It has been awhile. After being struck by a car door in late September while cycling down the road, suffering a broken hand that required surgery, hiking had to take a personal back seat. At last, the body was healed enough to head out. So, what better way to enjoy the cool, fall weather than to see the view from the top of Saddle Mountain in the Mazatzals?
Two things about the area: 1) the aesthetics are top-notch, 2) climbing to the top was not the most enjoyable thing in the world
. Not that there's any regret doing it, but I'd bet against a repeat ascent anytime.
After cruising up to the quiet Mormon Grove TH, we followed the Saddle Mountain Trail through saddles and in and out of drainages, taking in the panoramic views. Mt Ord and the Four Peaks still carried a good amount of snow, and yellow ribbons in the canyon bottoms of autumn foliage reminded me what I'd been missing the last couple months.
At the foot of Saddle Mountain, I spied a brush-free line to within a couple hundred feet of the top. Not bad. Up Tanya and I went, easily getting within 400 feet on the top within short time. After that, progress slowed down big-time. Thick, hideous brush guarded all routes on all sides of Saddle's summit.
Hopping on rocks while we could and pushing through oak, the ridgeline just never seemed to end. The terrain got rougher and the brush got thicker the closer we got. A nice cool breeze helped, as now we were on the narrow, airy ridge, near Saddle's summit. We were nearing the south (false) summit, so I knew the key would be finding a route down into the, well, saddle of the south and the north points. Tanya had enough by this point, and I considered (really, I did) calling it a day, too, but I spied a "gentle" route down off the false summit and the rest of the climb to the true top looked pretty easy. What the heck? Let's see what happens.
The snow got thick (maybe 4-6 inches deep) and the brush got thick too, but I found a way down, then cruised along the saddle to Saddle Mountain's top! What was there? Incredible views in all directions - no summit register, no benchmarks (that I could find, I'm sure there's one around though), and no sign of people. Perfect. Tanya could easily see me from the south summit, and seeing her made me hasten back. Time to get off this brushy thing.
The descent was smooth and we were both happy to be on the gentle Saddle Mountain Trail again and out of the wind. A few brush scratches (of course, it's the Mazatzals!) were some souvenirs, as we enjoyed our afternoon stroll back to the car. Nice to be out again...