Ascent of Iron Mountain on 2013-04-22

Climber: Patrick Bergeron

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, April 22, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Iron Mountain
    Elevation:8007 ft / 2440 m

Ascent Trip Report

Used this trip as training for an upcoming C2C2C (i.e. Palm Springs Museum to Mt. San Jacinto and back to Palm Springs Museum) trip. Given a friend's estimated completion time of 11-12hr and my decision to do this exposed, scorching mountain so late in the season, I arrived at the trailhead by 6:30am on a cool Monday morning. Temperature at the car: 8C/46F. Nice and cool. It's a shame that wouldn't last all day.

I put on my boots, finished second breakfast, logged into the permit box, and by 6:45am was heading north past the gate towards my destiny (or in this case, my hell).

Along the dirt road, I passed a couple guys, each carrying a bucket, backpack, shovel, and some other odds and ends. Curious, I asked them if they were doing trail maintenance or something. (That "something" in my mind included the possibility of hiding a body or digging up a body or hiding drugs or digging up drugs - I have a unhealthy imagination at times.) They laughed and said "Yep, trail maintenance, mmhmm." Odd response. Maybe I should have kept my nosy mouth shut. I awkwardly said "Okay, cool" as I passed them. Then the older of the two guys called out from behind me, "We're actually here looking for some of that yellow metal," implying gold. Cool! Apparently the area is popular for hobbyists interested in panning for gold. After stopping and talking to them for a few minutes, I went along my merry way.

The dirt road continues a short way before reaching a bathroom and park signage, at which point the Heaton Trail leads right just after the bathroom. And the ascent begins.

It was obvious that it been a number of days since anyone else had been on the trail because springtime spider web strands (when baby spiders usually hatch and sail off into the wind along silk parachutes) stretched across every foot of it. Yes, literally, every foot of the trail--and from boot height to head height. This meant that every 10 steps I would feel a strand of spider web across my face. Creeped out yet? I admit: I had a few mild freak-outs along the way cuz I _HATE_ spiders. Fortunately, the spider webs were never full-blown spider webs. They were always just single strands of webbing, and the whole day, I only ever saw one spiderling hanging from one. Anyway, in case any of you are turned off by the thought of webs everywhere, the way I dealt with the spider-web situation was (a) wear pants and long sleeves (b) move as quickly as possible to get on the ridge where I knew the shrubs would no longer be head height (c) wave a trekking pole in the air ahead of me, in a twirling motion, to remove the ones that would hit me in the face. Because I couldn't always see the webs in front of me, I neurotically waved the pole ahead of my upper body the entire time, every step, just in case.

Two hours, 4.2 miles, and 2900 vertical feet of trekking-pole-swirling-and-spider-web-freaking-out later, I finally reached the use trail and the ridge. There are several sections of the use trail--starting with the first quarter mile or so--that are very steep, loose dirt. Rest assured that the sections don't have any super sketchy exposure; rather, the loose dirt just results in wasted energy, frustration, and maybe the occasional slide into a yucca bush. My Asolo 520's kept slipping; trekking poles helped but didn't always prevent it. (Still not impressed with this boot yet.) Microspikes fixed both issues, and so I wore microspikes all the way up and all the way down the entire use trail leading up to/down from the summit. It's obviously a judgement call as to whether the advantage of surer footing for you is worth the investment in an extra 225g/8oz of microspikes on each foot. For me, my legs were already conditioned from wearing heavy winter boots and crampons a lot this season, so it was a no-brainer to use the micros.

There really isn't much to say about the use trail. It's not particularly scenic. It's loose dirt with the occasional rock. It's steep at times. It's flat at others. It has some elevation loss. It has little shade. And it's relentless... Just keep a steady pace, be regimented with your water consumption, and you'll eventually grind it out to the top. Now look to your right. (You'll see what I'm talking about.) Yep. That's the actual summit towering above you over there. It's laughing at you. Haha. It sucks, eh? You thought you were done. Sorry. Suck it up. You're almost there though. You'll next climb another 200ft to the actual summit, and BOOM. It'll hit you. Summit. EUPHORRRRRIAAAAAAAAA!

For me it took 4hr 20min, 3L water, .5L Powerade, a snack, and 2 Gu Gels from car to peak. For my mountaineer friend, it takes 7hr. For this crazy fit 70-year-old Korean mountain guy I've met, it takes 5.5hr. For others, maybe more. Maybe less. Regardless of your pace, I ask that you do yourself a favor, and please don't set yourself up to be anywhere along the use trail between the hours of 11:30am and 2:30pm on a sunny spring day (you probably don't want to be up there at all in summer). I made it down from the use trail and back onto the main Heaton Trail by 1pm, and by then it was miserably hot. Exposed to the noon sun on an open sandy trail with absolutely zero wind. Hellish. And this is coming from a guy who's lived in Texas heat his whole life. No amount of water/powerade drinking helped. I just had to push through it.

Car-to-car, it took well under 8hr. Temperature at the car upon my return around 2:20pm: 28C/83F. It felt much hotter than that.

(PersonalNote) Gear list included the following:
2 trekking poles (I highly recommend to have at least 1)
6L water
1L Powerade
1 tempeh pita wrap
ziplock sandwich bag of vegetables
2 Gu gels
1 protein bar
1 emergency bivy sac
extra socks
fingerless gloves
a backup long sleeve shirt
50ft 550lb paracord
Camelbak Fourteener backpack
10 essentials

By the time I got to the car, I had 2L of water left, 1 protein bar, half a bag of the veggies, and all of the gorp.(/PersonalNote)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8675 ft / 2644 m
    Extra Gain:1339 ft / 408 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Route:Heaton Flat Trail (8W16) to Allison Saddle; use tr
    Trailhead:Heaton Flat/East Fork/Bridge to Nowhere  2010 ft / 612 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Clear
Temp at Heaton Flat was 8C at 6:45am and 28C at 2:30pm. Miserably hot coming down.
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 15 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: BigIron.20130423

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Bonita Peak2013-04-22 
2Iron Mountain2013-04-228675 ft / 2644 m
Total Trip Gain: 8675 ft / 2644 m    Total Trip Loss: 8675 ft / 2644 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Patrick Bergeron
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

This page has been served 627 times since 2005-01-15.

Copyright © 1987-2019 by All Rights Reserved. Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page Terms of Service