Our group, Mark Adrian, Terry Flood, Carol Snyder and Kasey Cinciarelli, departed the Heaton Flat trailhead about 7:30 AM Sunday morning headed for Iron Mtn (8,007') in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles CA. This is a perfect time of year to get this peak as the summit snow was virtually gone and the southern route was completely dry. Temps were warm at the bottom and comfortably cool on top. We had great weather, but hazy sky. I took a gallon of water since this was a fourteen mile, 6,500' gain climb, allegedly the hardest dayhike in the "Gabes".
Referencing the HPS's map SGT-18A DEC 90 (where did they ever come up with this naming scheme?), the Heaton Flat Trail is in good to excellent condition up to the saddle at 4582, where it intersects with the Allison Trail and post "W17". At this junction, the route/trail climbs steeply north over loose and unstable rocks and pebbles before it levels off. Continuing in this alternating fashion, the "good" use trail undulates up the ridgeline in to thinly forested terrain, offering great views of the snow-capped summit of Mt. Baldy to the NE. We arrived on top at 1:00 PM, 5.5 hours after our departure. The summit is relatively small and stands alone, the only other connecting ridge is that with Mt. Baldy to the east. Snow still embellished Iron's northern flanks, while Mt. Baldy maintained a "cap" down to at "best" 9,000'.
After luncheon and signing in the over-stuffed register, we departed the summit about 1:30 PM. On return, we missed one or two turns through some brush, a typical HPS phenomena. This led to some less-than-ideal scree slopes and a few anxious moments as I slid a "few" feet before arresting (do they make a scree ax ?). Although you start at 2,000' and summit at 8,007', there are numerous bumps along the route which are especially annoying on the descent. This is why I conclude the total gain is closer to 6,500' than the HPS Guide's 6,000. Nevertheless, these hurdles overcome, we were back at Heaton Flats at 5:15 PM and to the trucks by 5:30 PM. Here, we discovered that you'll be fined $45 for NOT obtaining the mandatory $3.00 per day parking permit. Another group (from San Fernando) that we shadowed wasn't aware of this fact and were moderately upset (expletives deleted) by a "fresh" citation written at 9 AM that morning.
This was a strenuous climb and a good workout. I was on my way home from Death Valley where I had just put in around 9,000' on various unlisted peaks. Big Iron was my next to last HPS peak (#273). I plan to simul-finish on Combs Peak completing the HPS (274) and SDPC (117) peak lists sometime in early May. Also, I don't recommend camping at the Heaton Flats trailhead. I slept (or tried to) there amidsts a variety of "strange" noises and visitors throughout the night.
Climbers using the Heaton Flats Trailhead should be aware of the mandatory parking permit imposed by the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation. If you're coming in late as I was, you can/should obtain a parking permit.
(Old permit information was deleted from this section by the editor.)
It appears that there is a heavy contingent of hobbyist gold miners in the area. We met a prospector in the Heaton Flats parking lot who had several tales to tell and even showed us some of the gold he had extracted from the area.
After an all-you-can-stand birthday feast at a Sizzler (thanks Carol and Terry) I only made it halfway home before fatigue forced me (about 9:30 PM) to camp near an I-15 overpass (by Temecula). I finally made it home this morning.