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Middle Hawkins, Copter Ridge, Mt Hawkins

10 August 2003

By: Tom Hill

Pathfinder loop hike to Copter Ridge

Sunday, August 10, 2003
While L.A. Basin baked in a heat wave, Tom Hill, Virgil Popescu, James Carden, and Sharon Hechler enjoyed a pleasant loop hike to Copter Ridge. We parked 8:30am at the foot of the short use trail up to Windy Gap, then proceeded to Middle Hawkins. We continued south down the Hawkins Ridge to 8100', then plunged left off the trail down to the canyon floor at approx 6500' elevation.

The map had shown a nice-looking ridgeline heading SE from the 8100' spot, but as sometimes happens you cannot detect the ridge from above. In these cases you have to steel yourself to trust the map: and yes, we found it easily, an open xc highway with steady gradient, no routefinding difficulties until the canyon crossing itself. The crux of the hike is to find an appropriate chute at the foot of the ridge to drop safely down to the stream, and then to find an equivalent exit point to continue upslope on the other side to access Copter Ridge itself.

The canyon floor surprised us with a lovely, shady, full-flowing stream with wading pools. It is an area you might expect fishermen to arrive at any moment, until you realize how utterly inaccessible and unknown this spot must be to the world at large. We were reluctant to continue onward even after a full half hour enjoying this pristine hideaway.

While dropping down from Middle Hawkins, we had noted several plausible ridges heading up toward the main Copter Ridgeline. Unfortunately the most direct ridge, which meets our unnamed canyon at 6300', was well-guarded with rocky ramparts when viewed from close range and had a scree-like appearance. Therefore we chose the next ridgeline upstream, which meets the canyon at 6500'. This ridge worked well. After climbing to approximately 7000' we began a sidehilling deviation southward toward the summit area, with several upper gully crossings in moderate, forested terrain. The ideal candidate hiker for this portion of the hike will have left leg about six inches shorter than right leg, or will have mastered other techniques for steep sidehilling.

Successful at last with our "pure" pathfinder route to the summit (a route that shares only the summit point with some other route), we proceeded with lunch at 1pm. Then, wouldn't you know it? About a hundred yards from the summit, just as we were leaving on the use-trail uphill to Mt Hawkins, here came Mars Bonfire with the fine company of Winnette Butler and Kathy Cheever. It seems like the best rendezvous events occur without any planning at all! A delightful crossing of paths.

Overall specs: 4100' gain, 9 miles round trip; includes much difficult xc in pristine wilderness.

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