Triplet Rocks

The least accessible peak, and possibly the toughest route in the San Gabriels.

16 miles, 7500 ft gain

Triplet Rocks, have you heard of this name? If you’re well-versed in unique places / hikes in the San Gabriels, you probably have. Otherwise, this peak with no name on a topo map might not mean anything to you. But it should.

When I first began hiking and picked up hiking books by John Robinson and Jerry Schad, it was stated that Iron Mt was the least accessible peak in the San Gabriels. And the San Antonio ridge was the toughest cross-country hike. All is good until you fall upon Sierra Club trip reports of other routes. For instance, the southwest, northwest, and north ridges of Iron Mt have been done and are more difficult than the better known “popular” routes.

Then, one falls upon a peculiar trip report about Twin Peaks. The definitive local death march is Triplet Rocks.. Eh, what’s that? If you stay just on the summit of the East Twin, then you wouldn’t notice them. But if you walk down 100 ft east, you get a view of these 3 huge boulders perched up 3 miles away via an undulating, treacherous-looking ridge. I had noticed this ridge while driving on the ACH near Islip saddle and also on a hike on Pleasant View ridge 2 years ago, but had not known what it is – the most brutal ridge and peak to reach in the San Gabriels. And based on my attempts, I would have to strongly agree.

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My first attempt happened on a whim in June 2009, and it ended up unsuccessful. I was somewhat upset, but figured another opportunity would come in the fall when it cooled down again. Then the Station Fire changed that. Gradually the desire to get to those rocks grew until I lost all patience and had to try again.

We had 5 people total attempt this time and started at 4:30 am. We figured we could do the 2 hr trek to the East Twin on trail in the dark and start down the ridge just as it was getting light out. Sadly, while descending toward Twin Peaks saddle, we missed the trail intersection and started heading toward Three Points! Then we ended up headed down cross-country, something I really didn’t want more of and especially in the dark. Ugh. Turns out the sign at the trail junction has been set aside next to a tree so we totally missed it.

Aside from that little extra fun, we made it to East Twin with little issue. A little behind time-wise, but still okay. Then, we began our trek down the ridge.

The first part of the ridge is not “terrible”, but just gets increasingly worse as you go. Soon you are bouldering, and it gets steeper, looser, and more brushy.

Just a bit before the “halfway point” of 6834′, is a short downclimb on solid rock:

There are no breaks on this ridge. You are either 1) scrambling / climbing rocks 2) negotiating steep & loose dirt on the side of the ridge or 3) fighting through brush. It’s like that the entire way.

As we moved along, I noticed our collective pace wasn’t as good as it was last time. Frankly, it wasn’t going to cut it. We didn’t know how long it would take to go from 6834′ to Triplet Rocks – definitely a few hours to put the total time at ~ 6.5 hours. And since it would take longer on the way back, we’d start making the day really long if it took even longer to get there. Selfishly, I began waiting less and continuing on more. I figured I could “direct” if I saw a good path and such, but really up to the bump at 6300′ there are multiple ways to go. Sometimes you stay on the ridge, sometimes you have to drop down on one side, sometimes you have a choice.

I downclimbed a tough part right at 6300′ and looked again and realized I’d reach the class 5 stuff and should find the gully to the south. I found a small slot with a tree in it that connected with the main gully. I used the tree as leverage to drop down.

View right before dropping down:

The gully:

There was definite brush in the gully, but I guess I was prepared with long sleeves and gloves, and have had considerable “brush skills” developed from previous hikes. This gully, as in other places on the ridge, requires you to not only get around / through the brush, but use the brush as leverage when climbing down or up. Or climbing over the brush. I like to call it all “brush climbing”.

Once I got down the gully, I could see I was getting closer

As you can see, there are multiple ridge spurs that you have to cross before getting to the base of the final climb up to Triplet. A little prior Google Earth recon helped a lot here – instead of trying to climb back up to the ridge, I traversed across to hit points on the spurs that were more easily passable (either by rock or brush).

It was starting to look good

Looking back at the gully, I saw David stating just to the right of the start of the gully, in the same place where I was before dropping down. I shouted and pointed for him to go down the gully (it’s really the only possible way), but I think he was waiting for the others to catch up before heading down. I waited for a bit, then decided to continue on.

