The Killing of Iron Mountain

Here is a special contribution from a long time riding friend of my mine.   Iron Mountain is (rapidly heading towards the “was”) a classicly technically challenging hike/ride in San Diego County).   People enjoyed this trail because it was hard.    Once again we have well intended but misguided people in charge listening to the vocal minority of the trail users who want to “say” they did something hard without “doing” something that is hard.   There are plenty of sterile dirt sidewalks being touted as trails in the city of Poway.     The city has plans for additional trails, how about putting the sparse resources they have to making new trails instead of screwing of the ones we already have.     

The Killing of Iron Mountain

by: Steve Gordenker

Mark and I had a chance to get up to Iron Mountain, yesterday. We witnessed firsthand, the latest round of “Trail maintenance”, by Poway parks and recreation trails manager, Bob Hahn. Recall if you will, last year, I spoke in front of Poway’s city council, sat in on parks and trails planning meetings, wrote letters, and emails, and made phone calls to city council members and the Mayor.

 What a complete, colossal waste of my time.

The slow death of Iron mountain continues, at the hand of Bob Hahn.

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This is towards the top, at the “Hemotoma” area. Large swath of granite removed.

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Wheelchair accessable.

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Ironic, no?

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They dismantled the Iron Meatball.

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Two military guys were hiking down Iron from the top. This poor guy slipped on the loose, powdery mess that Bob Hahn’s butchers left when they removed large portions of granite. He rolled his ankle badly and was unable to put any weight on it. With no way to walk out, his buddy had no choice, but to carry him out on his back. They were 2.5 miles up at this point.

 Thank you, again, Bob Hahn, for making Iron Mountain a “safer” outdoor hiking experience, by completely obliterating all of that dangerous grippy granite.

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Another iconic section of trail at the top , sanitized for your protection.

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Yet another switchback section cleaned and smoothed out by Bob Hahn’s wrecking crew.

Playing At Iron Mountain

Friday I met Brian and Steve from some TGIF chunkage out at Iron Mountain.

After spending the last month riding (between work stuff) in Washington state it was nice to get back onto some turf/chunk.   Of course it is always good to catch up with friends.  The light was good and the temperatures were great in comparison to the mega-hot temps from just a couple of days earlier.

Steve playing

Brian rocking out

My turn

Trickier than it looks.

Getting some Iron in the Diet

I needed to get some iron in my diet so the Saturday morning ride was Iron Mountain and Ellie Lane.

 This place is well known as a serious chunkfest and I was looking forward to seeing how the UZZI would feel in this stuff.

 Steve was the usual suspect today out playing on the clown bike.

I was pretty effing stoked about how well this bike was handling in the goods out here.   Both and the fork and the shock were responding nicely with not bucking or squating in the travel.  I certainly optested out the bashguard a handful or so of times.

 Steve playing in the chunk.  That is a 3.8 tire on the front if your wondering.

 Another chunktastic section of trail.  Steve accused me of cheating with this bike.

 This drop into the switchback was not the problem.  It was turn afterwards that took me nearly a dozen attempts to get.   Geez, I really need to work on my happy face,  I look way too serious in these shots.

See now this clown looks like he is having fun!

Some stairstep chunk

Playing on the rocks.   We did not do many miles today at all but the terrian certainly made for a pretty high effort to mile ratio.   Good stuff.

Iron Mountain and Ellie Lane

I had been needing a  little Iron in my diet so a ride out at Iron Mountain near Poway was in order.    This place is pretty popular with the hikers so if you are going to ride out here you need to plan to be real patient and mind your trail etiquite  as you will certainly have plenty of interactions.  That is one of the reasons why it is best to do this ride on a weekday.   It has been some time since I was last out here and I was quite shocked to see some of the maintenance that was done to the lower half of the Iron Mountain trail.    There were lots of sections were most of the rocks has been either removed from the trail or buried in decomposed granite.   While it may make the trail smoother in the near term I think it will cause more erosion problems in the long-term than it will fix.   There were some sections that had been needlessly widened and debrushed to the point where they may never recover as the vegitation that stabilized the soil has been removed.  

Luckily the upper half of the Iron Mountain trails has not been touched (yet) so the iconic rocks and technical features of this trail are still intact.   The trail can be quite exhausting on the way up and on more than one occasion I had to stop and catch my brest breath.   I felt like a boob for not being able to clean some of the sections that I have handled in the past. 

After a nice break at the top it was time to play on the way back down.  The chunk of this trail is always a challenge and we sessioned our way back down the trail.

Steve working an interesting line.

One of numerous gnarly switchbacks.

Steve taking a roller

After the Iron Mountain trail we hooked up with the Ellie Lane trail.  I had nearly forgotten how much of a grunter it is get get up up the first saddle where the downhill chunk-o-rama starts. 

Once over the first saddle on Ellie Lane there was some high quality chunk to tackle on the way down.

Steve taking on an interesting line.  After the first chunky descent were would have two more grunt/hike-a-bike sections before the final technical descent of the day.  By the time we got down I was feeling pretty worked over but stoked to have got in some solid technical riding.

From there we had some mellow cruising to loop back over to the trailhead where…. 

the marvels of modern MTB frame designs could be really appreciated.  This Santa Cruz frame features a built-in bottle opener!

Getting a little Iron in my diet.

