Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal, Mars Bonfire
Byron: "There are other things in life than lists... (long pause)
I'm not sure what they are."
* * *
Thirteen of us set out at oh-dark-hundred on Tuesday to visit Bighorn
Peak, Ontario Peak, and Sugarloaf Peak, descending by way of Falling
Rock Canyon. Thirteen of us came out late Tuesday afternoon, little
worse for the wear. The same thirteen, even!
For this, my third trip up Ice House Canyon in a week, the leaders
were Byron Prinzmetal and Mars Bonfire. Participants were Chris
Davis, Dorothy Danziger, Doris Duval, Joanne Griego, Janet Howell,
Brian and Karen Leverich, John McCarty, Ingeborg Prochazka, and
Sheldon Slack. Record breaking temperatures were a possibility. Oh
well, after the hike to Old Man Mountain the day before, Brian,
Joanne, Mars, and I were less than impressed. I think "refreshing"
was the word Mars used to refer to the temperature in Ice House
Canyon. I wouldn't go quite that far, myself.
Dorothy mentioned that her peaks were out of balance -- she'd been to
Bighorn and Ontario more times than to Sugarloaf. This led Chris and
Brian to ponder the possibility of some kind of market to exchange
peaks -- if I have an extra Bighorn and you have an extra Thunder,
maybe we could just trade?
By approximately 9:38AM, we were at Ice House Saddle.
Mars (surely not mocking Byron): "It's about to get dark, we have to
Many of us had already been up Bighorn Peak, some as recently as the
previous Friday. The lazier slugs (who, me?) wanted to skip that
peak. Given the heat, Byron proposed we simply not do Bighorn Peak at
all. Some of the group (Brian and Chris leap to mind) threw a minor
riot, chanting "Bighorn, Bighorn, Bighorn!" until Byron relented and
proposed that rather than heading straight up the ridge to Bighorn, we
follow the Ontario Trail around Bighorn's north face, then cut up to a
saddle on its west side. There, those who already had the peak could
wait while those who didn't could head up the use trail. This would
add maybe half on hour to our hiking, but preserve the peace. The
group: "Let's do that!"
"Why would anyone want to go straight up, anyhow?" someone asked.
The response: "Because it's what we do. Come to Oktoberfest and
ask George!" (George is doing Sugarloaf Peak on September 29th. He
writes, "4 miles round trip, 2000' gain (it will seem like 3000')".)
Clever, this Byron fellow: by the time we were at the saddle, we were
less than a quarter of a mile and 200' in elevation from the peak.
Even the I-don't-need-this-peak crowd mainly decided to go for it.
Two or three stayed behind in the saddle guarding our precious gear
(and our even more precious water), the rest of us headed on up.
(Maybe the fact that there was a nice breeze made us more energetic?)
And what should we find on Bighorn, but a register! When did Mars
find time to fetch the one off of Timber? But wait, this is an old
register that's been here for some time. I've no clue how we
overlooked it on Friday. Maybe one of the bighorns borrowed it for
bedtime reading and brought it back later. Good thing Mars didn't
make that detour to Timber to fetch the extra register there.
So, back to the saddle, and onwards to Ontario. Along the way, we saw
some bighorns. Cool!
Karen to Dorothy: "Is that the summit?" Dorothy: "No." A little
later, "How about that?" Dorothy, again, "No." Ontario Peak they
make you earn, but by the time you get there, you're past the dead
forest and there are some green shady trees. No trees on the summit
itself (the usual pile of rock)
but nearby. We stopped and had a good lunch, after which Byron (this
seems to be inevitable) attempted again to talk some sense into us.
We were at the point of no return, once we started down the ridge to
Sugarloaf, we were committed. If we didn't want to fall off the
mountain or have Falling Rock Canyon's rock fall on us, or what not,
it was time to sign out and hoof back down the trail. He hoped our
life insurance was paid up. As usual, we all ignored him.
I was mentally prepared for Falling Rock Canyon to be intimidating, but
hadn't thought much about the ridge between Ontario and Sugarloaf.
Silly me! Steep, rocky, slippery in places. By the time I had urbed
(URB is an acronym Brian and I use for Unplanned Rest Break -- when
your feet go out from under you and you're suddenly sitting on your
butt in the trail instead of hiking like you'd intended) enough that
Byron was bored silly watching me stand back up again, he explained
to me that my poles weren't a nifty hiking fashion accessory (they're
not?) but instead, if properly used, can keep one on one's feet.
And you know, he was right? Except for one stupid slip (I was adjusting
my windblown hat when I should have been watching my footing), I didn't
fall again for the rest of the day.
At the saddle next to Sugarloaf, Byron explained, again, how hazardous
the climb would be. His advice: "If anyone has any problems, hold
your hands out and try to fly!" And a not-very-reassuring aside to
Mars: "We have to talk about how we're going to get all these people
down from here!"
Well, it is a bit of a scramble from the saddle to the top of Sugarloaf,
and a couple places seem a bit slippery and exposed, but Mars (with help
from Chris on the return) spotted us through the bad bits and I don't
think anyone (not even me) managed a good slip. This definitely isn't
the most inviting HPS peak I've been to, nor the easiest to go to or
return from. Did we look the teensiest bit tired, posing on the summit?
And then, gulp!, it was time for the fun part -- Falling Rock Canyon.
Except, you know, it wasn't that bad, especially compared to
descending the ridge from Ontario. It was cooled by a breeze, it was
gorgeous, very few rocks fell, the nettles weren't especially thick
and were easy to avoid, and boy howdy! that scree ski at the
beginning! I maybe would pay money to do that! Joanne was one of the
first down, and she seems to have been the only one to get any rocks
in her boots -- my theory is that she got all of them, leaving none
for those who followed: a noble sacrifice for the comfort of the rest
Anyhow, we figured maybe there was a kind of conservation of perceived
elevation principle (CPEP?) operating -- going up it's "2000' seems
like 3000'", so going down instead it would be "2000' seems like
1000'"? Still, I think I'll leave it to George's team to ascend the
thing, and I'll move on to other peaks on the list. (76 and