Ascent of Strawberry Peak on 2015-02-26

Climber: Joseph Esparza

Date:Thursday, February 26, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Strawberry Peak
    Elevation:6164 ft / 1878 m

Ascent Trip Report

Standing a full head and shoulders over the rest of the peaks in the near vicinity is Strawberry Peak, a prominent pyramidal shaped mountain standing as the highest in the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains. To some it appears as an upside-down strawberry, hence the rather uninspiring name for such glorious peak.

This mountain stands a a testimony to Creation's will to survive, as this summit and much of the rest of this trip was scorched in the 2009 160,000 acre Station Fire. Although it's been nearly 6 years since that awesome blaze, the mountain is still having a rather hard time recovering, as the scars of flames past are rampant upon the slopes of this mountain. Without sufficient vegetation to hold the soil together, even parts of the mountains them selves are giving way to erosion at an abnormal rate. Nonetheless, the greenery and natural charm of this region in being regained day by day through the wind, rain and snow of the last half-decade.

On a lighter note, this climb is one of the greatest in Southern California, and no true SoCal hiker would want to miss out on this peak attempt. The easier route is along eastern side of the mountain, a fairly steep trail walk; but it is the exposed West Face that truly beckons mountaineering adventurers. It calls to climbers to come and to tackle its precipitous ramparts. It is rated as Class 3, which means it is only for experienced hikers who wish to test their skill on some more difficult terrain,as fall from a Class 3 route could be very serious. Whether you are an expert climber who wants some afternoon fun or a novice who wishes to try out exposed rock scrambling, Strawberry Peak is a perfect trip.


Category: Strenuous
Miles: 15
Elevation Gain: 4,179'
YDS Climbing Rating: Class 3
Location: Angeles National Forest
Directions: HERE

The Hike: From the rather ordinary turnout off Angeles Crest Highway, follow the unmarked Colby Canyon Trail down into its namesake canyon, and you soon you will cross a seasonal stream and quaint Colby Canyon Falls. After meandering through the canyon for about 0.5 miles, you begin to gain some elevation, and rise out of the small vale. Ahead of you, a few miles away, is the cane-shaped Strawberry Peak, with its precipitous West Face dropping steeply off: your route. As you round some sharp Yucca, and slog up through the chaparral covered slope, with marks of the great fire still present, the long ridge of which the Josephine Saddle sits begins coming into plainer view. You make two seasonal creek crossings before finally reaching the Josephine Saddle, 2 miles from the trailhead at 4,800'.

From the saddle the spur trail to Josephine Peak Fire Road appears to your left, while the Colby Canyon Trail rounds the cliffs to the north. Your route though, is to follow the faint climber's path along the ridge immediately to your right upon arriving at the saddle. Climb this steep use trail until you reach your first Class 3 block on the route, testing hand and footholds as you go. From the top of this small pitch, look towards the south to San Gabriel Peak and the radio antennae and astronomical observatories atop Mount Wilson. From here, you travel the ridgeline through the recovering montae vegetation eastward, pushing back brush and hopping boulders when necessary, all the while trying the stay aligned to the climber's path. Once at the base of Strawberry Peak's west face, take a breather before the exhilarating climb awaiting you. Follow the faint trail south for a few yards before going up and tackling the first ramparts of the peak. The route looks more difficult than it actually is, and with patience you will soon be able to scale this precipitous, but fairly straightforward route. When in doubt whether you are indeed on the easiest way up, check around you for faint green or purple arrows, which have been painted on some rocks here and there to demonstrate the simplest route. After about maybe 30 minutes, you will round the north side of the peaks and scramble 100 easy yards to the summit. From there, the views of the Front Country in front of you and the High County are absolutely stunning, perhaps the best visage of both from any single summit in the San Gabriels.

When at least finished with you stay atop Stawberry Peak, continue down the use trail on east side of the mountain 800' for about 1 mile to the Lawlor Saddle. Once here, you take the Strawberry Meadows Trail down northwest about 2 miles before reaching the lower Strawberry Meadows Juction. Take the Colby Canyon Trail southward bound. Enjoy the quaint meadows, a rarity in the San Gabriels, brown and somber in the fall and winter, green and vibrant in the spring and early summer. From the lower meadow, take the trail as is finds its ways back up behind the sheer granite north face of Strawberry Peak. There are actually 2 more small meadows before you begin the enjoyable journey along the northside of ridge back to the Josephine Saddle. Once back at the Josephine Saddle, you may if you wish take the Colby Canyon Trail back to the trailhead, ending this trip with 11 miles of hiking and 3,500' of elevation gain. The more adventurous will continue east from the saddle on the Josephine Peak Fire Road spur trail shortly to the main fire road to its namesake summit 2 miles from the saddle. Josephine, while not as high or impressive as Strawberry, awards climbers of glorious views of the latter, and the rest of the range to boot. After your stay on the prominent peak, take the fire road back down to the spur trail, before connecting back again with the Colby Canyon Trail back to the trailhead. When all is said and done, it will have been an rather tired, but nonetheless breathtaking trip through creation!

Hiked 2-26-2-15
Angeles National Forest, Adventure Pass Required.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4362 ft / 1329 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4362 ft / 1328 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15 mi / 24.1 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2862 ft / 872 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2662 ft / 811 m; Extra: 200 ft / 60m
    Loss on way in:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:3.2 mi / 5.2 km
    Route:Colby Canyon Trail to Mountainier's Route
    Start Trailhead:Colby Canyon Trailhead  3502 ft / 1067 m
    Time:3 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4162 ft / 1268 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2662 ft / 811 m; Extra: 1500 ft / 457m
    Gain on way out:1500 ft / 457 m
    Distance:11.8 mi / 19 km
    Route:Summit to Lawlor Saddle down to Meadows up to Stra
    End Trailhead:Colby Canyon Trailhead  3502 ft / 1067 m
    Time:6 Hours 20 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Strawberry Peak-Josephine Loop

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Strawberry Peak2015-02-264362 ft / 1330 m
2Josephine Peak2015-02-264169 ft / 1271 m
Total Trip Gain: 8531 ft / 2601 m    Total Trip Loss: 8531 ft / 2601 m

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