Charlton Peak and Little Charlton Peak 03/26/2022

Charlton Peak (10806 ft) and Little Charlton Peak (10696 ft) are 2 peaks in the San Bernardino Mountains northwest of San Gorgonio. Charlton is on the HPS list and Little Charlton is a small bump less than a half mile to the southeast. My new friend Brian and I intended to climb both from the South Fork Trailhead. Our plan was to take the trail towards Dollar Lake, ascend Dollar Couloir to Charlton Peak, and then traverse the ridge to Little Charlton. I had slept at the trailhead the night before. We got up early and began hiking at 5:47am from 6876 feet above sea level.

We hiked the first few miles in the dark. It was pleasant in the early morning, but we could tell it was going to be another unseasonably warm day. We passed the wilderness sign as it began to get light out.

We proceeded southeast through the burnt pines. I had climbed San Gorgonio the week before from this same trailhead, so this part of the route was very familiar. At 3.7 miles we reached the Dry Lake/Dollar Lake split. Last week I had gone left to Dry Lake. Today we would be going to right towards Dollar Lake.

The sun began to rise over the mountains to the east.

Once we were past the split, the trail made several large switchbacks up the slope to the west.

The trail was very hard to follow and there were many downed trees in the area. We decided to leave the trail and make a more direct line to the peaks. We climbed directly up the slope and then traversed around it to the left.

The side-hilling was pretty tedious, so we dropped down into the snow field on our left side. The snow was steep enough that I decided to put my crampons on.

We got our first good look at Charlton Peak directly south of us. Dollar Couloir isn’t quite visible below. The mouth of the couloir is on the right side, and it ascends up and to the left behind the ridge in the center.

We continued southeast up the snow field. The snow was already kind of soft so we were post-holing more than we would have liked.

We reached a small rise and then curved to the south.

Dollar Couloir was now visible.

As we neared the couloir Brian post-holed and banged his knee against a branch or rock. He tried to press forward but he was in a lot of pain. Thankfully, it didn’t seem like he had pulled or twisted anything, but he decided to turn around and head back to the car. I entered the couloir by myself at around 9800 feet and began the steep ascent to the peak.

The snow in the couloir was in decent shape. I found it to be nice and firm on the left side.

I alternated between front pointing up the couloir and making short switchbacks.

According to Summitpost, the angle of the couloir is mostly around 35 degrees with a max of 41 degrees.

I hit a few soft spots around 10300 feet. I managed to get around it by traversing to the left and ascending a short section in the trees.

I found more soft snow at the top of the couloir. I post-holed up to my calves for the last few dozen feet which was extremely exhausting. Eventually the couloir topped out onto the summit area around 10700 feet.

I hiked up the remaining 100 feet and reached the summit at 10:27am!

The register was likely buried in the snow, so I never found it. The couloir had worn me out, so I took a short break. I then continued southeast towards Little Charlton. I descended about 230 feet to a small saddle between the 2 peaks.

I then climbed up about 120 feet to the summit of Little Charlton. I found the snow to be somewhat firm along the ridge, but I was still post-holing here and there.

I reached the summit at 10:58am! Once again, I didn’t bother to dig through the snow for a register. I had an excellent view of San Gorgonio (left) and Jepson Peak (right).

I noticed ski tracks in the prominent couloir just to the right of Jepson’s summit.

I began the descent after a short break. I hiked back down to the saddle between the 2 peaks.

I decided to bypass the summit of Charlton by traversing around it to the north. This proved to be a mistake. The snow was very deep, and I was post-holing constantly.

Eventually I reached the couloir again. The snow was still fairly crunchy, so I made decent time down it.

I reached the bottom of the couloir and then crossed the snowfield from this morning. This was the worst part of the day. It was very warm now and I basically post-holed across the entire thing. There were points where I was up to my waist for 10 steps at a time. I was extremely exhausted by the time I reached dry land on the other side. I then side-hilled my way across the dry slope and finally reached the trail again. From there, it was about 4 miles to the trailhead. I reached my car again at 3pm. Stats for this hike were 13.5 miles, 4619 feet elevation gain, and 9:14:00 total time.

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