Ascent to Dragons Head-Off Trail section to cross the tarn on 2013-07-20

Climber: Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach

Date:Saturday, July 20, 2013
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Dragons Head - Off Trail section to cross the tarn
    Elevation:10500 ft / 3200 m
    Remaining Elevation:366 ft / 111 m (100% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Initially this was supposed to be our 8K challenge day.... the day where we hike Baldy + Gorgonio + Jacinto in 24 hours. But the fire on Jacinto took this away, and the promise of 40% chance of thundestorms made us wary. Plan B was to hike up Moymer TH, over Charlton and then onto Gorgonio, Dragon's Head, and Bighorn and then back down either Viv Creek (and walk back to the car) OR Moymer - based on the weather.

However, after waking up and assessing the increased chance of storms, we decided to nix the Moymer Trail and instead do a fast assault up Viv Creek to Gorgonio, and then nab Dragon's Head and Bighorn - weather contingent.... and then back down Vivian Creek,

We arrived at the TH at 5:25 and found... a locked gate. New policy by the rangers on San Bernardino... but they are now checking ALL permits and there are specific hours that the gate to the Vivian Creek parking area is open and closed. Additionally, there is a campground host who unlocks the gate at 6 am, and then locks it at 10 pm. When we were there 2 weeks ago and did double Vivian Creek to San G an started at 4 :15 am - this was NOT the case. So... some changes in the area. The host checked our adventure parking pass and our Vivian Creek Trail permit and then okayed us to hike up.

Started hiking at 5:59 am, and pushed steady up to the peak. Summitted at 9:28 am - so made it up in 3:29.... Didn't feel great - but it was still nice to push it and work hard. Rained a little on us in the beginning, but otherwise it was okay. Clouds looked good once we got above 8k feet. San Jacinto overlook was sad, as we could see the massive smoke plumes from the fire. The clouds looked OK - not building yet. At the peak we re-assessed and ecided to go for Dragon's Head. Took the trail down and got to the segment of the trail that was at the far S end of the tarn, looked up to San G and noticed how quickly the clouds had suddently built. We were maybe 25 min from the peak and another 20 min from Bighorn, but one look at the clouds and we decided to turn around. It wasn't thundering YET - but I just didn't like how everything looked and today felt like a consolation just because of how we couldn't do what we originally wanted to do. Not disappointed about not getting Dragon's Head or Bighorn - the mountains will always be there.... but the growing clouds just didn't sit right.

We passed a lot of people going up while we were going down Viv Creek - steady pace on the way down while we watched the clouds build. Just past High Creek Camp (maybe around 9k feet of elevation) while looking at the Dobbs Ridge, we heard our fist massive crack of thunder. It felt nice to be vindicated, but I was concerned about the MANY parties on the peak and high areas that were well above us. Stopped counting thunder claps after I counted 20 - but we kept descending. Saw one flash below Middle Creek camp and knew it was close, but never felt horrible about our situation. Getting drenched was sorta fun, as the rain made a great pinging noise off our jackets.

Saw a ranger going up as we were descending who checked our permit (first time EVER for either of us and the first time we had heard about this before). But he was really nice and told us that the rangers would all be out checking. So - there you go.

Back to the car by 1:40 - total hiking time of 7:40, 19.7 miles and 5700 feet of gain. No DH and BH peaks, but with the weather, that's okay. The tarn looked cool! Def excited to go back at some point!
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