Retreat from a Galena Peak "Bowling Alley"
At 9324' Galena Peak is not that impressive being a mere bump next to the 10 and 11,000' peaks around it. But we were looking at our topo maps for some north facing steep slope to find some ice or at least hard snow climbing. My friend was going to be finishing Army ROTC and we wanted to do something before he went "active". We had met when we were on the same search and rescue team (a desert rescue team) and frequently would go climb something together.
I had often looked up Mill Creek Canyon and seen the north face of Galena Peak from Interstate 215. The topo only confirmed this: steep, north facing, and as a bonus, relatively easy access from Forest Falls. There had been quite a bit of snow that winter and then a long spell of sun and warmth that would condition the snow through repeated freeze/thaw cycles. After parking at the end of Mill Creek (trailhead) we set off. The snow on the creek bed was usually firm enough to walk on without plunging through and in a short time reached from what we could tell by the map and visual sighting the best and most direct chute up the north side of Galena.
Conditions were great, hard firm snow, the kind you can crampon up with ease but would be suicidal without crampons and axe. As we continued to ascend, the sun continued to rise and warm the slope. Rock fall began and we thought that perhaps we should have got an earlier start. Soon we were in a chute with steep rock walls on both sides and rock fall increasing in both frequency and size.
After playing dodge ball up the chute with grape to baseball sized rock fall, about 500' below the summit I heard some large noises that could only mean something big was coming. We both retreated off the perfect crampon snow/ice of the chute to hug opposite rock cliffs on the sides. Sure enough a torrent of rock came bouncing down the biggest rock being the size of a refrigerator that took about six bounces as it flew past us (reminded me of being in a pinball machine). Needless to say, we retreated after that (it was only getting warmer as the morning wore on and rock fall continued.
From the other trip reports of Galena Peak, I can only say this is not a very "friendly" area to climb in. The rock in the area is in such bad shape in part because Mill Creek is one of the branches of the San Andreas Fault.
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