When the front door is closed, try the back door

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    • #4958

      But beware! Spent the last three days with my son camped at the confluence of North Fork and South Fork White Water. Made arrangements with folks at Whitewater Preserve. They are great. Lot’s of exploring to do, but fair warning there be monsters back there! (and they like to kick off rocks above you). A truly amazing place, but bring stiff boots, lots of sunscreen, snake gaiters, and a sat com device with a handy SOS button.

    • #4959

      Cool.  Glad you were able to get out!

    • #4961

      Brian–you guys are always getting up to something interesting!  Clever approach/destination plan.  I’d imagine that’s fairly deep in Big Cat country-perhaps more so now, with last year’s fires to the west maybe pushing game stock thataway (hence rockfall your way?).  Thanks for the report and forewarnings…some pics would be cool to see too!

    • #4965

      It was funny that we didn’t see any wildlife at all since the area seems a superhighway for it. I think it is because in that area we spent so much time looking at our feet for stable footing (and rattlesnakes). We did stumble on a very active bear den, minus the, what appeared to be, a pretty aggressive bear. But the whole area sends off a vibe of being watched. On the full moon we sat in the middle of the wash as it was lit up like day time. My son commented on how exposed we felt. We had both reviewed the 2010 pics linked to in this forum of the three cats at Middle Fork Jumpoff and also noted his claims that the Middle Fork Jumpoff makes the Mill Creek Jumpoff look like Poopout Hill. We agree with that and decided to abandon our attempt to get to the top. It just felt too risky and too far back in there. Apart from a few sketchy moves required, rockfall is a constant issue. I got tagged in the finger. Also from below, it’s clear that the fire burned right to the drop.

      We did finally did succeed in making it down to the NF (and back up) above the falls via the west saddle. So cool. We traveled up river a ways, but both of us have a bad habit of telling ourselves “just one more corner,” and the it was our last day and the “mom clock” was ticking. But we both agree that just exploring up to Hell for Sure Falls and to the falls on the NF would be well worth the price of the hike in. We had gone to Hell for Sure Falls on a day hike a few weeks before.

      Special thanks to Hikin’ Jim for the inspiration on going to Hell for Sure and his description of the approach (which we think we have refined, and will happily share what we’ve learned to anyone interested.)

    • #4968

      Hi Brian, thank you for the insightful post. I would be very interested in hearing more details about the Hell For Sure refined approach, how you connected with the folks at Whitewater Preserve, and the general areas you hiked.

      I am relatively new to the SGWA, but was able to get in a few multi-day trips prior to the fires last fall. I drew a deer tag for D14 and was planning to do a true backpack style hunt in the Northfork Meadows area. When I would scout, I would usually set up camp at Mineshaft, then we heading out for the day I would cut straight up to Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, traverse the ridge to what Hikin’ Jim refers to as Hell For Sure Peak in one of his blogs (not sure if that’s an official peak name or his name for it, but it is essentially the last high point on the ridge), then I would cut back down to the Northfork Whitewater. Cutting down to the river was sketchy at times, but I’d just take it one step at a time and be extra safe. Interesting side note, I believe I stumbled across the wreckage of the private jet that was carrying Frank Sinatra’s mother. I started noticing small pieces of metal just a few hundred yards below Hell For Sure Peak, then came across what I believe to be a wing about 1/3 of the way down the canyon.

      So, your post really interests me because part of the reason I like going to this area is due to how remote and rugged it is. I never saw a single soul (just a lot of deer). If I could explore the Hell For Canyon area, then I feel like I would have somewhat of a good gauge of what lies all the way from San Gorgonio Peak, down to Mineshaft/Lake Peak/10K ft ridge, down to Northfork Meadows, down to the lower areas of Hell For Sure Canyon, etc.

      I would prefer to go with someone for safety reasons, especially when cutting down from 10K foot ridge, but don’t have anyone that’s been willing to do that. I do have a sat communicator with SOS, a med bag, etc.

      One of my biggest questions is even though you’re entering through the preserve, if you cut into the SGWA, are you technically allowed to be there?


    • #4969


      To your last question first: I have the same question. This was on my mind when we went to Hell for Sure. When we got back to the Preserve, I told the ranger where we had gone and that we were interested in backpacking up there. He was enthusiastic about the idea, and when I filled in my permit to leave the car overnight in the Preserve, I put our itinerary down and his response was “sounds like a great trip.” So for logistics, I would just call the office and tell them what you want to do. They’ll send you a parking pass and gate code so you can get out if you return to your car after hours.

