Deaths, Rescues, And Trail Closures

It might be helpful if more of us (myself included) who post hiking photos or write about our hiking experiences told more stories about when and why we turn back sometimes prior to reaching our planned destinations.

Helicopter rescue getting under way last Wednesday in Icehouse Canyon.

Helicopter rescue getting under way last Wednesday in Icehouse Canyon.

I mention this in part because two people died this past week in Angeles National Forest. The first, Daniel Nguyen, died falling from the Devil’s Backbone Trail near Mt. Baldy last Tuesday. The second, Dong Xing Liu, died falling in the Icehouse Saddle area last Saturday. Lieu’s wife and ten other people were airlifted off the mountain as well. Four of those people suffered injuries including a broken hip and broken ribs. I followed this link from a post from Modern Hiker on Facebook to learn more about one of Saturday’s rescues. Another hiker, Jason, suffered multiple injuries including a fractured skull and eye socket in a fall from Timber Mountain on January 23rd. As far as I can tell that has only been reported on a gofundme page set up by his brother-in-law Andrew (who posted on my Facebook page) and shared on other social media. Last Wednesday, I played a minor role in a rescue where a hiker needed to be airlifted out of a gully in Icehouse Canyon (he had a broken ankle/leg and should be OK). I was merely one of the several people helping the first helicopter locate the hiker. I also helped walk his dogs down to the trailhead after one of the rescuers shepherded them back up the steep mountain from the gully to the trailhead–which there’s no way I could have accomplished. As far as I can tell, that rescue has only been reported on social media by myself and one of the other hikers (Bonnie) who helped with the dogs. I wonder how many other rescues happen that don’t get reported in the popular press. I’m guessing more than I want to know about. I called the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center this morning and verified that the Icehouse Canyon Trail is temporarily closed. With great hesitation, the person I spoke with said Baldy Bowl and Devil’s Backbone are still open. However, it appears that has changed. About an hour later the US Forest Service posted “Be Advised: Until further notice, all Mt. Baldy Trails have been closed due to icy conditions and severe risk of injury.”

Starting downhill with the hiker's three dogs.

Starting downhill playing my minor role with the hiker’s three dogs.

Of course, there’s a lot of criticism floating around on social media. Criticism of the hikers, criticism of the Forest Service for not closing the trails down sooner and also for closing them down at all–the Forest Service really can’t win on that issue. I’m not interested in those discussions. Daniel Nguyen died trying to help someone else. People fall on dry flat perfectly maintained walkways wearing appropriate shoes all the time. I’m thankful I’ve never needed to be rescued but that doesn’t mean I won’t no matter how reasonably cautious I think I’m being. To those who’ve been so critical and condescending, the story of Ranger Randy Morgenson’s death in the High Sierra’s might help slow down a desire to judge and spew out pronouncements. Also, I wasn’t part of the decision-making process the Forest Service used to temporarily close the trails. Without being part of that process, I don’t know all the issues they were dealing with when they decided to make those closures.

Help came quickly with hiker's Anthony and Bonnie ending their hikes early to help me bring the dogs down. Two members of the forest service (who were great) met us part way down and helped as well.

Help came quickly with hiker’s Anthony and Bonnie ending their hikes early to help me bring the dogs down. Two members of the forest service (who were great) met us partway down and helped as well.

I rarely see first-hand accounts of people deciding to turn back earlier than planned on a hike. I certainly don’t write about that every time I decide to turn back at an appropriately early time for me. My turnaround point may be too early or too late for others. However, sharing my decision-making process may help others think through when they might want to choose to call it a day. At the same time, I’d like to underscore that unavoidable accidents do happen. Sometimes a slip is just that; no amount of preparation, gear choice, or reasonable level of caution would prevent it.

I had already hiked to Mt. Hawkins in snow before on November 9, 2011. I bought snowshoes after that hike. Note the post holing track I left on my way up. No sinking into the icy snow occurred on my way up to Windy Gap on this year's attempt.

I had already hiked to Mt. Hawkins in snow before on November 9, 2011. Note the post holing track I left on my way up. No sinking into the icy snow occurred on my way up to Windy Gap on this year’s attempt.

I’ve been on three snow hikes this year. I’ve needed to turn back early on two of them–one was last Wednesday when I turned back just above the junction with the Chapman Trail. On January 25th, I headed up the PCT expecting to go to Mt. Hawkins, microspikes on, using my trekking poles, and carrying snowshoes in my backpack. I had already hiked up to Mt. Hawkins in the snow back in November of 2011 and thought this would be a perfect day for a repeat trip.