Yesterday,  Steve (Aquaholic), Mark (HecklerMark) and I decided to get our chunk on at Iron Mountain located between Poway and Ramona.  The weather was a bit brisk and the threat of getting a little wet was moderate.  All of the other times I have done Iron Mountain I have been solo and the temps were high.  Today was a treat by having folks to ride with and not having to stew in my own juices.

There were a metric ton of hikers out today, so trail etiquitte was certainly something we had to be very mindful of today.  As in all of my previous visits here, the hikers are generally freaking amazed that anyone would ride a bike out here.  There were lots of words of encouragements thrown our way both on the climb and then descent.

The weather did not offer the best of views, but I always find it cool to look down from the peak and pick our there vehicle down at the trailhead.   The descent down went well as all three of us seemed to be in a good groove for riding the chunk.

Once back down the mountain, we split off onto the Ellie Lane trail.   I am not fan of the ill-placed peeled-log waterbars, then again they are quite a challenge.  Once we worked our way past the Ramona overlook we into some good downhill chunk.

Steve being Steve on his circus bike.

Mark in some chunk

Getting some chunk on myself.  This was my first time cleaning this sequence.

More Mark Chunkage

Steve and the trail ahead.

The top of “Final Exam” (Trickier than it looks)

Can you tell Steve hates to have his picture taken?

This was by far my best ride out here yet.  A damn fine day on the bike, if you like playing on technical bits and down have a problem with some hike-a-bike.

Beat down at Iron Mountain

I should have known better.    One of those days when I was too stubborn to follow my own advice, and I paid for it with some suffering on the bike.   I decided to ride Iron Mountaintoday.  It was nice and cool with a thick marine layer at my home and Vista so I thought what it will probably be okay out in the Ramona/Poway area where the trails is at.   I got out to the Ellie Lane trailhead around 9AM and it was already warm.  I took Ellie Lane over to the Wild Horse trail and then cutover to the Iron Mountain trail.  I was not even up to the T-intersection with the other end of the Ellie Lane trail and Iron Mountain and the heat was already getting up there.    I had forgotten how the rocky terrain here just radiates the heat back at you.  At the saddle here,  I contemplated that 100 ounces of water may not be enough to do both the Ellie Lane and Iron Mountain trails today.   I thought about just hanging a left here and doing just the Ellie Lane loop.   (This was the smart side of brain thinking).  Instead I decided that I’ll push the decision to later and make my way up Iron Mountain.

Iron Mountain   

From this spot it is only 1.45 miles to the peak.  But it is a beater even on a cool day and today was not a cool day.   Until you get fairly close to the peak you spend most of your time on the east side of the mountain.  The key thing here is that the onshore breeze is blocked resulted in the bake factor being even higher.   This climb is a pick your battle kind of ride, and I hiked a handful of sections.   The heat was sweltering and sapping my energy.

The views at the top were nice as usual and the onshore breeze was taking the edge off of the heat.   I had also slogged up my pads and full-face helmet up the mountain on my pack in preparition the return trip. (I had worn my normal helmet on the climb)  This was my first ride with the new full-face helmet so I was interested to see how it would feel.   A couple of quick thought:  Good field of view, when you are moving there is plenty of airflow and it is a little harder to hear the outside world while you can hear your on breathing very well.  

The descent off of the peak went really well as I cleaned plenty of stuff I had not before.  It was not the chunk that was giving me the troubles, it was switchbacks.  Often times clearing the chunk leaving with little to nothing to work with for getting through the switchbacks.   I sessioned some sections, finally getting some while having to let a couple wait for another day.

Back down at the T-intersection I once again had to think about my options.  The smart choice would have been to skip the Ellie Lane trail as it was freaking hot right now.  I decided to be a big dummy and take the Ellie Lane trail.   I felt good about my decision early on as I got a bit of descending before the trail turned back uphill.   At this point I was once again blocked from the onshore breeze and the temps jumped up.  I was also reminded who bike unfriendly and poorly laid out the numerous waterbars on this trail are.  At nearly ever switchback there is a treated log waterbar that is placed right through the apex of the switchback.   This is no big deal if you are a hiker or an equestrian but these things have the biker approaching them in a nearly parallel direction forcing near-trials like moves to get past them.  Skills I don’t so there as plenty of hiking up to the Ramona Overlook and the saddle.

Yes this is the trail
Yes this is the trail

I was pretty much roasted back the time I got the saddle above the Ramona Overlook.    After slapping back on the protective gear, I had a good run down off the saddle.  Once again really tricky stuff, but I did not session much stuff as I was feeling the need keep moving towards the trailhead.   After this descent there was some more suffering to be had to get up to the tablerock area.  I moved into fully blow survival mode as my water was terribly low the terrain was basically a large rock bowl.  I felt like I was in a brick oven.    I hiked most of the climb up to the tablerock to avoid overheating which I could tell I was close to doing.   I started to be a bit more generous with my water rationing at this point as I was close to peaking out on the last significant climb.   I had the early stage of a headache brewing, not good.   At the saddle there was a little relief from the breeze, but it was not much help at this point.   The full-face helmet would stay in the pack for this section as I felt heat stress was a bigger risk than a header into a rock.

 I got down off the saddle fine, but I could tell my technical skills were not crisp due to my fatigue.  The rest of the ride out was okay and I drained the last bit of my water about a 1/4 mile from the trailhead.  I was beaten down, and hella-fatigued for the rest of the day.  The mileage count was only 11 miles, but I felt like I had done 40.   I think the riding season at the Iron Mountain/Ellie Lane combo is rapidly coming to a close as summer rolls in.