A Gorgeous Icy Cold Snap on Saturday’s Hike to Mt. Islip

Last Saturday, the view of large patches of interesting cloud patterns in an otherwise blue sky along the 210 freeway heading toward Angeles Crest Highway already indicated the possibility that our hike to Mt. Islip would be weather enhanced.  By the time we (family and friends) passed Cloudburst Summit we were driving in and out of the clouds we saw rolling in from below.  From the trailhead at Islip Saddle the temperature gauge on the car dashboard read 36 degrees F.  At that point I knew we were in for a treat.

It didn’t take long hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail heading to Windy Gap to find ourselves walking into the cloudy mist.

About to enter the cloudy mist along the Pacific Crest Trail

At first the mist wasn’t as moist or dense as I thought it would be as I headed into it.  Prior to reaching Little Jimmy Campground, I met a PCT thru-hiker (trail name Viper) who mentioned his water froze overnight.  While I felt a little bad for Viper enduring such an unexpected cold snap this time of year, I found myself hopeful that something interesting would be lurking up above.

Light cloudy mist along the Pacific Crest Trail before reaching Little Jimmy.

Typically I really enjoy the trek along the Islip Ridge Trail with excellent views into the Crystal Lake Basin.  However, the weather made this stretch of our hike even more magnificent. By the time we had reached above 7600′ there was more moisture in the air, it felt colder, and ice had formed in the trees (but not on the ground).

Ice in the pine needles

The increased cloud density made depth perception more prominent than usual and the dead trees took on a more delineated character with ice clinging to their branches.

Ice clinging to the branches of dead trees standing out in the grey mist.

At times there was so much ice in the trees it looked like it snowed.

Icy Trees

But the ice that fell to the ground proved that it didn’t actually snow.

Ice on the ground that fell beneath the trees.

Near the summit the sun broke through the clouds.

The sun breaking through the clouds with little patches of blue sky and icy trees.

Above 8100′ we passed through the clouds yielding a dramatic view of ice covered trees against the blue sky–especially colorful after trekking through the grey mist for some time.

The view looking up to the sky as we passed above the clouds that continued to flow around the mountain below the summit.

View of the clouds coming in from the south and making their way around the summit of Mt. Islip

View from Mt. Islip looking toward the Mojave Desert as the clouds flowed around Mt. Islip and broke up into smaller formations as they made their way north.

View walking down through the clouds on the Islip Ridge Trail

Instead of returning to Windy Gap, we took the Mt. Islip Trail down to Little Jimmy and found ourselves in an area free from the clouds as they flowed over Windy Gap and Islip Saddle breaking up as they continued moving north.

View along the Mt. Islip Trail connecting the Islip Ridge Trail and Little Jimmy.

As we made it back down the Pacific Crest Trail we found ourselves in the sun most of the way with great views of the Mojave Desert.  Looking down the trail however, we saw clouds making their way over Islip Saddle.

View heading down the Pacific Crest Trail looking toward Islip Saddle

At Islip Saddle we found ourselves walking through the cloudy mist one more time before making it to our cars.  Along the drive home we passed in and out of the clouds driving down Angeles Crest Highway until we passed Cloudburst Summit once again returning below the clouds until we engage in another trip like this.

View from the Pacific Crest Trail as we are about to enter the clouds one last time before making it to our cars.

20 thoughts on “A Gorgeous Icy Cold Snap on Saturday’s Hike to Mt. Islip

    • I try to do a different hike (or at least have a part of the hike that is different) on most of my hikes. The exceptions are training hikes for my upcoming hike to Mt. Whitney where I can’t afford the time lost exploring and family/friend hikes where I want to be sure I know the terrain well and what I’m getting my family and friends into.

      Now that I know how great this forest is, I am willing to spend the time looking at maps and reading guides etc. In the past, these were of little use as I didn’t know enough to understand what was being described etc. Sometimes I see one trail I haven’t been on from a trail I’m hiking on which makes me want to learn about the one I’m seeing.

      Time of year also matters. For example, now that it’s getting hot, I try to hike at higher elevations. Every week or two, I try to increase the strenuousness of my hike–perhaps going longer or with more elevation gain or along a steeper path.

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      • Makes sense to me! Since I’m doing a 100 hike challenge and part of it is that they have to be all diffierent hikes, I’m really getting to see trails I’ve never been on before. I also have changed my hike location due to location. South of town, it’s hot, north of town there is a higher elevation so I’m going north for the summer! I also ask fellow hikers for their favorites and I enjoy exploring those. Keep on trucking!

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  1. Great shots, Kyle, and thanks for posting them. We’re the people you met along the way and at the top with the black German Shepherd. Definitely looking at your Dawson Saddle page for this coming weekend. I’ll check back frequently. Very nice of you to maintain this site!

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    • Excellent photos, thanks for sharing them. Looks like you also did the Mt. Baldy Trail and got to see some icy trees yourself. Pretty cool. Small world, both meeting up with Viper.

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