The view from Windy Gap looking up the PCT in the direction leading toward Mt. Hawkins.

The view from Windy Gap looking up the PCT in the direction leading toward Mt. Hawkins.

Heading up from Islip Saddle, my microspikes worked great, the trail was comfortably wide for me, and it was a gorgeous day. By the time I got midway between the lower junction with the road to Little Jimmy Campground and the campground itself, the trail began to narrow. Frozen postholes and other clues showed the snow to be over a foot deep in some areas. However, the hard icy conditions prevented me from sinking in. I had never been in conditions like that before. My previous experience with snow that deep meant it was time for the snowshoes because I’d be sinking in. The narrow flat ledge remained wide enough to remain at a reasonable distance inside the edge of my comfort zone. At my skill level, though, I needed to be laser-focused, paying attention to my feet instead of the fantastic views around me, and go real slow in many places. When I reached Windy Gap, I wasn’t physically tired or winded at all, but, I was starting to feel mentally drained. The view up the PCT looked like something I could handle physically. At the same time, I knew there would be lots of areas where I’d need to be super focused mentally and I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the task of doing that. The presence of tracks indicating others had made it higher up didn’t matter, the fact that I had made it as far as Mt. Hawkins in the snow in the past didn’t matter. What mattered was how I felt at that moment, and I felt a little apprehensive. I was concerned about the icy conditions and whether or not I’d know in time if I got too tired to maintain the focus required to descend safely. Unlike the snow that gives, allows one to sink in, and slows one down; this icy hard stuff meant one small slip and I could find myself accelerating down the mountain.

The view from Windy Gap looking toward Mt. Islip.

The view from Windy Gap looking toward Mt. Islip.

After deciding not to go to Mt. Hawkins, my attention turned to Mt. Islip. I wasn’t ready to be done for the day and I’d seen a few photos on Instagram of people who had recently made it to Mt. Islip. Well, there wasn’t any form of ledge or trace of trail present. That may be no problem for some people better trained and more experienced than I, but I need some form of a trail/ledge or I feel too unsteady to move forward. So, that wasn’t an option. I sat on the bench, ate lunch, enjoyed the view and got ready to focus on making it down from where I was.

The road to Little Jimmy running just above the PCT.

The road to Little Jimmy running just above the PCT.

By the time I got to Little Jimmy Campground, I decided I needed another break mentally. This reinforced in me that I made the right decision back at Windy Gap. The trek down from Windy Gap wasn’t even that tough, but, I recalled most of my need to achieve laser-focus was between the campground and the junction with the road. Then I thought about the fact I had never taken the road before. Surely it was wider and much safer. What a relief, the road was perfect. I could just relax, enjoy the rest of my day, and not worry about a few patches of thin and icy trail. From above, I was surprised to see how close the road follows the PCT as I looked down on it. In many ways, it’s just a wider version yielding almost identical views. This road would be great for snowshoeing on another day. In fact, I can’t imagine a scenario where I will take the PCT instead of this road up to Little Jimmy in the snow in the future. A key thing I’ll remember moving forward is the sense of relief I felt when I got to the road. While I know I would have turned back on my way up the mountain if the trail disappeared or got much narrower on the way to Little Jimmy Campground, that sense of relief made me realize the importance of tracking my mental tiredness–especially in areas where there is no real margin for error. How many times have I turned back later than I should have and just got lucky? How would I even know? Accidents happen where there’s nothing one could have done to prepare and there’s nothing one could really do differently (which is why I carry a device that can send messages for help via satellite and $100K of search and rescue insurance). Knowing when to turn back on a hike is a fundamental part of hiking that we hikers should also be training for. I hope other’s will share their stories of turning back as they may provide some inspiration for this form of training as hike reports do in finding trails. One person’s accident is another person’s bad decision making and vice versa. I think there are too many factors to judge whether something is a misfortune or a mistake from afar and that there’s really no point in doing so. It’s up to us to determine what we shouldn’t do. Lot’s of people could have easily made it to Mt. Hawkins on the day I clearly shouldn’t have tried. I’m happy I turned back!

Snow Hiking In Los Angeles: Angeles Crest To Mt. Hillyer

I made it up the mountain for my first snowshoeing hike of the year last Friday (January 8th). Not knowing exactly what to expect, I left my house without a concrete plan of where I wanted to go. Basically, I wanted to go somewhere I had not been before in the snow. I also wanted to go somewhere lower than the places that are almost guaranteed to be in snow most of the winter (e.g. Mt. Baldy). This being an El Nino year, I expect to get out to the snow often and on this day I really wanted to snowshoe from start to finish.