      Our explorations in the area you describe were limited. We went to the base of Hell for Sure Falls only. We did that for a day hike and it’s about an 18 mile round trip. We were tempted to climb above it on the west ridge, but it wasn’t yet daylight savings time so we had to get back.

      I can tell you that the Sinatra’s mother’s crash site is on the 10,000 foot ridge, but not exactly where. I went there with my dad about forty years ago, not too long after the crash. He was an SG wilderness ranger at that time and we lived at Horse Meadows during the summers.

      As to getting in to Hell for Sure, Hikin’ Jim speaks of an old road that intersects the PCT. This intersection is about 5 miles from the Preserve, up and over a short pass and just passed the fork to Stone House. The road goes all the way to a saddle that overlooks the wash almost directly across from where the South Fork comes in and not too far below Hell for Sure canyon.

      We took this route in to Hell for Sure the first time. My son spent time on google and had a clear sense of how it went. Apparently you can see it all very clearly from the satellite view. On the way back, however, we stopped where the old road leaves the canyon we were in, takes a turn to the north and switch backs up over a small summit before continuing on to the PCT. The canyon we were in looked like it would take us right back to near where PCT crosses the White Water at Red Dome. But it looked pretty brushy. We decided to risk it, knowing how “short cuts” often end up. But it was a dream. You end up in the wash that might as well be a road. We just stayed in the wash and wound our way easily back to PCT, cutting off the corner and two climbs.

      So . . . for going out to Hell for Sure: (1) cross the WW at Red Dome and continue on PCT  just until the very north end of the wash–right before PCT leaves the wash and heads up over the pass; (2) turn left up the wash and stay right against the hill; (3) wind through the wash always keeping to the right channel until you come to an old fence post with some rusted barbed wire; then take the left; (4) follow this wash up maybe a mile or so until you see a small knoll in front of you (looks maybe man made). The wash at one point comes very close to the knoll. The old road lies between the wash and knoll.  It’s all pretty self explanatory from there.

      Our main discovery about hiking in the wash is to stay in it. For me this was the opposite of my experience in the mountains, which generally tells me that traveling down in a drainage is harder. But in the wash, if it looks easy, go that way. If you can see 50 meters of smooth sailing, gobble them up and then look for the next clear path. Avoid the ridges and avoid vegetation. You will meander quite a bit, but the traveling is smooth and easy. Case in point: when we hit the main wash to Hell for Sure on our first trip after descending from the saddle on the old road, we tried to basically go up the middle of the wash, as it seemed the most direct way. This was difficult going. The second time, we got down in the gully on our right hand side (going up) and hugged the mountain. It’s smooth sailing basically up to Hell for Sure.

      Hope this helps some and sorry I have no Beta on the ridges above Hell for Sure Falls, other than noting that the area looks very steep, dry, and brushy–what Hikin’ Jim called Two-Snake Hill, or something like that. Based on our experience, just be prepared to be denied time and again either cliffed-out or brushed-out. But we sort of like that.

      Good luck.

    • #4966

      a few pics


      Approaching MF Jumpoff


      Falls on NF just above confluence with MF

      Above the falls on NF

      Don’t slip!

    • #4967


      NF – falls blocking canyon near confluence w/ MF


      MF Jumpoff

      NF – canyon above the falls accessed from saddle to west

      Don’t stand too close!

    • #5134

      Brian–thanks for sharing your pics!  And for disabusing me of the foggy senior notion that I could climb MFJO to loop back to MCJO.  That is one burly obstacle.  (& cool to see Milo again–he’s certainly grown up alot since our last encounter!)

    • #5164

      We, too, really liked the idea of heading up over MFJO and down to MCJO, or the reverse. And we still don’t know how doable the top part of MFJO is. It looks pretty sketchy and I haven’t seen any report since 2010 of someone getting up it. Anyone? Anyone? Erosion is happening in real time up there.  Next time I will carry a helmet. And go back to making Milo bring one too. I’ve made him wear one both trips over MCJO. One big difference to keep in mind between the two is that by the time you get to MFJO, you are as far away from any help as anywhere you can possibly be in the Wilderness.

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