gabriel Canyon area. So nice to have mountains this close!

Normally this would have been a rather enjoyable, but unremarkable hike. The trail from the trailhead to the saddle is in excellent condition and clearly well-maintained. Blue and I started out in the clouds, which would be a welcome respite from the sun and heat that would consume the latter half of our hike. I cranked out the first 3 miles to the saddle in 50 minutes of hiking (no running) and we took a 2 minute pause to check out the wilderness sign and look at the use trail up to the peak. The use trail is in fine condition and presents no navigation challenges. There are a few sections that require the owner of a 90 lb pit bull to help their little doggie up and over the rocks, but nothing major. We topped out in 1 hr 10 min, but took another 10 min to walk over to the other summit just to confirm that we were in the right spot. The absence of a use trail to the other summit was confirmation, but we were already headed that way. No views of the dystopian suburban hellscape that is greater Los Angeles. The clouds were breaking up at the higher elevations so I did have great views of the higher peaks above once we hit the top of Smith.

We backtracked to the real summit with the intention of taking a short break before beginning our descent. I set my pack down and set up the camera for the obligatory timer summit photo. In the time it took for Blue to find the only shade near the summit in a bush and for me to take 2 pictures, we were both attacked by red fire ants. I was bit on my right forearm and at my waistline near my navel. I had no idea what was going on. I then quickly brushed a number of ants off my pants. My pack was covered with about a dozen of the little fuckers. I brushed them off as well. Suddenly Blue jumped up out of his shady spot in the bush. I guess they found him as well. I brushed him off and we headed down from the summit immediately. We found a little bit of shade a few dozen feet below the summit to ensure that Blue, my pack, and I were all ant-free. A later google search confirmed that the red fire ants are indeed present in LA county. This is the first time that I have ever seen one. Future hikers beware - the summit is completely over-run with these menace. Do not linger or take a break here!

As we began to descend from the summit, we noticed a long line of guys wearing orange hiking up the trail to the summit. What was this all about? As we reached the saddle, I ran into all of them taking a break. They were all prisoners working for the fire department. I chatted with them all for about 20 minutes while Blue ran around getting attention from all of the canine-deprived inmates. There were 10 inmates for every 1 firefighter, 3 teams total. They were all nice guys and enjoyed Blue's attention. They all gave him some water as well, which was nice as it was beginning to heat up. I figured that the inmates don't get to play with dogs much, so I lingered for a bit to allow them to get their puppy fix.

I took off ahead of the fire/inmate groups and started to run into problems with Blue. He would hit a shady spot and just stop. Initially, I would wait for him, but I had to be back down the canyon for Aidan's parent-teacher conference and couldn't take too much time. I kept giving Blue more water until I ran out. Luckily, the first group led by a firefighter happened past and offered more water as they were on their way down and had plenty to spare. Normally, I loathe not being self-sufficient on a hike and will not ask for help unless it is life or death. However, they all insisted on helping, so I let them all give Blue more water and topped off a liter of my own for Blue to drink as we continued to descend.

As the second group passed us, Blue found a shady spot and laid down, refusing to get up. Man, this dog has gotten out of hiking shape! It was pretty hot by now, and I wanted to get him to the car and in the AC as soon as possible. The second group gave him more to drink and doused him in water, which helped. Once they continued onward, Blue would not budge. By now, we were only a quarter of a mile from the parking lot. After 2 attempts, I was able to foist Blue on to my shoulders, all 90 pounds of pit bull. Ugh. I made the sweaty final push to the trailhead while Blue only tried to move on me once. All the inmates cheered for Blue as they saw him on my shoulders when we arrived at the trailhead. I safely deposited him in the shade of the car with his water bowl while I got the AC going and put my pack away.

Overall, it was a good hike if you ignore the fire ants and carrying 90 pounds of canine on your shoulders... Pictures

Stats (one way to summit & false summit):
3.73 miles (so, 7.46 RT)
1 h 20 m moving time up
Avg moving speed: 2.9 mph
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1831 ft / 558 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1831 ft / 558 m
    Route:Bear Creek Tr to N Ridge
    Trailhead:3280 ft / 999 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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