Ascent of Big Pine Mountain on 2015-06-21

Climber: Andrew Kirmse

Others in Party:Chris Prince
Marcus Sierra -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Sunday, June 21, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Big Pine Mountain
    Elevation:6800 ft / 2072 m

Ascent Trip Report

Big Pine had been climbed by several parties this year, and the road had been in good condition just a few weeks earlier. Kerry, Chris and I decided to give it a go. We also planned to meet up with Jobe, who was in the area. Chris and Jobe planned to camp at the trailhead, while Kerry and I stayed at the (actually quite decent) Motel 8 in Maricopa. Chris brought his mountain bike; since Kerry and I didn’t have bikes, I rented two in Pasadena on my way from Mount San Antonio and somehow fit them in the back of my Forester with minimal disassembly.

Like most everything on this trip, things did not go according to plan. Chris attempted to follow Google Maps directions to the trailhead, which routed him over a nonexistent road through the Bollinger Canyon wash. He was fortunately able to extract his car in the dark, and he spent the night on the floor of my hotel room. In the morning we got up early and headed out along the correct route along Santa Barbara Canyon Road. We found a nasty surprise 4 miles before the gate where we expected to park: there had been a flash flood, and the road was covered with large, impassable boulders. Jobe had texted us to tell us that he had decided on an earlier start, and we saw his truck parked here.

We got out the bikes and geared up. Kerry hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years, so he needed a little practice. The day was going to be hot, and I carried 7 liters of water, not knowing the state of the single refill station at Chokecherry Spring. Finally we were off, biking some of the lower flat section. Repeating a pattern that would continue for most of the ascent, we wound up pushing the bikes often up the steeper sections. The sun soon rose and it warmed quickly. I dragged behind significantly on the walking sections, tired from my San Antonio climb the previous day. At one point we found a large duffel bag of equipment in the middle of the road, and we speculated that Jobe had left it here and planned to pick it up on the way out. This turned out not to be the case, and we never did figure out where it came from.

After miserable, hot hours of grinding uphill, we saw Jobe’s bike at Chokecherry Spring, which is hardly a spring at all, but a mere drip of a trickle from a tank filled with green water. None of us touched the stuff. We were surprised that Jobe had given up on the bike so early, since we were still able to ride on the flat sections. We continued up a short way and encountered Jobe on his way down. He was none too pleased with the hike, and warned us to leave the bikes behind soon, and that the last section up to the summit was a soul-killing cross-country. We brought the bikes with us past the Malduce Trail intersection, and then left them when the road started to get rockier. There were still miles to walk to the summit.

Due to the heat I was not feeling so great by this point, and it was a slow plod from here on out. When it finally came time to leave the road, we found lots of downed trees across the remnants of an old grade that we followed up. Our shoes and socks also became covered by hundreds of tiny burrs. At the top, there were obvious signs of a fire, but unfortunately the area was relatively flat and it wasn’t immediately clear where the true summit was. Eventually we found the register and collapsed for a rest. Better views were apparently to be had beyond at West Big Pine, but none of us cared in the slightest.

On the way down we gave up trying to follow the old grade and just plowed down the steep hillside, which avoided the blowdown and worked much better. When we got back to the bikes, it was time for payback for the drudgery of pushing them up this far. I’d ride ahead for a mile or so and then wait while the others caught up. It was about 90 degrees by this point, and the few times we had to push the bikes on the descent were unpleasant. We finally reached the cars and loaded the bikes up. We had driven in a little farther than was wise for the 2WD cars and getting them out past the boulders was tricky. Kerry took off home, while Chris and I returned to Maricopa. Chris left for home after dinner, and I stayed behind to return the bikes. The original plan had been to climb San Gorgonio the next day, but the mountain was closed due to wildfires, which was probably just as well.

That night I got the news of Edward Earl’s untimely demise, and I asked Jobe for news at the bike shop in Pasadena the next day. Apparently he had also been invited on the same Alaska trip, but had declined. Jobe invited me to drive up Santiago with him the next day, but I was wiped and eager to get home.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5900 ft / 1798 m
    Extra Gain:1100 ft / 335 m
    Round-Trip Distance:41.4 mi / 66.6 km
    Trailhead:3100 ft / 944 m
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ascent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 15 Minutes

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