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Telegraph Peak, Thunder Mountain, Timber Mountain

23 December 2000

By: Erik Siering

Off the Beaten Path to The Three T's

There are fine ways to hike the "Three T's" (Telegraph, Thunder, Timber) on trail, generally starting from either Baldy Notch or Icehouse Canyon. A car shuttle may be used for one-way trips. These peaks, with Mt Baldy, form the head of San Antonio Canyon. This year's late, dry winter permitted me to try a pair of routes that looked appealing (at least on the maps!). Both proved to be fun loop trips.

I had earlier hiked the trails, as well as done a snowclimb route up Thunder Ridge to Thunder Peak (Lookout, May-June 2000). This time I started from the Icehouse Canyon trailhead (5000'), turning onto the pleasant Chapman Trail in 3/4 miles to reach the campsite on the wooded bench of Cedar Glen in 2-1/2 miles (6400'). One can ascend the drainage directly, but this offers little over the Chapman Trail. A spring flows below Cedar Glen.

Telegraph Peak (8985') and Timber Mountain (8303')

Stats: 13 mi, 4000 feet gain r.t.
From Cedar Glen, I scrambled up the ridge that bisects Cedar Canyon. It angles northeast onto the Telegraph Ridge north of Point 8921', intersecting the trail to Telegraph Peak. Brush low on the ridge can be circumvented on game trails, usually to the northwest side. I had started up the wash to the right, which culminates in a treacherously steep and loose headwall. In an obstinate funk, I traversed onto the ridge by means of an unpleasant class 4 crack. Not recommended. Better to gain the ridge directly from Cedar Glen. It goes easy class 2 all of the way.

The route offers great views of Icehouse Canyon. I returned on trail, over Timber and Icehouse Saddle, to descend to the parking area. Near Columbine Spring, I passed a couple with a pair of well-behaved pack llamas.

Thunder Peak (8587')

Stats: 10 ml, 3400 feet gain r.t.
Once again from Cedar Glen, I traced the wash west of the aforementioned ridge to the saddle (8200'+) between Thunder and Telegraph. The bits of brush low and near the saddle can be simply skirted on the left side. This canyon is delightful wooded terrain with occasional game paths.

From the saddle, I hiked west on trail to Skyline Run on the quiet and virtually snow-free Mt Baldy Ski Lifts. I took in a brief snack on the deck of the Lift #3 (Thunder Chair) hut atop the summit. As a ski patroller, I'd helped construct the deck a few years ago. I carefully walked down steep Robin's Run - I'd have much rather been skiing it! From the base of the lift in Miners Bowl, I turned onto a dead-end dirt road. Past the pump building, I descended into San Antonio Canyon via Big Butch Wash.

This was more pleasant wooded terrain. The one steep stretch, a dry waterfall, is easily negotiated on the right. Lingering pools of water had many interesting animal tracks about them. Big Butch Wash culminates in a broad, boulder-filled avalanche chute. This lends the disconcerting air of being a soft-bodied bowling pin in a very large bowling alley. I hurried down, though it was perfectly safe when dry. A careless snowboarder died in a snow avalanche nearby in South Bowl several years ago during an El Niño storm. He'd crossed into ski area closure, was swept down slope and buried, wrapped around a tree.

Big Butch Wash emerges onto the Mt Baldy Road across from Manker Flat, at Movie Slope. Movie Slope is where lift-served skiing began in San Antonio Canyon [told at The Mt. Baldy Story]. Mt Baldy Tows, the precursor to the Mt Baldy Ski Lifts of today, began at Movie Slope with one rope tow in 1944. Eventually, there were four operating tows, and in 1952 today's ski area at The Notch was established for its more reliable snow. The original base building, the Hogan, still stands inhabited as a residence. From here, I hoofed it back down the road.

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