So I ended up doing Iron again today. I was hoping to give San Jacinto’s Skyline trail a go but I figured the climb up Iron would be more suitable for a speed ascent given the recent snowfall in SoCal. Overall I was pleasantly surprised as to how little the snow impeded my progress. There was good coverage for the last 2000 ft or so and I lost the trail a couple times but the detours and backtracking were pretty minor. Near the top I had to use my hands (cold!) a bit as I slipped a few times on the steep slopes. The most significant snow-related delay occurred at the summit plateau. The snow was much deeper on this flatter section. What was a finishing sprint of sorts last week turned into a postholing slog this time around. Fortunately this section wasn’t very long. I was adequately rewarded though once I reached the summit and the view suddenly transformed into the breathtaking winter wonderland of the San Gabriels. Baldy was spectacular. The faster than expected ascent combined with the juxtaposition of wearing a t-shirt and shorts on top of an isolated summit amidst a snow covered mountain range was quite exhilarating and is an experience I will cherish forever.
While ascending I was keenly aware of the looming slippery descent and was prepared to bail if the danger appeared to be too great. Given the circumstances the conditions were probably about as good as could be expected. Even so, the descent was not without incident. Early in the descent at ~7600 ft while running down the spine of the ridge my shoe clipped a rock and I flew head-first down the mountain. Fortunately when I tripped I was angling towards the warm/soft snow side of the ridge and skidded on a mixture of snow and rocks. I got bloodied a bit and banged my left ankle pretty good. After surveying the damage I started hobbling/limp running. Eventually the ankle pain subsided and I was able to run normally but I cautiously held back on the descent until I was near the bottom.
Based on last week’s ascent I thought I could get close but probably not break the two hour mark. I was pleasantly surprised when I tagged the summit after 1:52:56. My guess is that half of the improvement was due to the additional motivation of trying to do the ascent as quickly as I could and the other half due to an extra week of recovery from a long run I did two weeks prior. The descent took 1:13:55 for a roundtrip time of 3:06:51. Given better conditions, someone could really bomb this descent kamikaze style and probably take a lot off that time. Watch out for the yuccas though. They really hurt when you run into them.
The splits (as many as I could reliably remember anyway):
I started/ended the clock at the TH—what I would consider the appropriate start of the route and not from the parking lot.
0:16 First saddle ~3k ft elevation
0:52 Allison Saddle
1:27 Prominent pine tree one encounters and passes on the left
1:42 Spine of ridge where it ‘flattens’ briefly before the final assault
2:32 Allison Saddle