Ontario Peak Traverse — Page 4

Bighorn Peak Burn Area

Bighorn Summit Musings

It is with much relief that I skin up the final pitch of Bighorn Peak's northwest ridge. The top thousand vertical feet or so is an impressive burn area.

Faced with untracked fresh powder as far as I can see, and wide-open intermediate terrain, I am greatly tempted to abandon my planned traverse and begin my descent here. But I am a peak bagger at heart, and after all the work I've put in to get this far, abandoning my quest to reach Ontario Peak's summit is unthinkable.

Mount Baldy & Southeast Bowl Telegraph Peak - South Chutes Cucamonga Peak The Los Angeles Basin Looking Toward Ontario Peak

Meanwhile, from the rounded 8441' summit of Bighorn Peak, I stop for lunch, perched on an impressive ridgeline that marks the border between the Angeles and the San Bernardino National Forests.

The view to the northwest is dominated by 10064' Mount San Antonio (Mount Baldy).

I'm looking directly at Mt. Baldy's Southeast Bowl, where I skied the Girly Man Chute. Also visible is West Baldy's south ridge, another terrific ski descent.

To the north is Telegraph Peak, the highest point in the Cucamonga Wilderness. Telegraph Peak's south chutes are too bare to ski right now, but in a big season, they would certainly offer an exciting descent.

Telegraph Peak is more commonly viewed from the north via the top of the Thunder Mountain chairlift at Mount Baldy Ski Area.

The peak's north chutes offer a Southern California version of 'extreme' terrain, plus very easy access from Mount Baldy Ski Area.

Approximately one mile to the southeast of Bighorn Peak lies Cucamonga Peak, one of the more prominent summits in the San Gabriel Mountains.

There's no easy way to get to Cucamonga Peak, though this jagged spire deserves attention. Probably an overnight would be required for a ski descent in order to catch the peak's invigorating south and west-facing slopes before the SoCal sun turned them to mush.

I've often spied the east chutes of Cucamonga Peak while driving along the San Bernadino Freeway. Someday, perhaps, I'll find the snow and myself in the right shape to attempt a ski descent.

Continuing our panorama, as we turn from Cucamonga Peak to the south, the view is dominated by the vast expanse of the Los Angeles basin.

Here on the summit of Bighorn Peak I am well perched above Los Angeles and Southern California. On the Edge, to be sure.

Today a shimmering layer of low clouds and fog hides the city. The air is mercifully clean. How strange it is to sit here alone looking down on a valley filled with 15 million people (a conservative estimate). No matter how many times I climb in the San Gabriels, I am always struck by this mysterious contrast.

Though on a much smaller scale, this must be similar to the sensation astronauts experience while gazing at Earth from space, perceiving the entirety of humanity yet simultaneously standing apart from it. Let us leave such grand musings to poets and philosophers, and resume our backcountry skiing tour. Our target for the day lies to the southwest, along the ridgeline.

From this vantage point, Ontario Peak may or may not be visible. I'm thinking it's the broad, bald summit visible at the far end of the ridge. Possibly, however, it lies hidden beyond view. Either way, it looks dismayingly far away. I ready myself for the long, two mile traverse by pulling off my boots and taping up the blisters on my heels. A tasty sandwich completes my preparations, and then it's time to resume the tour.

next: Ontario Summit

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.