Ascent of Modjeska Peak on 2011-05-01

Climber: James Barlow

Date:Sunday, May 1, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Modjeska Peak
    Elevation:5496 ft / 1675 m

Ascent Trip Report

Trip Report: Santiago Peak (5,687), Santa Ana Mountains HP and Orange County, CA HP - 1 May 2011

Ok, so most of my trip reports on peakbagger for peaks in southern California begin with "What a perfect day for a hike!" Nothing could have been more true this day. The wind has been blowing a lot recently across the Southland, so the air was crystal clear without a cloud in sight. Even the morning fog has been absent and with it the notorious SoCal smog and pollution. I took a different approach than the Suttle book and most hikers/trip reports and took a shot at Silverado Canyon and Maple Spring Truck Trail. To my delight, the gate at 1800 ft in Silverado Canyon was open and I could continue to drive up the paved road. After 3 miles of relative flat, you cross the stream for the last time and the road turns to dirt (el. 3,000). It's also the last water you will see the whole trip. Somewhere along here the road changes names from Silverado Canyon Rd to Maple Springs Truck Trail. I took the dirt road for a bit in the low-clearance Yaris. I didn't have any problems, and with careful driving, I probably could have made it to the spur that leads to Modjeska Peak around 5,000 ft. There is also a huge pullout on the left side of the road around 3,500 ft. Big enough for a dozen vehicles. Just past here, I found a nice flat pullout in the shade and decided that driving to just over 3,600 ft was good enough. The place I parked was about 1.5 miles past where the road turned to dirt. I still had to earn the summit.

From here, I walked up the Maple Springs Truck Trail to the big junction with Main Divide Rd and some other road around 4,500 ft. I could see a faint trail making its way up the slope east and uphill from Main Divide Rd. Seeing a group ahead of me taking this, I figured it was better than eating dirt bike dust on the Main Divide Road. I was right. For future hikers, from the big intersection at 4,500 ft, walk about 100 ft down Main Divide Rd towards Modjeska Peak and look for a trail cutting up and to the left. This trail is shady for most of its length, and gains ground quicker than Main Divide Rd, so it is not as many miles to Modjeska Peak from here. I passed the end of the hiking group ahead of me and hit the spur road to Modjeska Peak around 5,200 ft.

From here the trail to Santiago actually goes straight and becomes a trail again, above the Main Divide Rd. I took use trail on the fire break straight up the last 1/4 mile to the summit of Modjeska Peak (5,496). The views from the top of Modjeska rival that of Santiago, but Modjeska is a better peak in my opinion, because there is no junk cluttering the summit at all. It's pristine (well as pristine as a peak could be in the O.C.). The rest of the hiking group was up there. They were the O.C. Hikers (or Hiking) Club. One of them was pretty cool and chatted with me. From Modjeska I could clearly see Old Baldy (Mt San Antonio) - LA CoHP, San Gorgonio - San Bernardino CoHP, and San Jacinto (Riverside CoHP). It's very unusual to be able to see all of this plus all of Riverside, LA, North OC, etc on such a crystal clear day. After a few pics, I headed back down the fire break use trail to the road. A few hundred feet down the road, I cut left on to the trail that parallels the Main Divide Rd from 5,200 ft down to the saddle at 4,960ish ft. It drops quicker than the road, so once again, you save mileage and avoid the road. It was somewhat shady as well.

The saddle had a nice breeze blowing up from the 909 and I once again saw a trail snaking its way up to Santiago that would allow me to avoid the Main Divide Rd. I took it and soon encountered a white 80's truck that had no wheels. I guess at some point in the near past, this road was semi-navigable to trucks. Apparently it wasn't that great though, or this poor truck would have made it...

The trail I took roughly follows the north-northwest ridge of Santiago and saves a bit of mileage as compared to the Main Divide Truck Trail. Right at 5,400 ft, it rejoins Main Divide Truck Trail, where I headed for the summit. The summit is a mass of towers, ruining one of the best views in SoCal. I found the high ground and a BM. A few pics here among the metal forest, and I headed towards the southwest corner of the summit area. From here the view was amazing. I could see all the way past San Diego into Mexico, both San Clemente and Catalina Islands, the entire southern half of the Santa Ana Mountains, and the dystopian suburban hellscape that is Orange County and Los Angeles. Below my feet were thousands of gallons of silicone and plastic that make the O.C. famous. I relaxed here in the sun and ate lunch, meeting another hiker from Philly, my hometown. I could clearly make out the bottom of Trabuco Canyon from here. The temps were in the 60s with a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky - how much more perfect could the day get?

I followed the exact same route back to my car. Pictures

My time up was 2 hours to the second, but 2.5 hours overall when you include relaxing on the summit of Modjeska. Total walking time including the descent was just over 3.5 hours. It was 11.4 miles of total walking (5.97 mi up), which includes the side trip to Modjeska Peak. My total elevation gain was 2,623 on ascent, ~300 on the descent.

James Barlow
HPS #16
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1896 ft / 577 m
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1896 ft / 577 m
    Route:Maple Spring Trail
    Start Trailhead:3600 ft / 1097 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Modjeska/Santiago

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Modjeska Peak2011-05-01 a1896 ft / 578 m
2Santiago Peak2011-05-01 b727 ft / 222 m
Total Trip Gain: 2623 ft / 800 m

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