Upper Gate area of Chilao Flats. If it's deep enough to snowshoe there, it will be deep enough all the way to the summit.

Upper Gate area of Chilao Flats. If it’s deep enough to snowshoe there, it will be deep enough all the way to the summit.

So, I headed up Angeles Crest Highway hoping something great would reveal itself and it did. As I passed the lower entrance to Chilao Flats, I noticed the gate was open. This got me thinking about going to Mt. Hillyer. When I drove past the upper entrance, it was clear that the snow was deep enough to snowshoe from Angeles Crest Highway. Although the upper gate was also open, the road wasn’t plowed and it probably was not driveable without snow tires or chains. As a result, I doubled back a bit and parked in one of the plowed areas off Angeles Crest Highway between Devil’s Canyon (not plowed) and the upper gate.

First one up the Silver Moccasin Trail, I enjoyed making my way through the fresh powdery snow.

First one up the Silver Moccasin Trail, I enjoyed making my way through the fresh powdery snow.

Although a couple other people also were snowshoeing the road down to the trailhead, I was fortunate enough to be the first person to head up the Silver Moccasin Trail toward Horse Flats. Normally, numerous people beat me to the trailhead and I have their tracks to follow. Since I only hike areas in the snow that I’ve hiked several times before, I had the confidence to proceed knowing I wouldn’t get off trail (or at least not too far off trail). It’s also true that this area is much flatter and comprised of more rolling type hills than most other areas in the forest. Therefore, even if I ended up off the trail I could have a great day wandering around and find my way back by retracing the footsteps I was creating in the fairly deep snow. So, I thoroughly enjoyed the crisp sound of creating fresh footprints and the pristine visual of undisturbed snow.

One of the narrower parts of the trail. Note the vegetation that serves as somewhat of a guardrail.

One of the narrower parts of the trail. Note the vegetation that serves as somewhat of a guardrail.

This is a great area to visit in the snow because the terrain is comparatively flat for the San Gabriel Mountains, it is reasonably wide in most places (so you can snowshoe effectively and if you fall it won’t be down the side of a mountain), and is fairly well protected when narrow. I forgot my trekking poles and ended up falling a few times when my snowshoes got tangled up (it’s amazing how subconscious fixing that situation without falling has become for me when I have my poles). As a result, this is also a significantly safer area to traipse through the snow than the narrower trails with steep drop-offs to at least one side.

An expansive view from the Mt. Hillyer Trail looking toward Mt. Waterman and Twin Peaks. That I could look back and see each of my footprints defined in the snow instead of a rugged long depression recording multiple journeys by others before me made stepping in the undisturbed snow feel even more special.

An expansive view from the Mt. Hillyer Trail looking toward Mt. Waterman and Twin Peaks. That I could look back and see each of my footprints defined in the snow instead of a rugged long depression recording multiple journeys by others before me made stepping in the undisturbed snow feel even more special.

The Mt. Hillyer Trail between Horse Flats and Mt. Hillyer is among my favorites in the forest. I like the expansive views across long distances to peaks in all directions.

The prevalence of partial snow covered large boulders, snowy trees, and constantly changing great views make the Mt. Hillyer Trail continuously inspiring all the way to the summit.

The prevalence of partial snow covered large boulders, snowy trees, and constantly changing great views make this trail continuously inspiring all the way to the summit.

I find the seemingly endless outcrops of boulders to be magnificent. In snow, the varying degree to which the boulders become snow covered and emphasize the color of the rock combined with the melting water lines (and sometimes icy stalactites hanging down) create a natural sculptural garden of immense beauty. It feels as though each turn in the trail yields something new and beautiful to behold. To provide a sense of scale, the boulders are large enough that mountaineers (I’m not sure of what level) come here to practice rock climbing. I’ve been on the trail at times where I saw more people climbing rocks than hiking.

One of my favorite outcrops which helped guide me up the mountain in the snow. There is a great ledge with a magnificent view on the other side that is fun to climb up to (even for a non-mountaineer like myself) when it's dry.

One of my favorite outcrops which helped guide me up the mountain in the snow. There is a great ledge with a magnificent view on the other side that is fun to climb up to (even for a non-mountaineer like myself) when it’s dry.

