Leaders: Charlie Knapke Carleton Shay
I had received reports that the road into the trailhead for these peaks was in bad shape due to the winter rains. On Thursday night I loaded my car with shovel and mattock, determined to spend whatever time it took to make the road passable. Fortunately the road was graded in the week immediately preceding the hike. Except for some stream beds with water in them, the road was as good as I have ever seen it.
Two leaders and thirteen participants showed up to tackle the four peaks that we affectionately refer to as the Big Four. When we reached Chokecherry Spring, nine miles and several hours later, one of the participants had had enough. It was not the pace but her equipment that did her in. She signed out and called it a weekend. At Chokecherry we were joined by two hikers who had gotten a head start the day before. Our number was now sixteen.
Two years ago when I was at Chokecherry Spring, it took almost four minutes to fill a quart bottle the pipe at the trough. This year it was a little different. The water was coming out of the pipe at the rate of about one quart per second. In addition there was virtually a cascade of water coming down the slope next to the pipe at almost twenty times this rate. The road was a sea of mud for about 150 feet in either direction from the spring. If this wasn't enough, there were several seeps along the road adding to the mess.
After refilling our water bottles, we headed up the steep gully toward Samon Peak. The lower half of the chute was in good shape. The upper half was as slippery as ever. We split into three groups and made the ascent without mishap. From here we headed out the use trail to the peak. Surprisingly this route is in good shape. We made good time out to the summit and then retraced our steps back to the spring. Here we filled our water bottles again and headed up the road to the saddle just before the Madulce Peak trail junction. We camped here on Friday night.
Saturday morning we got an early start. We hiked the road out to Big Pine Mountain. We saw only patches of snow high on the north side of the mountain. When we reached the summit the branches were covered with ice. It made a rare and beautiful sight. It reminded me of the conditions I had seen on Madulce Peak four years before. We descended cross-country to the road and on to West Big Pine. After a short rest we hiked the road back to camp arriving about midday. We broke camp and backpacked on the Madulce trail about a mile to the Madulce junction. We dropped our backpacks and hiked out to Madulce Peak. This was the last of the Big Four. I was surprised to see that the PVC register can had disappeared from the summit. We returned to the junction and backpacked down to Madulce camp were we spent Saturday night.
Sunday we hiked out along Santa Barbara Canyon to where we had let two cars. We had many stream crossings and wet feet along the way. All but three participants climbed all four peaks.
I would like to thank Carleton for his excellent assistance.