17 steady miles (plus a short final scramble) to and from a solitary summit.
Distance: about 16.6 miles (26.7 km) round trip (plus a couple of small knobby detours if desired) Time: 7.5 hours, including a 50-minute lunch break Elevation gain: I think around 4,100 feet (1,250 metres) Difficulty: terrain-wise, easy until the 10 minutes up and down from the peak, which are difficult; navigation-wise, easy; fitness-wise, difficult (just in terms of stamina!) Drive: half an hour (23ish miles) from Glendale/Pasadena, via the 210 and the 2 to Clear Creek, then the Angeles Forest Highway to the Big Tujunga Canyon Rd, which you follow another 4 miles to the trailhead For a version that skips the first mile, see Hiking Guy’s helpful account here Rattlers seen: 1 (very small one taking up an impressive amount of the path!)
Back in LA for a writing/hiking/sunshine month with the tenuous excuse of having flown via LAX to a conference in Tucson after Easter, I’m staying in an Airbnb on the edge of the Verdugo hills, which are beautiful for short midweek sorties without needing the car. The weekends are for the San Gabriels, though. Where to go first? An old favourite? Off-piste with something new?
Having done Josephine and Lawlor on my birthday week here in February (and attempted Hawkins from Islip saddle on the day itself but been scuppered by snow), I thought something brand new would feel good. I didn’t decide until the night before, and spent a while in bed letting my eyes roam over the Tom Harrison “Angeles Front Country” map, lighting on all the familiar names and memories. It struck me that there’s a whole swathe of the middle, north of Big Tujunga Canyon Rd, that we’d never ventured into at all, and Condor Peak caught my eye as a simple-looking route right from the road.
I checked it out online and there wasn’t much to go on, except on AllTrails (which had rave reviews though not many other details if you have neither the paid version nor GPS) and Hiking Guy (whose very detailed write-up, with great images and peak ID pointers, I somehow managed to miss until I was writing this up). But it seemed navigationally simple enough (famous last words! though turned out to be true on this occasion), and although 17 miles was a bit longer than I’d imagined, as a simple out-and-back route I thought I could always stop before the summit if it was too much. (Stupid idea! Making it 3/4 of the way to the top of a mountain and then stopping is a remarkably hard thing to do.)
If you’re thinking of doing this one, bear in mind the low altitude relative to many of the peaks further east, plus the steady (you could say remorseless) climb and the lack of shade. It takes a lot to make me feel dehydrated, but I did by the final third of this, and drank all the liquids I’d brought with me, which is pretty unheard-of. I also concluded I need squidgier insoles for my next one! On the other hand, the simplicity and the length and the solitude make for a splendidly mind-altering experience. I had many new and valuable thoughts, and came back down to civilization feeling richer.
So, after faffing around having breakfast and making lunch etc., and then going to a couple of places to find an adventure pass for the car, I didn’t get to the trailhead until 10.
A few more minutes, down where the scramble starts. Not convinced.
After 50 minutes at the top, including a brief doze, I forced myself up, aware of how far I’d come and how the afternoon was racing by (nearly 3 pm already). Immediately you get great views back over to Fox (the first sharp lump in the middle) with Josephine and Strawberry next up, and Wilson in the haze beyond them.
And the view the other way, with the car enticingly visible.