Finally, I reached a saddle which offered cool views and began the final, nice climb up to Triplet.

From this saddle I climbed up and followed the ridgeline until I reach those illusive rocks.

A short friction move brought me to the top. Finally!

Great views from the top. Definitely a unique place. Lots of big boulders and pine trees too. Odd juxtaposition given the brush not too far away.

At this point, the others were at the top of the gully. David had started down, but turned around while the others were not up for trying. Frankly, it would have taken too much time, adding on at least 2 more hours to the day. I feel somewhat selfish for moving ahead, but I’m not sure any of us would have made it had I stayed back. They turned around then I started heading back – realizing that even more work was needed for the return.

Oh, and this hike makes you work. I was breathing a lot more than I normally would be when doing “downhill”. As soon as I started climbing back up the gully, I was feeling really zapped. Even my arms were getting tired! Not only is this ridge a lot more elevation gain / loss than predicted (because you are going up and down a lot more than a topo shows), so much is little bursts of movement – climbing moves, brush moves, scree slopes. I might have been more fatigued then than anytime before, maybe even more than Snow Creek.

I eventually met back up with the group and we headed back up slowly. We all took more time, especially on the rock scrambling sections. The climbing around 6834′ was pretty annoying – there may be a way to avoid it so I’d try to look for that route if you ever go.

We finally got back to East Twin and then were basically home free. Took 15 hours total. And for a lot of people its going to take more than that. What a day.

Right now, I can’t imagine a harder route. There’s no ridge traverse of 3 miles of pure brutality that you have to do twice! You have to have climbing, brush, and steep slope skills to pull it off. Not to mention conditioning. But the result is making it to a very cool place that few have gone. In fact, I was the first entry since LD placed a register on top over two years ago.

To me, this hike defines the San Gabriels. It starts you in one of the coolest areas – Buckhorn / Waterman / Twin Peaks, and takes you on a ride through the climbing, brush, and steepness that defines this mountain range. I think its the crown jewel. But I’m also a little masochistic.

Related posts:

Mt Diablo 4 Peaks Trip Report
Kearsarge Peak
South Mt. Hawkins via Pigeon Ridge

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 17th, 2010 at 11:38 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.

27 Responses to “Triplet Rocks”

John Y.

John Y. October 17th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

That is amazing! I’m still years away from obtaining the endurance, conditioning, boldness, and “brush skills” that would allow for such an attempt. Glad that at least one member was able to summit. I figured Snow Creek would be your biggest TR this year, but I was wrong; my hat’s off to you and your group!

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 17th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Isn’t Twin Peaks within the closure area? shame on you!

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz October 17th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Cool trail u made

Chenendez

Chenendez October 18th, 2010 at 6:57 am

I attempted this sucker back in May. Made it halfway on the ridge. Turned back due to mental weakness and being over-run by rattlers. Those be my cairns. All of them. Tell them I love them and will be back.

Not sure what all the talk is about needing physical conditioning. I didn’t condition and it did not hold me back. You’re moving so slow to make sure not to step on them snakes and/or fall off the ridge you never work up your heart rate except on the early/late part of the round trip. Mental toughness is what counts. You’re tough, Zebra.

Zé

October 18th, 2010 at 8:35 am

thanks John. I think I’m gonna rest for a while.

@FO: it is? I didn’t see any signs…

@Lionel: thanks you should go try to follow it

@Chenendez: thanks. heh I knew someone had been there somewhat recently, seemed like some tracks were relatively fresh.

Oh you need conditioning, if you want to finish in a reasonable time. Sure, if you take a few more hours then less conditioning is needed. I tend to move quickly over rough terrain so I keep a little higher workrate.