I should point out that previous knowledge of the various boulder outcrops (the one pictured above being one of my favorite places in the forest) helped guide me up the mountain to my intended destination. I’m not sure how I would have done without that prior knowledge. Although I think I would have made it anyway, I also believe anyone journeying up this part of the trail would have a great time even if the peak wasn’t reached.

View from Mt. Hillyer.

View from Mt. Hillyer.

As much as I love the trail to the summit, I’m the first to admit the peak itself is a bit of a disappointment–especially when compared with most other peaks in the range. For myself, however, snow manages to improve the experience significantly because the surrounding views stand out more due to contrast provided by the temporary whiteness, tracks in the snow add some nice texture to the fire charred and somewhat barren peak, and the vegetation that rises above the ground pops against the whiteness instead of blending into the dirt. As a result, the snow cover yields a meaningfully less cluttered look than the somewhat clumpy dry landscape filled with a prevalence of scattered burnt tree branches that normally provides groundcover in this burn area.

One of the long views across one of the flatter portions of the Mt. Hillyer Trail.

One of the long views across one of the flatter portions of the Mt. Hillyer Trail.

As I made my way back down the trail, I enjoyed the intermixing of flat parts, mildly graded parts, somewhat steep parts (but not steep enough to require me to use elevators on my snowshoes on the way up), parts with boulder formations, parts without and so on. For such a short trail between Horse Flats and Mt. Hillyer, I found the almost checkerboard degree of variation–especially in snow–to be so stimulating I was almost disappointed to make it down the mountain.

The Silver Moccasin Trail in the late afternoon showing the record of trips made by others during the day. Without snow I wouldn't have known anyone else was on this part of the trail on this day.

The Silver Moccasin Trail in the late afternoon showing the record of trips made by others during the day. Without snow, I wouldn’t have known anyone else was on this part of the trail on this day.

Until about half way down the Mt. Hillyer Trail, mine were still the only footsteps I saw (except for wildlife). When I did see others (a few humans and a dog–perhaps just one small group), the snow still remained deep enough throughout to enjoy snowshoeing. When I made it back down to the Silver Moccasin Trail, the beginnings of a long rugged depression recording the journey of many others had formed. In a few spots (perhaps 5 steps at a time), the combination of south facing terrain and enough people walking on the trail yielded a depression deep enough to reach dirt. Aside from 20 to 25 steps overall at the end of the day, I was really happy to be wearing my snowshoes throughout.

Track map from Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Hillyer using Backcountry Navigator (US Forest Service-2013 map) from my phone.

Track map from Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Hillyer using Backcountry Navigator (US Forest Service-2013 map) from my phone.

Follow this link for step by step instructions from the obvious trailhead found by following the road down as shown on the map above. Follow the links below for additional photos:

Silver Moccasin Trail: Upper Chilao Flats to Horse Flats

Mt. Hillyer Trail

Mt. Hillyer

Snow Information For Angeles Forest

El Nino is starting January off with a promising beginning for snow play in Angeles National Forest for this year. As of this writing, Mt. Baldy is reporting 18″ of fresh snow with the possibility of 12″ to 18″ more overnight. Looking forward to breaking out my snowshoes, I started checking out the various websites I visit to get a sense of what is going on in the forest prior to deciding on where to go. Thinking that list of websites might be helpful to others, I added it to my hiking links page and listed them here below. I expect to add several hikes to my Snow Hiking in Los Angeles Series this year. Be safe and I hope you enjoy this snow season.

I haven't made it to the snow yet this year. Here's a shot of me on Mt. Baldy in December of 2012.

I haven’t made it to the snow yet this year. Here’s a shot of me on Mt. Baldy in December of 2012.

Road Conditions: To know what roads are open and where I might need chains (I do carry them in my car all winter), I go to:

L.A. County Department of Public Works Road Closures Website for roads other than Angeles Crest Highway 2 (e.g Angeles Forest Highway, Big Tujunga Canyon Road, Glendora Ridge Road etc).

Caltrans Website for Angeles Crest Highway 2

By the way, as of this writing, chains are required one mile east of Newcomb’s Ranch on Highway 2 to Islip Saddle where the 2 is closed for winter. Parts of Big Tujunga Canyon Road and Angeles Forest Highway are closed.

Weather Forecasts And Reports For Various Peaks:

Mountain Forecast.com This link is to San Gabriel Peak to get you to the drop down menu for peaks in Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. You also need to choose one of the elevation links to get the forecast. I selected the peak elevation for this link. There are enough peaks with weather forecasts to get a good general idea of what the weather will be like on peaks not listed.

