I have been really interested in hiking Iron Mountain for a long time but was not really crazy about soloing it, given its steep incline and rough trail. Today I had an opportunity to go a bit under halfway up it to scope it out and prepare for summitting it next time.
I began my hike at about 8:30. I originally wanted to start at about 6:30. That didn’t work 🙂 Nonetheless… I parked at East Fork’s lot (Bridge to Nowhere parking lot) and walked maybe .4 miles or so to Heaton Flat, just off the road. There, two trails link up. If you keep going straight, you go towards the Narrows (Bridge to Nowhere) and if you go to the right up the Heaton Flat trail, you head towards Iron Mountain. I headed right.
The incline was steep, reminiscent of the Bear Flat/Bear Canyon/Baldy Village trail. If you’ve been up that trail like I have, you probably remember how that one felt 🙂 Nonetheless, I maintained a 2.0-2.3 mph pace or so and kept my heart rate within 70-80% as best I could. That is actually something I have been attempting recently with success – keeping a lower pace and taking less breaks. Huh. It actually leads to more endurance. Imagine that. But I digress.
The trail winds and turns and switches back and switches back again, all along a mountain ridge. After about a mile and a half or so, I was greeted with a beautiful view of Baldy to the Northeast and Baden Powell to the Northwest, both snow-capped but probably not for much longer unfortunately. The trail continues and past the 3,000′ mark or so, it gets sketchier and overgrown. The bees were out in full splendor today and I think I actually got stung under my Arc’Teryx pants by one. Lame. I really really hate bees. The trail has some very narrow parts that overlook pretty steep drops… just gotta keep looking straight and moving- not looking over the edge at other mountains.
I turned around at about the 4100′ mark or so. I reached a point of about 4100,’ then dropped down to about 3900,’ and back up to 4100.’ As I previously stated, I did not intend on summiting today but, instead, wanted to do a nice, solo hike with a bit of recon. Mission accomplished. I denied my peak-bagging instincts and turned around. Descent was much easier than expected and took me about an hour, give or take. I feel a bit bummed that I did not continue on, especially after hearing from so many people about the 2000′ hellish scramble up Iron, but that day is coming very, VERY soon. If you want to come with, let me know.
Here are some things that I would recommend for someone interested in hiking this trail:
1. No bee allergies 🙂
2. TREKKING POLES! They’re a life saver, especially on trails like this.
3. Long pants that are abrasion resistant and that go over your shoes. There is a lot of very sharp Yucca along the trail and you do NOT want to get cut by that stuff. It also helps to have long pants with the bugginess (bees and lots of flies) on this trail.
4. WATER. I went through approximately 2L or so on this trail. Doing the math, that computes to somewhere around 5-6L for a round trip, at least. If it was hotter than it was (bit under 70 degrees), you’d want even more water. And there are no water sources after the beginning of the trail. For what its worth, too, I drank about 5 servings of Hammer gel. That was the only food I ate but bringing more food than that is a very good idea, especially for the summit.
5. Fully charged camera battery. Mine was already on red at the beginning of the hike and I was spared my camera for that reason. This hike overlooks some beautiful terrain and you’ll want to capture it on camera for sure.
And on one more side note: I have recently been trying a new N.O. mix called Muscle Marinade. It tastes awful, but seems EXTREMELY effective. After burning 2600 calories today, my muscles do not feel any fatigue or soreness whatsoever. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good after a hike (or during a hike for that matter). Will post more on it as I use it more.