Lawson and Gaskill Peaks – Peaks #29 and 30 – Braving the weather

Lawson Peak shrouded in clouds from the Lawson Peak Trail

Lawson Peak shrouded in clouds from the Lawson Peak Trail

Lawson Peak:
Elevation: 3,664′
Miles: 4.5

Gaskill Peak:
Elevation: 3,836′
Miles: +2.5 (added to total above)

Trailhead

All week the weather report stated that Sunday was going to be sunny. However, late Saturday night, the weather report changed to showers and sun. On my way to the trailhead, I had to slow the car down on the freeway to 40mph, since was raining too hard to see anything out of my windshield. Since I could see some blue skies to the west, I decided to chance hiking the trail today.

Once I got to the trailhead, there were plenty of clouds, but no rain. I headed up the dirt road, which was also a stream more often than not. I could see some Jeep tread marks in the trail, but couldn’t imagine anyone trying to drive up this steep, muddy road today. I encountered plenty of small waterfalls and some giant puddles as I made my way up the contoured road that lead to the ridge line above. Lawson and Gaskill Peaks were above me somewhere in the clouds. Normally, I can get my bearing based on landmarks, but for much of the first portion of the hike, everything was enshrouded in fog.

Looking down to the valley floor, I could see rays of light poking through the clouds. The day was threatening to be beautiful, but it just wasn’t there yet. The clouds were moving above me, rapidly heading to the east.

Dramatic Lighting on the Lawson Peak Trail

Dramatic Lighting on the Lawson Peak Trail

Rays of light on the Lawson Peak Trail

Rays of light on the Lawson Peak Trail

I reached the ridgeline and started climbing the boulders of Lawson Peak just as the rain started. It wasn’t too bad, so I kept going up. The wet rocks made climbing precarious, and when I neared the summit, the wind started howling. And then it hailed.

Rather than take my pictures and video at the summit I wisely decided to descend out of the wind as soon as possible. Scrambling up and down wet boulders in freezing wind, rain, and hail isn’t my idea of a good time. I also did not want to slip and break anything. It’s a good idea, especially when hiking alone, to make safe choices.

Lawson Valley from just below Lawson Peak Summit

Lawson Valley from just below Lawson Peak Summit

I got back to the trail and headed to the small, unmaintained use trail that leads to Gaskill Peak. It took a bit to find in the rain. From this trail, I could see Lake Barrett, glistening in the temporary sun. In a matter of seconds, I was even wetter than before, since the thick brush I was hiking through was soaking wet. The trail follows the ridge, sometimes over large flat rock ledges, culminating in the brush-choked boulder pile that is Gaskill Peak.

Lake Barrett from the Gaskill Peak Trail

Lake Barrett from the Gaskill Peak Trail

By then,  I was a little edgy, since I was wet and cold and simply wanted a peak that I could just walk up to, rather than crawl through dense brush or hoist myself up slippery granite. I also was hit with high winds, the second I came close to the peak. After risking life and limb on Gaskill Peak, I again wisely descended to shoot some pictures and video.

Looking up to Gaskill Peak

Looking up to Gaskill Peak

Lawson Valley from near Gaskill Peak Summit

Lawson Valley from near Gaskill Peak Summit

From just below the peak, I could see some Jeeps creeping up the dirt road upon which I had hiked. They must like a challenge. By the time I got back to the junction near the foot of Lawson Peak, the Jeeps (and one pickup) were all lined up on a large outcropping.

Jeep Club near Lawson Peak

Jeep Club near Lawson Peak

As I headed back down the trail, the sun came out and gave me some nice views of the area and of Lawson Peak.

Lawson Peak from the Gaskill Peak Trail

Lawson Peak from the Gaskill Peak Trail

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Comments

  1. Mike Howard says

    I hiked up Lawson Peak Wednesday, June 09, 2010. On the rocks where your jeeps are pictured the last group of easy access, drive to the top folks, left empty shell casings hundreds of them (illegal fire arm usage), beer bottles (smart, alcohol and firearms), water bottles, trash from lunch, and then ran one of their vehicles through the manzanita to take a short cut back to the dirt road.

    That rock face looking south over Japatul Valley is completely trashed at the moment waiting for your club to drive up and clean it up. Better yet, why not walk-up and carry some trash bags and clean it up? That way you get some excercise, and maybe, just maybe, come to appreciate what the silence and a clean environment should look like.

    I have to wonder what it would be like to come across three jeeps of people, drunk, with firearms, with my kids and wife. Why don’t they close that road to the top. I think I’ll call the Forest Service and find out.

  2. says

    I want to be clear that I was not part of the group of Jeeps that I saw on my hike. Your comment was likely aimed at a few bad off-roaders. I wouldn’t want to necessarily close this particular trail to vehicles, as I feel that OHV enthusiasts and hikers can reasonably share trails. That being said, this was by far the most-littered trail that I have seen in San Diego. I’d hate for a few bad apples to ruin off-roading for everyone, but it sounds like they’re working on it.

  3. Seadog says

    I was suprised you did not mention the sign in log in a box at the top of Gaskill Peak with hiking comments dating back to the early 1990’s.

  4. says

    It was a little unsafe for me that day to dawdle at the peak, the risk of lightning and slipping in the high wind, rain, and hail had me a bit on edge and I didn’t spend my usual time at the peaks opening summit registers and browsing around.

    I normally sign and photograph summit registers, as you can see from my other reports, but the weather this day got the better of me.

    I hope to try your wines soon. I am growing a very small amount of Syrah vines in my backyard.

  5. says

    I did this hike, well half of this hike, last weekend. I wish I had a better excuse for not making it to Gaskill other thank my legs were jello after Lawson, but I don’t. I wasn’t expecting the near-vertical push to the top but it was still a fun hike. I will for sure return to do Gaskill.

    I am really starting to enjoy these hikes. I must be getting into shape or something like that (lotsa stretching helps too). ;)

    As always, thanks for everything.

    9/100

  6. says

    Great post and the pictures helped out a lot! Hiked it this past weekend and it was great. I blogged about it on my website. Also, there are pictures and videos from there. Thanks again and great job!

    XtremeHikers.com

  7. Bryce says

    Did both peaks today. The hike was awesome. Loved the scrambling to get to the top. Definitely will go back in the future. Trail to Gaskill Peak was hard to find–actually walked by it the first time and had to turn around to get to it. For those reading this who go in the future, when you are on the main trail/road, look for a trail off to the left after you pass Gaskill, then look for a small opening with a large boulder. The trail up to the peak is off to the left. Wish I had taken a picture. My hiking buddy and I placed some cairns hoping it would help others. If you keep walking and see the old car, you’ve gone too far!!

    Overall, a great hike with spectacular views.

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