Waterman Mountain Website: Winter ski area that gives snow reports and updates ski conditions. Summer mountain bike area and professional disc golf course. Also, a good source to get a sense of what the snow conditions will be in the forest in general at elevations around 7,000 to 8,000′.

Mt. Baldy Ski Lift Website: Winter ski area that gives snow reports and updates ski conditions. Summer scenic rides, restaurant, events, and tent cabin rentals.

 

Snow Hiking In Los Angeles: The Mt. Waterman Trail

After several days of rain, there are several options for snow hiking in Angeles National Forest right now. Last Sunday I enjoyed one of them. There was deep enough snow at the Mt. Waterman trailhead that I was able to snowshoe 1 the entire way from Angeles Crest Highway to the summit. I read on the Mt. Baldy Facebook Page that the ski lift area received another 8″-10″ of snow Tuesday night and that they will open up Thunder Mountain with the understanding that the snow is extremely thin in some areas. So, there’s enough snow on our mountains right now to support a good range of winter fun.

Mt. Waterman

View from Mt. Waterman

Mt. Waterman is a great place to snow hike for most all skill levels because it’s not as steep as most snow covered options in Angeles National Forest 2 and it doesn’t have the kind of sketchy areas many of the other trails have. Even where the trail is a little thin with a significant drop to one side; the trail is still wider, the drop is less steep, and the drop isn’t as far as most other trails high enough in elevation to be covered in snow.

One of the more "sketchy" parts of the Mt. Waterman Trail. Comparatively tame when compared to other trails nearby.

One of the more “sketchy” parts of the Mt. Waterman Trail. Comparatively tame when compared to other trails nearby.

For the most part, the trail is comfortably wide with an easy grade which makes it a perfect place to snowshoe as there aren’t many awkward areas where the size of the snowshoes makes moving forward tricky. In fact, there are lots of more flat and open areas which I find very appealing in the snow.

View toward Mt. Waterman from the last saddle area before the summit.

View toward Mt. Waterman from the last saddle area before the summit.

Among the many winter treats experienced hiking this trail at this time of year is to see the stream flowing down the mountain which is dry most of the year. Traversing this trail soon after the storm meant the ice was still falling from the trees. The sound of that along with the interesting patterns on the ground below the trees was an added bonus.

Seasonal stream along the Mt. Waterman Trail.

Seasonal stream along the Mt. Waterman Trail.

I find the snowy version of the summit even more dramatic than it is the rest of the year. The color of the trees–especially their bark–stands out more against the contrasting white snow. The partially snow covered portions of the plethora of granite outcrops helps to emphasize the varying formations being created due to the weathering process. I also find the warmth from the sun as I move out of the shade in the winter to be of larger impact than the coolness of the shade on a summer’s day.

Mt. Waterman

View from Mt. Waterman

The area of the summit of Mt. Waterman is larger than most peaks in Angeles National Forest . As a result, it yields many different perspectives and can be reached by several different routes that lead to the peak.

The steeper approach to Mt. Waterman from the east.

The steeper approach to Mt. Waterman from the east.

The one described here is one of the two options coming from the east. There is a split in the trail just past the last saddle before the summit that allows a steeper more direct approach and leads to the more spatially constrained eastern area of the peak. Here, views are long but always partially blocked by trees and large granite outcrops which often give the feeling of being walls.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the more constrained eastern end of the peak.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the more constrained eastern end of the peak.

Continuing west along the trail that runs the length of the summit (the summit is long enough to call the path a trail), the landscape opens up dramatically providing an expansive view of the more open and flat middle section of the peak which is also directly accessed from the longer gentler approach from the east 3.

View looking west on Mt. Waterman.

View looking west on Mt. Waterman.

Since I wasn’t going to make this a loop hike by taking the road back, I turned around and headed back the way I came enjoying the constantly changing views of almost the entire high country of Angeles National Forest.

On of my favorite views of the high country of Angeles National Forest as seen from the Mt. Waterman Trail.

On of my favorite views of the high country of Angeles National Forest as seen from the Mt. Waterman Trail.

The following other snow hikes I’ve posted in this series should be covered in some amount on snow for a while now (baring an unforeseen heat wave).

The Pacific Crest Trail from Angeles Crest to Mt. Islip

The Pacific Crest Trail from Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell (presently only accessible from Wrightwood because Angeles Crest Highway is closed between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap for the winter).

