"...the Wise convey it home."
In the San Gabriel Mountains near Mt. Wilson I recently climbed a good but unknown mountaineering route on the east face of Mt. Markham--definitely worth repeating. It's on the spectacular, vertical-looking rock face that you see when you park at Eaton Saddle then walk about 500 feet toward Mueller Tunnel; it's directly across the deep canyon. On 12/4/08 I rope-soloed the first 325 ft, then climbed the last 150 ft ropeless--I was in a big hurry to go pick up my son from school. On 12/11/08 I rope-soloed the route again, this time with a camera. As soon as my wife shows me how, I'll post the pictures! After the 2nd ascent, I have revised some of the route information described here, rating this route 5.5 instead of 5.3. There is some loose rock on this route, and anchors are tricky to find. In 325 ft, I found only 9 locations for cam placements, and some were marginal placements. The route has an exposed, alpine feel, but the climbing is only sketchy for the leader; for the second it would feel like a couple moves of 5.5, a few feet of 5.2, and the rest is 3rd or 4th class. The leader, however, a couple times must deal with loose rock while he is 20-30ft away from his last cam placement. (Btw, I am an experienced climber, having done the N.W. Face of Half Dome, Right Mendel Coulouir, 100s of routes 5.8 to 5.11, etc.)
From Eaton Saddle, a few 100 feet PAST the Mueller Tunnel, you will see a faint game trail on the left that directly enters a dark forest, 20 ft BEFORE the wide trail that goes up left to Mt. Lowe. Walk through this forest (south) about 450 ft to the base of the climb, angling upward on very steep sand, just skirting the base of a stony buttress that extends down into the forest. (You want to avoid the 500 ft steep dirt/scree chute that's directly below this route.) This climb begins on an attractive rock apron that's about 40 ft wide. This apron is directly below the East Face's "central recess," a vertical rock face with long 4th-class ridges on either side. Conveniently, the entire route can be easily viewed from 1/2 mile away. From the car (Eaton Saddle) to the base of the climb is about 30 minutes walking.
Route DescriptionOn the left side of the above-mentioned rock apron, climb a short but steep weakness that has some obvious placements for cams. Not more than 25 ft up, bear left and climb up a low-angled platform area. From here, the climb goes straight up on easier rock (5.0-5.2), following some really nice, pinkish quartz/granite where meltwater has sculpted a couple of obvious pockets where you can stuff some large cams. If you don't SEE these pockets, then you are OFF ROUTE. After the last (large) pocket, climb up on loose rock, then bear left to another low-angled platform area. (Safely bear left about 8ft below that dead log you see above you.) Anchors are hard to find here; but at the back of the platform, on a short vertical wall, there is a 1.5 to 2 inch wide slot for some decent cam placements, which I backed up with a sling around a bush. This is a spectacular belay location! Beware: it's about 30ft between that last large pocket and those 2-inch cams.
From this position, climb about 35ft up (bushes, steep sand, loose rocks--don't dislodge them) to a grungy ramp on the right. I don't recommend the easy-looking chute on the left; it leads you off route. At the start of this right-leaning ramp, there's a deep crack for some big cams. Then climb this easy-but-awkward ramp, using good hand holds on its left sidewall, until you encounter a greenish, 400lb flake that's holding back lots of rubble. The last real difficulty is delicately stemming OVER this suspended flake and its rubble; NOT a good idea to pull or step on that flake! (see photo)
Now you're staring at the wonderful 250 ft central gully that goes straight to the top of Mt. Markham. It's classic 3rd or 4th class with some potential for a catastrophic fall. A belay can be set up about 18ft past that suspended flake, at a rock with some bushes growing on top of it; at their base is a solid 3 to 4 inch wide crack. The rest is fun scrambling up an attractive 50 ft slab and really great steep blocks, with an AMAZING view of nearby cliffs and peaks--the Chamonix of LA County! (Many people will surely desire a belay in this gully.) On top of the last steep blocks and steep rubble, go right until you pick up the adventurous Mt. Markham summit trail. Then it's about 1/2 mile down to the Mt. Lowe trail, where you'll go RIGHT. From Markham's summit to your car, the trail takes about 40 minutes.
Essential GearHelmets, plus a minimum of 7 spring-loaded camming devices, mostly medium to large, 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches, with the emphasis on LARGE CAMS. Cracks less than 1.5 inches seem to be surrounded by fractured rock, but taking along small pro is YOUR DECISION.
External LinksAdd External Links text here.
Other info:This route's a classic intro to mountaineering; unique and adventurous for So. California. A lot of pretty granite, also a lot of loose rock. Rockfall was present; helmets are good; the leader should avoid falling or dropping rocks on his friend! This route is for veteran climbers who know how to climb delicately over loose rock, and who know how to place cams in flaring slots. The novice climber may discover that "easy" climbing is a nightmare when the protection is sparse and the rock is sandy and shattered. A few solid-looking, square-cut holds will come off in your hands, so use the little friction depressions on the smooth, obviously consolidated rock. The greatest danger is the leader dropping rocks on his belayer; the belayer must be safely positioned. P.S. I named this "The Ramp Route," but for all I know somebody else already climbed this face back in the 1950's. Merry Christmas! --Steve (12/12/08)
Disclaimer: Though climbing The Ramp Route is technically easy, it is entirely possible to get killed or injured while doing so. Climb The Ramp Route at your own risk. Any of the above information could be inaccurate or wrong. (SM)
Additions and Corrections[ Post an Addition or Correction ]