A Peak with a ReputationBefore I had ever read anything about this mountain, I had seen it on the Crystal Lake USGS 7.5 topo map. I noted the long ridge sweeping up from the south hovering above the ominous sounding Graveyard Canyon to the west. To go to a peak named Rattlesnake along a ridge overlooking a canyon called Graveyard sounded adventuresome. Then I read somewhere that this hike was considered second only to Big Iron in difficulty in the San Gabriels. I decided to see for myself.
February seemed like a good month to shoot for to avoid unduly warm temperatures on the mainly exposed ridge. As chance would have it, I noticed a scheduled outing to this mountain by the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks Section. Although I figured the number of participants would be much higher than on a private outing, I knew the leader and decided to add my name to the list.
And what a list! Twenty-three people showed up. I could only assume the summit would be large enough to hold everyone. The day was perfect for our route: about 60° F. with warm sunshine. And cool breezes awaited us high on the ridge.
Up the RidgeWe began the hike at the trailhead at the end of Shoemaker Road off of the East Fork Road.
We climbed out of the gully and got to a small saddle just west of the pinnacle mentioned above. From this saddle, you could see part of the route, at this point a prominent ridge heading in a westerly direction. We first traveled northwest and then west. Later, the ridge we were following connected with the main south ridge coming down from Rattlesnake. I was surprised at the excellent condition of the use trail because I had heard the route described as a “brush monster.” But at least as of this day, the brush was tame except in a few places where the yucca and buckthorn were leaning over into the trail.
As I moved along, I kept looking over my left shoulder into Graveyard Canyon to see if I could see any indications of how it got its name. But nothing was apparent.
Baby Rattlesnake and Ridge ViewsThe most dramatic spot along the main ridge comes at a point where you go over a bump referred to as “Baby Rattlesnake” and drop precipitously into a small saddle. Looking back as you ascend from the saddle, Baby Rattlesnake is a very striking feature.
The views along the way were fabulous; this is no exaggeration. To the east, Iron Mountain #1 (8,007’) is your constant companion, outdone in stature only by Mt. Baldy (10,064’ ) to the right of Iron. Because of a storm earlier in the week, Iron had a light snow dusting visible and Baldy had a firm white coat to add to the visual pleasure.
As our group ascended, we encountered 3 separate hikers returning from the summit. One of them was SP member Kathy Wing (Wingding), although I only found this out after I saw a picture of Rattlesnake she had posted the next day. Wingding later told me that we looked like a “cheerful” group.
We finally reached the summit and everybody fit on it! No rattlesnakes to be seen.
After a lunch break, we started back down. The main ridge looks even more dramatic sweeping down than going up.
Before we knew it, the beautiful south and east ridges had ended and we found ourselves back on the fire road and then at the trailhead. The consensus was “great hike.” We had done 8-9 miles round trip with about 3,700 feet of gain. Leaders Tom Hill, Pat Arredondo and Pamela Rowe did a nice job of handling the mob they had on their hands.