Bighorn Peak

CUCAMONGA WILDERNESS

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST

Activity: Snow Hiking, Snow Peak Bagging 

12 miles, 8441’ elevation, 3619’ elevation change, 10 hour duration, Rated HARD 

Date: 2-17-21

This is the hardest hike I have ever done. Well, except Mt Langley, a 14’er, as that was a killer and the altitude wiped me out.  The hike to Bighorn Peak is serious in the winter. I took on this challenge with trepidation. I really didn’t want to do this alone especially because of the snow and ice, but then again I got to go at my own pace and to really absorb nature.  The snow trek to Bighorn Peak is long, it is hard, it’s got altitude, it has elevation gain and did I mention snow and ice?  There are steep slopes that make having micro spikes a must. I have new really nice winter hiking boots, and micro spikes and they were essential.

My plan was to go to the first of the two peaks, Bighorn Peak and see how that went. If I felt good then back track and head for the second higher Ontario Peak. Without snow and ice this could be an 8 hour trek. I was soon to discover that hiking in snow is much more difficult and time consuming then I even allowed for especially on a steep incline when you want to be sure of each and every step. So needless to say, one was more than enough.

Sporadic snow and ice on Icehouse Canyon Trail going up, (Ice on Icehouse, go figure…), but nothing that good boots and trekking poles couldn’t handle, that being said use caution. The two times the trail seemed sketchy is because it was, in-fact I got off trail. Checked GPS and back in line.  I zigged when I should have zagged on a couple of the switch backs.  

This would be a tough, long, arduous exploration.  I had only enough experience hiking on steep snowy mountainsides to know that I should indeed embrace that feeling of caution. My first such outing was with my friend Dexter on Blue Ridge Trail near Wrightwood.  We did not have micro spikes or snow shoes, but just tromped a foothold in the snow on an exposed mountainside.  That hike would have been simple in the summer, but not covered in snow where at times we sunk up to our knees.   

I was in the wilderness trudging through the snow to a peak that not many people get to this time of year.  How do I know?  I did see a few folks on the Icehouse Canyon Trail leading to the Icehouse Saddle, not many however, although true enough it was midweek. From Icehouse Saddle the trails could go in 5 different directions as far as hikes. I did not see anyone going up to Bighorn and Ontario Peaks, which was all snow. The prints in the snow heading up past the saddle were very few.

There is a portion of the hike once I made the ridge where I was traipsing along a knife’s edge, with a dangerous and deadly drop, plus the wind was blowing in the direction of the cliff, which kept me on guard.

It was slow going in the snow and the steep, making my journey much more difficult than anticipated.  I was glad to have my new waterproof insulated hiking boots and micro spikes, which definitely was the only way this could have been done.  A large portion of the trek is on a very steep embankment, the kind that you just keep sliding.  I learned some things about hiking in snow and I happily impart that new found knowledge in a post on ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ Hiking and Backpacking 101, “Hiking in Snow.”

From the ridge to the summit provided amazing views of Ontario and Cucamonga Peaks, (both are on my list to climb), that is once the clouds parted. There were sweeping vistas to delight in the opposite direction as well. Snow capped Mount San Antonio aka “Mt Baldy” glistened in the sunshine, the Three T’s: Thunder Mountain Telegraph Peak, and Timber Mountain, (I have already summited Timber Mt), standing like silent sentries to the right are also on my To Do list.

After the ceremonious Selfie Summit Shot, and a quick snack I headed down. Some people think that going down is the hardest part. Since the cardio portion is eased dramatically I am not one of those people, unless… there is snow. Going down is just as hard, and just as slow because of the tromping in the snow, and when you add the slippery slope and having to be sure of your footing it is more difficult. Then throw into the mix that the afternoon sun now was softening the hard pack snow. I was now stepping through my earlier frozen boot prints and instead of being on top of the snow I was now deep in the snow sometimes to my knees and in some snow drifts even higher. The snow hiding the trail, made it tricky to find the way. I got off trail more than once and that usually meant deeper snow. It was all part of the adventure, but made for a more extended day then I had intended. I was spending more time which also meant that I was expending more energy.

I started rationing my water, so I was probably somewhat dehydrated, add new boots, and overexertion and this all led to feet cramps afterwards in the middle of the night. So a word of caution bring a few extra hours of water with you on a snow hike, and plan on it being way longer than you expect. But have fun and enjoy the journey because this is what ‘Pursing Balance Through Adventure’ is about.

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
-A.A. Milnie

Thanks for joining me trudging through the snow up to the Bighorn Peak while ‘Pursing Balance Through Adventure’. Wow, that was a good one, mostly because it was a challenge, it was something new, and it was exciting- said another way it was ‘Pursing Balance Through Adventure’. I hope that you can get inspired to push your envelop a little bit. Speaking of inspiration there are lots of great places to go find yourself. If you look at the menu above you will see the many places that PBTA travels to throughout the West. Each location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. Speaking of following that is a great segue into please FOLLOW, COMMENT, LIKE and SHARE in order for us to have more bold experiences in nature together in the future. Please stop by SHOP APPAREL to support this site and more importantly find some great Adventure Gear.

Happy Trails-

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

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