The Baldy Bowl Trail

Notes:


  1. I didn’t actually need snowshoes to hike this trail on this day. Sure, near the summit even the snowshoes sunk about 4″ into the snow. So, it was nice and extra fun for me to have them. However, one could just “post hole” it–preferably with tall gaiters. That’s what I did when I started snow hiking. However, I had an experience at Mt. Hawkins where the trail got icy and very slippery forcing me to turn back earlier than I wanted because I started slipping on the snow instead of sinking into it. I knew I needed to get some equipment to counteract that issue. At the time, I bought snowshoes because they helped with both icy conditions and make travelling in deep snow more enjoyable. Later I learned about microspikes which are great to help with icy conditions and work better than snowshoes when the snow isn’t deep. I now carry both microspikes and snowshoes when I snow hike. There were others wearing snowshoes, some with micro-spikes, and a lot more just wearing hiking boots. My friend Etienne was even trying out hiking with his skis to prepare for an upcoming snow touring trip. 
  2. Only 1,250′ of gain over three miles to the summit for an average of  just over 415′ per mile. Compare with Islip Saddle to Mt. Islip at over 570′ per mile, Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell at over 740′ per mile, or the Baldy Bowl Trail to Mt. Baldy at over 930′ per mile. 
  3. The more gentle approach is taken by continuing straight at the fork after the last saddle before the peak (instead of going up the steeper trail on the left). This lower path eventually reaches another obvious junction where a left turn leads to the middle portion of the peak. This lower path eventually widens to road width and leads to the road at the west end of the peak. The road at the west end of the peak is also accessible from the higher trail and leads back down to Angeles Crest Highway. The lower path also leads to a lesser known middle path with a seasonal stream that meanders down the mountain eventually terminating in a ski run that needs to be crossed to reach the road that leads down to the highway. It’s probably best to avoid that middle route when skiers are present. 

Snow Hiking in Los Angeles: San Gabriel Peak

This is the third post in my series about snow hikes in Los Angeles.  The first one emphasized an opportunity to hike in snow at the lower elevations of  Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point  without needing any special equipment. The trade-off is that the snow is not usually present (but will be there several times during the year) making it important to track the weather report and look for snow levels getting lower than about 3,500′.  The second post emphasized the guaranteed option of reaching snow at Mt. Baldy whose peak reaches 10,064 feet and will remain in snow until sometime in the late spring.  The trade-off being that special equipment is needed.

View near the summit of San Gabriel Peak.

View near the summit of San Gabriel Peak.

Hiking to San Gabriel Peak from the north side of the mountain is a great experience that is between the two previous options in terms of snow presence and required equipment.  Being on the north side and at a higher elevation than Inspiration Point, snow lasts longer.  So, it can remain for a couple weeks making timing less important.  It can be hiked without special gear.  However, there are very small portions that get a little icy.  So, if you have microspikes or crampons they can be helpful.  I used this trail to try out my snowshoes for the first time.  The snow was deep enough for my snowshoes to work but not deep enough for them to be required as illustrated by the snowshoe prints in the photo above.  Next time I go, I’ll just bring my microspikes.  If Mt. Wilson Road is closed there will be no car access to the San Gabriel Peak Trailhead.  Park at Red Box (which is what I had to do on one of my snow hikes) and hike the short distance up Mt. Wilson road to the trailhead.

The San Gabriel Peak Trail near the trailhead where the snow was not as deep and a little icy compared with further up the trail.

The San Gabriel Peak Trail near the trailhead where the snow was not as deep and a little icy compared with further up the trail.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

Zoomed in view of Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

Zoomed in view of Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

View toward Mt. Disappointment from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.  Snow can get slippery in this area that is more exposed to sunlight.

View toward Mt. Disappointment from the San Gabriel Peak Trail. Snow can get slippery in this area that is more exposed to sunlight.

View toward  the south face Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak.  Note the lack of snow although this part of the San Gabriel Peak Trail is significantly lower.

View toward the south face of Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak. Note the lack of snow on the south face of those mountains although this part of the San Gabriel Peak Trail is significantly lower.

One of the many tree lined sections of the trail.

One of the many tree lined sections of the trail.

View of San Gabriel Peak.

View of San Gabriel Peak.

View south from San Gabriel Peak.

View south toward Mt. Lowe from San Gabriel Peak.

View north into the San Gabriel Mountain from the peak.

View north into the San Gabriel Mountain from the peak.