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz October 18th, 2010 at 9:42 am

i am trying to purchase a map but cant find the check out cart

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 18th, 2010 at 10:50 am

didn’t see any signs? LOL! THAT, IS SOOOOOO LAME! ever try calling up # 661-296-9710? Or looking at the closure map on the the Angeles National Forest site? You “planned” to go into a closure area??? And “knowing”, you weren’t supposed to????? Wow. I’m curious how you process this? It’s on the Angeles Crest website, There’s a map that clearly shows twin peaks inside the closed area, you know it was closed. So what goes through your mind when you set foot inside there? What do you say to yourself? “oh nobody can see me? Nobody cares? I’m special? Rules don’t apply to me? I’m entitled because, I’m me? I want to go there? I got a bunch of druggies with me and it’s lord of the flies 2010?” Seriously, You guys should be ashamed. Hiking in a closed area. and woe unto you when the men of the world speak well of you! Shame I tell you Big bad shame all OVER you! might as well change your name to Zeggie Zush!

Chenendez

Chenendez October 18th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Fight On, you think ever place is in the closure area. Except the Wilson Trail! I recall your telling me that the trail to Newcomb Pass and on to Wilson was in the “closure area”. I felt so bad I went home and looked it up. And damn it, it was not. I demand satisfaction…

Zé

October 18th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

busting out Bible quotes, FO? oh no you di’ent!!!

halhiker

halhiker October 18th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

This is in a closed area? Cool! I’ve always found that keeps the crowds down. I’m wondering when I can go.

Jesus tap dancing Christ

Jesus tap dancing Christ October 19th, 2010 at 10:25 am

LOL @ busting out bible quotes!

Zé

October 19th, 2010 at 11:50 am

Fight On, if you pay me $100 I’ll smack you around for a few hours. Rumor is you like that sort of thing. But really you don’t need me to tell you what you can / can’t enter in, you be a big boy and decide for yourself.

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 19th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I got a better idea. I’ll double that if you post on all the message boards why you went into the no hike zone. Real upfront and honest like. The truth. Like how you justify it. and then vow to never do it again.
You do that and I’ll tell you which peak register it’s in.
and you know I’ll keep my end of the deal!

Chenendez

Chenendez October 19th, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Hey Jesus Tap Dancing Christ. Didn’t you know? Jesus Didn’t Tap. Didn’t you learn anything from the Green Ranger?

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz October 20th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

ze walks on water

Zé

October 20th, 2010 at 8:17 pm

yeah I went through the no hike zone. I had to. I wanted to hike this peak, and I’m probably not going to be around LA when this forest finally freaking opens again. I figured it was relatively unharmed compared to the other areas of the Station fire. There were some burnt trees on the south side of Waterman, so I felt bad walking through that. If I brought in some invasive species, I’ll gladly go back and take care of them!

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 21st, 2010 at 5:40 am

so it’s official, you knew. Just like Reggie knew. and just like Pete, he knew too. guess they just “had to”, too. Can you guess what their lame “reasons” were? hint..(Vanity is definitely my favorite sin!)
You hold tight to Reggie’s Heisman now…
very sad.

Zé

October 21st, 2010 at 2:42 pm

hey your Lord and Savior will be making an appearance at USC tomorrow. you gonna show and kneel down before him?

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 21st, 2010 at 5:09 pm

lol, you voted for him… Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays. need to change your site title to something like, so cal hikes.com. trespassing through the angeles national forest, one closed area at a time.
you keep searing your conscience and yer gonna wind up just like hiker hal. bloody toes from kicking cairns.

Zé

October 25th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

muslims? are you muslim?

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON October 28th, 2010 at 8:55 am

I celebrate birthdays, always have, always will, Your president doesn’t… btw. mike kicked butt up transmission ridge in 21:40… That’s right sucka! Can you do a sub 20? I donknow!!!! maybe you could if someone pushed your back like they did in that treadmill video!! ahhahahhahahhahahahaa The BIG BAD MOUNTAIN MAN IRON MIKE has the record! TWENTY ONE MINUTES AND FORTY SECONDS!!!!!!!

Lionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz November 1st, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Some poor chap almost got owned on this walk..

FIGHT ON

FIGHT ON May 20th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Premature Zehikeulation!

Hikin

Hikin' Jim June 2nd, 2013 at 7:45 am

A “little” masochistic? lol.

HJ

Zé

June 2nd, 2013 at 10:58 am

lol, maybe a bit more than “little”

Also, sadistic. I would love to try to take 10 people on a brutal day on this ridge!

Verdi

Verdi November 30th, 2015 at 9:47 am

Great report! Thank you for sharing it.

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