This is a tough mountain! A long and winding ascent from the trail head at 2000 ft to the summit at 5440 ft, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. I think it is about 7 miles to the summit. This trail sometimes has vertical drop offs on the side (including the very first section) so be careful! The trail is never steep until the last rocky scramble to the summit itself.
Started from the old trail head (unmarked) at mile marker 4.5 on Big Tujunga Canyon at 0440. The new trail head is a mile or two further up the road, but this adds a mile each way to what is already a long hike. I was carrying over 12 pints of water because of the desert terrain, and planned to cache 2 pints at each of the the one hour, two hour, and three hour marks as I hiked.
The first several miles of the trail are pretty well graded, I read that in 1998 it had been graded by a miniature bulldozer. I have wondered if this trail had originally been built by the CCC during the 1930s; the trail is carved out of the cliff sides and hillsides. A huge amount of work.
The trail winds up the east side of Vogel Canyon, and placed my first water cache just before it crossed over to Fusier Canyon. Then a couple of easy stream crossings but had to crawl under a couple of downed trees, easy enough.
The trail then switchbacks up the east side of Fusier. I missed a switchback at one point and returned after a couple of minutes. The trail then leads to the other side of the ridge and you can see east into White Oak Canyon and the Big Tujunga Dam far below. Then back across to the west into Fusier Canyon and up to where a there appears to use trail that leads to Fox Mountain. I left my three hour cache of 2 pints here. Strong hiking groups will do Fox and Condor, and even add Iron Mountain #2 to the hike, not me! So I took the trail that traverses around Fox. There is a better use trail after the traverse around Fox; I would recommend this way if you want to do Fox.
Condor has two large lower summits, to the east and west of the main summit. I think of them as the “wings of the condor”. Fairly long uphill section uphill, then reached the top of the east “wing” after a final couple of easy switchbacks. Couldn’t figure it out in the clouds, obviously I was hoping this was the main summit. I got out my compass and realized that where I felt I was walking back east was really west! So I continued on this path and a quick downhill lead to the final rocky scramble.
As I approached the summit I worked Mike W6AH on Mt Williamson and told him I would be on the summit in about 15 minutes; actually it was more like 5. You first reach the east summit and then proceed about 50 yards to the west summit where there is a register in the boulders.
Quite a lot of QSOs on 20m, including Dan NA6MG on Frankish Peak W6 CT-151, and Matt KF7PXT on Ladd Mtn W7W PL-083. Had tried for Dan on 2m, but he was too much in the noise, luckily he was right there for me on 20m. At times I could hear Charles KM6CEM but we were unable to complete a QSO.
Beginning to clear
2m FM: W6AH WA9STI W6KGB KB6CIO K6CMG
20m CW: NA6MG W7RV K6TUY W7CNL NK6A NS7P N7EDK N4EX W0MNA W0ERI WA2USA W7USA AE7AP WA6KYR K7TQ KF7PXT
30m CW: AE9F K6EL
Worked Mike W6AH again between the east wing of Condor and the Fox traverse.
I had noticed that I was getting dehydrated (urine very dark) so began to drink lots more water. By the time I had started down, I had only drunk 2 pints of water, so I started down with 4 pints. Had another two pints of this before I hit my water cache. Reached my three hour cache and drank some more.
3 hour cache
The trail started to feel rather confusing; I missed another switchback and after a couple of minutes it didn’t look right, looked around carefully and went back up the ridge to where the switchback goes back into Fusier and not down the ridge. Then looks confusing again as it takes me to the east out of Fusier to above White Oak Canyon and then back into Fusier! Sheesh!
Reached my 2 hour cache, this had taken 45 minutes down from the three hour cache. I worked Scott WA9STI again, he was mobile.
Obstacle after the stream crossing. Go under! (As of April 2017 this obstacle is very easy to cross; most of it has been removed) There was even another fallen tree at the next stream crossing! (As of April 2017 this other one has been completely removed, see picture at end of this post)
And here is where you start and finish. On the other side of those posts the trail leads up right through a little brush, up over a crest, down a bit then traverses above some steep parts and meets up with the “official” trail after 10 or 15 minutes. Take a sharp left on to the trail; straight on leads back to the road and the new trail head.
An extraordinary “monster” hike. I won’t be doing too many more of hikes this big, I am sure. Knees getting too old. Took 5 hours up, and 3h 45 m down. 3800ft+ elevation gain, at least 14 miles round trip. Other notes: I had carbo-loaded (as for a marathon) the night before with lots of macaroni cheese and ground beef. This worked very well and I had plenty of energy for the hike.
Weather: I selected this day since temps were predicted high of 57F on Mt Wilson (5700 ft) and 65F in Big Tujunga Canyon (1850ft) i.e. a cool day, which was borne out in fact as the day progressed. Winds light 5mph at noon from the SW i.e. a cool on-shore breeze not a gale from the NE Santa Anas. I got more “onshore” conditions than anticipated since the clouds were heavier than I expected, but were OK and kept things cool. As a bonus the moon was just after full, but due to the clouds this was not a real advantage though there was some light from the sky and it was not pitch black. Used the head torch before dawn.
Water: 6 pints would have been just OK. Eight pints was more than enough, I got back to the car fully hydrated. The streams in Fusier Canyon can be used with a purification kit, or without if necessary! They are probably not flowing in the summer; we had some rain two weeks ago which I am sure helped. I took 12 pints to make absolutely sure I would have enough water…
Thank you all chasers!
PS Here is the other fallen tree blocking the trail. I include this picture because I have seen blogs about mountain biking down this trail before the Station Fire. At the moment, I would not recommend biking down this trail; it would be difficult to get a bike through this obstacle. The lush vegetation near this obstacle in the stream would also be difficult to cross. (As of April 2017 this fallen tree has been completely removed)