At 8,007 feet, Iron Mountain is also called the Big Iron or Iron Mountain #1 and was originally called Sheep Mountain by early miners of San Gabriel Canyon and is part of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.
I have been hearing about Big Iron Mountain on my other hikes since last year that it was one of the hardest hikes you will ever encounter. It does not have the higher elevation as other Southern California summits like Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Jacinto, and Mt. San Gorgonio but it is considered the most difficult mountain to climb because of its steepness, terrain, and shadeless areas. I was not fit back then that I put it on hold for quite some time.
Dolores and I originally planned to hike it with Crystal Gonzalez last August 27th but got postponed indefinitely. Instead I hike Mt. Whitney that day which was a blessing in disguise especially when it was in the middle of summer. It was later again postponed and moved from October 15th to November 26th with 3H organizing the event. On the week before the hike, I got FB messaged by Crystal inviting me to come along with her friends to Iron Mountain. I immediately informed Dolores and Meredith Crane about the hike and they said they would love to come.
Our meeting point was at Denny’s restaurant off the 210 freeway on S. Grand Avenue at 3:15 am. We then proceed north east to Glendora Mountain Road, then parked a couple of cars on the right side of the road before the Poopout Trail, and continued driving up to the parking lot at the end of Camp Bonita Road were an Adventure Pass is needed to park here. This is also the same parking lot that most hikers use to do the more popular “Bridge To Nowhere” hike. Glendora Mountain Road is a shortcut that bypass highway 39 but it is a very windy road.
The full moon was bright at the parking lot as we started our hike on a dirt road at 4:30 am. A total of 7 hikers joined the adventure for the very first time except Crystal who had done it including this one as her eighth time this year. What an awesome woman who led us on this strenuous hike. At the start of Heaton Flats Trail was the point of no return and where it begins to climb all the way up. We then passed the Saddle where we turned left and continued our ascent until we reached the sign that says, “Entering Sheep Mountain Wilderness” at 3,197 feet. This was the area where we stack our frozen water bottles and hoping they would still be there when we get back down.
While hiking along the trail, I was annoyed by the bugs roaming around my face. I do have a bug spray but just that day that I did not bring it. When we reached 4,693 feet of elevation and took a short break where we ate our snacks. At this area, we could see Iron Mountain, Mt. Baldy, and Rattlesnake Peak around us.
As we continued our ascent, we lost 2 of our hikers behind us at the point where it was so steep and slippery because of loose gravel that made it tough to climb plus not to mention the Yucca plant’s thorns we were trying to avoid. Crystal waited for 30 minutes at the area where the elevation was above 6,000 feet and after that she caught up with me as I was struggling because my hamstrings and calves were hurting. I was lucky enough that I did not get any cramps. Crystal gave me Ibuprofen to ease the pain and told me to take these before any strenuous hike which I forgot to do earlier. Some areas near the summit are shaded and had a breeze. There was also a bee that was following me. Crystal, the Wonder Woman that she is, swooshed her scarf around my face and the bee flew away. My hero! 😀
One final push up the summit and I finally made it. We got to the top in 6 hours and I think I was 30 to 40 minutes behind the lead hikers. It was not that hot coming up. I was really surprise how beautiful it is up here. I was expecting dried vegetation like the ones I had encountered at Rattlesnake Peak earlier this year. We took photos and ate our lunch. Crystal filled a whole page of her thoughts on the log book.
Fifteen minutes later, we all came down the mountain. It was equally as hard as the one coming up but we did it in half the time. It was tough on our knees as Mark DeBaca and the rest of us felt it. The rest of the group was going down fast while I tried to hike down carefully as to not injure myself. Surprisingly enough, I did not fall on the steeper side of the mountain but on the area of the trail that had loose small rocks which was a good thing.
Dolores became a victim of those Yucca thorns several times. Meredith did her butt surf and so did I but not as much as she did. We came across other hikers coming up and told us that the other 2 hikers that were with us asked them to tell us that they turned around and got back down safely.
The temperature was on the rise as we got close to the bottom and stopped at the sign where we left our frozen water bottles. Some of them still had ice and some already melted. It was refreshing drinking cold water. We all got down at the dirt road and did our hi-fives for completing the hike of this beast of a mountain.
We then proceed to the river and washed our dirty feet, legs, and other parts of the body. We cooled off and relaxed for a bit at that area before heading back to the parking lot. A total of 15 miles to and from Iron Mountain. It was an awesome hike. Thanks to Crystal for showing this beast of a mountain. I will definitely come back for more.