UPDATE 16 July 2015: Many (but not all!) areas in and around the San Gorgonio Wilderness are currently closed due to the Lake Fire. See Lake Fire Closure Map for details. As of this writing, Bighorn Mountain is closed, but Dragons Head Peak is open.
UPDATE 29 Nov 2012:
People have asked me about my route; please see this map link. You'll want to zoom in to make sense of the map and the referenced points. Point "A" is the South Fork trailhead. Point "K" is Lodgepole Saddle. Point "P" is Bighorn Mountain. Point "R" is Dragon's Head Peak.
Over the last several years, I've been climbing each of the peaks over 10,000'/3048m in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. As of the start of 2012, only two peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on my list remained unclimbed: Bighorn Mtn (10,997'/3352m)...
|Bighorn Mountain (10,997'/3352m)
|The Dragon's Head (10,866'/3312m)
For a hiker, I have a slight "handicap." I'm slow. Age, a desk job, and injuries have conspired together to make me one slow hiker. Bighorn Mountain and The Dragon's Head are miles from the nearest trailhead. Reaching them requires a climb of about one vertical mile (1600m). Travel in steep, high elevation, off trail terrain takes time. How does a slow hiker like myself approach such a trip? I certainly couldn't do it as a day hike. I would have to stay over night in the wilderness, something which I am only too happy to do, but even then it would require some fairly careful planning.
Instead of taking the time to make the two hour drive to the trailhead from my home on the first day of my hike, I took off of work early on a Tuesday and drove straight to the wilderness. At about 0300 the next morning, I arose. While 0300 may sound early, I knew that I would need all the hours I could gather in order to get to the peaks and then return to a location where camping is authorized. I arose and packed without eating. By about 0330, I was on the trail.
Hiking by headlamp is "interesting."
|Charlton Peak, pre-dawn
As I ascended, the sun began to illumine the high peaks above.
|Jepson Peak, pre-dawn
|Ascending the Dry Lake Trail, pre-dawn
|The sign for Dry Lake and Lodgepole Camps
Behind the sign, one can see Dry Lake.
|A family of ducks along the shores of Dry Lake
|Frost coats the grass along the shore of Dry Lake
|Detail of frost on grass
A bit beyond the "lake," I reach Lodgepole Spring at about 0710 hours.
|Hikin' Jim at Lodgepole Spring
|Hot oatmeal + raisins on a cold morning = delicious!
|The Bobcat stove system from Flat Cat Gear
|Fully packed with 8 liters of water.
|Looking up the drainage towards which Shark Rock points. The low spot on the horizon is Lodgepole Saddle
|The old mining trail that goes to Lodgepole Saddle
|Looking back down towards the Lodgepole Spring area
|Approaching Lodgepole Saddle.
|The Fish Creek Trail in Lodgepole Saddle
|Trail sign in Lodgepole Saddle
|The blocked off start of the old mining trail
From the region of Lodgepole Saddle, we get our first looks into the high country of the San Gorgonio. Yes, we have to climb that. Fortunately, there is a trail.
|Looking towards Big Cirque on San Gorgonio Mountain from Lodgepole Saddle
|Trail junction in Mine Shaft Saddle
Looking east, I note that the day is clouding up. Afternoon thunderstorms and in particular lightning could be a problem today.
|Clouds building to the east
|Lodgepole Saddle and surrounds
|Wreck of a C47 cargo plane from 1952
|The Sky High Trail ascends the eastern flanks of San Gorgonio Mountain
|Clouds above the Sky High Trail
|Steep drop off on the eastern side of San Gorgonio Mountain
|Bighorn Mountain (10,997'/3352m)
|Dwarf, high altitude pine trees
|A horizontal tree trunk
|Traversing the SE ridge of San Gorgonio Mountain
|First look at Tosh's Tarn
|The route down to the tarn from the Sky High Trail
|The Dragon's Head
|Tosh's Tarn. Note the Dragon's Head rising above the western end of the tarn.
Looking east, the weather appears to be holding. I press on.
|Looking east from the tarn.
|Crossing the tarn
|A seemingly out of place brown rock on the otherwise gray tarn
|Ascending to the small saddle west of Bighorn Mtn
Reaching the saddle about 1345 hours, I then faced east preparing for the final ascent. I beheld an elfin forest of dwarf pines. These were limber pines, a particularly hardy, high-altitude pine.
|Looking east from the small saddle west of the summit of Bighorn Mountain
|Twisted and gnarled pines high on the flanks of Bighorn Mountain
|A bonsai like pine on Bighorn Mountain
|The Dragon's Head from Bighorn Mountain
|The weathered remains of a pine of long ago
|Final approach to the summit of Bighorn Peak
|The summit register on Bighorn Mountain
|Signatures in the Bighorn Mountain summit register
|A website address for a Southern Californa hiker's/climber's/canyoneer's forum
|The view from the summit of Bighorn Mountain
|San Gorgonio Mountain (11,502'/3506m)
|The view to the east from Bighorn Mountain
|The tarn as seen from Bighorn Mountain
|The Dragon's Maw
|The summit of the Dragon's Head
|Sheer drop to the SE of the route to the Dragon's Head
Ascending the summit ridge, I turn back for a quick glance at Bighorn Mountain.
|Bighorn Mountain from the flanks of the Dragon's Head
|The summit of Dragon's Head
|View from near the summit of the Dragon's Head
|The east face of the summit of the Dragon's Head. Yes, those are full grown pine trees that you see in the upper left hand corner of the frame. It's a wee tad steep here.
|Summit register on the Dragon's Head
|Descent route from the Dragon's Head
|Shadows cast on the drop east of the descent route
|A last look back at the summit of the Dragon's Head
My trip report is already long, so rather than writing a great deal more, suffice it to say that my strategy of getting to the trailhead the night before and starting before dawn paid off. I got to my camp site just as darkness fell. And, as they say, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
|My home for the evening
I thank you for joining me on this high country ramble in the San Gorgonio Wilderness,
Appendix A: Wildlife Sightings
Note: I won't include this in the main stream of the post since the position relative to other photos would provide information as to where these particular animals were sighted. The sad fact is that there are poachers who might try to do these magnificent animals harm. I will say that these are Bighorn Sheep and that I sighted them in the San Gorgonio Wilderness some time during my three day trip. I apologize for the low resolution. The animals were some distance away, and I was shooting at maximum zoom.
|Bighorn sheep. Probably female.
|Another Bighorn sheep. Female.
|Bighorn sheep. Two females and a lamb.
|Bighorn sheep. Two females and a lamb. The lamb is behind the lower female.
|From another trip, a photo of several males of the species. Truly magnificent.
Appendix B: Timeline
0330 On trail
0435 Wilderness Boundary
0530 Dry Lake Trail
0635 Dry Lake
0710 Lodgepole Springs (breakfast stop)
0840 On route
0915 Base of climb to Lodgepole Saddle
1005 Lodgepole Saddle
1025 Mineshaft Saddle
1235 SE ridge of San Gorgonio (lunch stop)
1300 On route
1325 Tosh's Tarn
1345 Small saddle east of Bighorn Mtn
1430 Bighorn Mtn
1530 Small saddle north of the Dragon's Head
1555 Dragon's Head (snack stop)
1605 On route
1620 Small saddle north of the Dragon's Head
1715 Sky High Trail
1925 Base of climb to Lodgepole Saddle (dinner and overnight stop)