Gold Dollar Mine – San Antonio Ridge – Iron Mountain Triple
A combo hike to reach the most inaccesible mine of Iron mountain
17 miles, 9000 ft gain
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On a trip back to LA with a Saturday free, what to do? Or should I say, what hike to do?
This was a hike for settling unfinished business. Never doing the challenging part of San Antonio ridge (Gunsight Notch), and failing to reach the Gold Dollar mine in my last attempt (that at least ended up reaching Eagle mine). So let’s get’em both, and why not add Iron mt summit to top it off? Sounds like a big day? It was.
Fortunately I was able to get a small group of extremely strong hikers (Steve, Fern, & Frank) to come along. We headed off from the East Fork parking lot at about 5:30 am and started a brisk ascent that got us to Allison / Coldwater saddle less than 90 min later. From there, we took the old Coldwater trail down (which I had done twice before) which is decently brushed over and becoming a little more washed out. At one point Steve managed to slip off the trail into the brush so quickly that is just looked like he vanished!
Down in the canyon, we headed up Dry Gulch to the Widco / Baldora mine ruins, which I’ve documented twice previously. Fern climbed on top of the stamp mill and showed that the ball bearings were in surprisingly good shape!
Now, like the route to reach Eagle mine, we began heading up the west side of Gold Dollar ridge. This time I seemed to find and follow the faint old use trail and kept switching back across the slight ridge spur we were on. Eventually I lost it, but just headed straight up. This was quite steep and exhausting. The 2 steps up, 1 step down sort of ascent.
(Gunsight Notch from below Gold Dollar ridge)
With a strong group, we made it up to the ridge in good time. Now for the tricky part that I messed up last time. The mine resides on the west side a few hundred feet below the ridge top. To get there, you have to follow an old trail that veers off the ridge, generally maintaining the same elevation. If you pass it up, you’ll run into some cliffed out sections.
I was able to find and track the old trail this time, and we were making good progress, until we came across some rock fields just before the cliffy rock. There was no sign of a trail here; we just went with a ‘best option’ to navigate around the rock and made it to the other side without too much effort. Steve did almost through a huge rock onto my head, but luckily I had moved and thwarted his attempts.
A few minutes more of traversing, and voila, ruins! A whole bunch of them. Lots of terraces, concrete foundations, stoves, cables, hoes, clippers. we hung out and played around a bit, before starting back up to the ridge. We followed a cable that still attached to trees at both ends at least a few hundred vertical feet apart!
We continued straight up the ridge to the high point and terminus along San Antonio ridge. This was a lot of work, and basically the halfway point. But still we had to deal with Gunsight Notch and reaching Iron mountain.
After a food break, we continued on west. Just before reaching the notch, we noticed a group climbing up it as well as another hiker relaxing near us. Turns out it was Dagmar, who we knew and has hiked with us before. She was with a Sierra club group (led by the Doggetts) who were doing an out and back from Baldy (she wasn’t feeling up to the notch part).
As others have noted, the notch looks more intimidating that it actually is. For my route, there was one move in which I was glad the rock didn’t break (and trust me I tested it out first!), but the rest was moderate and fun. Maybe there was more crumbly rock in the past which has been removed by the increasing use?
We eventually caught up with the Sierra Club group and followed them up to the summit. As usual, the views were great as Iron probably offers the best 360 in the San Gabriels. We hung out for a a while. At some point I noticed movement maybe 200 m away on the ridge that I didn’t see again. Just as we were getting ready to leave 15 min later, we see 3 hikers heading up the final slope – turns out to be Rick Kent, Rick Graham, and GigaMike. They were an out and back from Baldy Village. Gee, I guess Rick’s ankle has healed up well!
The next 2 hours were full of classic Iron – leg-pounding steep descents. I slipped a bit at one point and my hand landed right on some buckthorn, piercing my fingertips’ flesh in 4 spots. That’s Iron for you.
Past Allison/Coldwater saddle along the osciallating ridge, we encountered some infestation of bees on the trail. They were just hovering, hanging out. Didn’t seem like they were in a hurry to move. Then we heard some high pitched chirps. What was it? The bees flew away. We hike a few more minutes, and run into a whole slew of folk including Tina and Frank (asbufra), who kindly waited 1/2 hour for us. We all suffered throug the last 2 miles which seemed to be killing my feet. I guess this sort of 9000 ft cross-country hike can get to you!
I was grateful to hear the East Fork water and see the fire road. Another time I can’t believe I have hiked this trail. Will it be the last? Probably not, but I’m sure it will probably be a while.
Even still, there’s always more exploration, even in this specific area. Of course there’s the north ridge. More interesting would be to attempt a Big Horn ridge ascent following the original trail out of Coldwater Canyon. It’s not looking like I’ll get to that.
So someone, please go do it!
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 9th, 2011 at 8:48 pm 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.