East Fork to Fish Fork

Another adventure up the East Fork with some old trail exploration and a taste of Fish Fork.

Final Stats:

16 miles, 2500 ft

Photos are geo-tagged
Click for more stats & gps files

The Fish Fork of the San Gabriel river is known to be pretty wild. Steep canyon walls and waterfalls make it an epic canyoneering trip, as evidenced by Zach and Taco just a few weeks ago. Without technical equipment, one can only check out the lower end for perhaps 1.5 miles and even less at the upper end that is accessible via Pine Mtn ridge to Upper Fish Fork campground.

Ryan (Taco) and Zach were heading back to retrieve some equipment they had to leave, and Patrick, Johanna, and myself joined along to help…well at least to give moral support. I wasn’t sure how long of a day I was up for and it was hard to predict how long it would take, especially the ~ 1.5 miles up Fish Fork to find their gear.

We left ~ 6:30 am and made good time, arriving at Iron Fork in ~ 2:40. Without thinking, I was pulling myself up the steep beginning of Ross’s SE ridge. I hadn’t thought about it, but have always wanted to check it out for a potential ascent of Baden-Powell from the south, so up I went. This beginning part was pretty nice, with a bit of scrambling and steep dropoffs to the east.

I stayed on the top of the ridge to avoid the brush to the west, but as you can see there wasn’t much room for error. I continued up until I had gained about 500 ft, when I came to a junction with an old trail that you can sometimes find on topo maps. Naturally, I decided to check that out.

I’d say the trail wasn’t in bad shape in general, about half in the clear and easily passable and the other half not so much. I was initial wearing short sleeves so I began to strip to put on pants and long sleeve shirt when I noticed the others had spotted me, and probably wondering what in the world I was doing. I pointed in the generally direction of Fish Fork hoping my excellent non-verbal communication skills would get across the idea that I would meet them ahead.

On I went, barreling straight through some brush, crawling underneath the brush in a few spots, and climbing over it in others. I kind of enjoyed it to be honest.

Overall I was making okay time, moving between fast and slow a bunch. After maybe 0.6 miles, I came upon a brush filled gully I had to cross, and at the same time the others below were shouting out to try to come down. I indicated I would (was almost the end of the trail anyways), but I had to get across this gully first.

It was terrible, covered in everything. I would have dealt with the brush fine if it was for poison oak being everywhere. I wasn’t sure how I could avoid it. I attempted some succession of terrible maneuvers attempting to climb on top of the brush, then holding myself up only by my arms, and other ridiculous moves. Once I did collapse near / on some poison oak, but hopefully it didn’t get on me bad.

Finally I made it out, and I was toast! I was breathing so hard. A nice sort of interval training, I guess. I kept going and started looking for a way down, but nothing looked great. I started descending and traversing, while getting myself into a few non-optimal spots. Finally I did make it down where Ryan and Zach were lopping off – yup, more poison oak!

We continued up the stream a short bit to Fish Fork campground. The water in this small section was really cold, and I was hoping it would not be like that up Fish Fork since it would be hard to stay out of the water there.

I needed a short break at the campground while Ryan, Zach, and Patrick departed. Johanna was planning on not going further and hanging out here for a while. While I was quite content to just stay at the campground, I decided I should at least check out a little bit of Fish Fork, so I headed up.

At first I tried to look for any spots to stay out of the water, but that seemed more hassle than it was worth. Plus, there was no poison oak in the stream and the temperature was quite nice. It was quite enjoyable actually. I kept going up, then checked to see what I did – 0.5 miles in 50 minutes, yikes! According to Jerry Schad’s description of the canyon, it would be 1.5 miles until a small 10-12 ft waterfall would create an impasse, which is located 0.2 miles below the main falls. Zach and Ryan’s gear was probably located between these two falls, so they had another 3 hrs ahead of them. I knew there’s no way I would be able to catch up or do anything, so I turned back.

At the campground there was some random sleeping bag, so I rolled that out and took a nice nap for a bit. Then Ryan’s voice came through the radio and mentioned that they were still a bit more away from the gear – over 3 hours since departing up Fish Fork. This meant it was going to take them over 4 hours to get back down…Patrick had just turned around but it was going to take him probably 3 hours to get down. We packed up some of their things they left and ‘hid’ it in a spot they would find (per a note we left). Then we headed back.

The way back was pretty nice, good weather mixed with heading in and out of the water, it was quite good. Resting at the bridge, I kept hearing some squeaking and then we found bats were hanging out in one of the cracks in the bridge!

Ryan and Taco did get their gear, getting back ~ 11 pm. I’m sure their TR will be quite interesting!

Driving with Taco

Related posts:

Into the Brush - Ascending Monrovia Peak
East Fork to the Narrows, Stanley-Miller Mine
Skyline - Palm Springs to Tram

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This entry was posted on Sunday, September 12th, 2010 at 7:17 am and is filed under Trip Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “East Fork to Fish Fork”

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz September 13th, 2010 at 10:27 am

Nice photography. Great to see you and that older gentleman taking those kids for an outting in the woods.

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