Monday, March 27, 2017

Peralta Hills High Point

Hiked: 3/24/2017
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 1180'
Elevation Gain: 688'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.55
Round trip time: 40 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Serrano Park
Difficulty: Easy

Peralta Hills is in the City of Anaheim, more commonly known as Anaheim Hills. The high point is a minor peak, but has been visited by a number of people with higher standards than me. It was also close enough for lunchbagging, a peak I can summit on a work day lunch break. Others had climbed Peralta Hills from the north starting at E Twin Circle. I wanted to make a longer cardio effort from the south so I parked at Serrano Park. The park has nice restroom facilities and there was only one other visitor walking their dog when I arrived. After studying the topo, I also wanted to look for the "Olive 1" benchmark, just south of a water tower along the ridge.

From the parking lot, I headed west (left) carrying only my phone, looking for a use trail toward the electrical tower. The trail was completely overgrown with spring vegetation. I circled around, eventually heading up into the healthy undergrowth of soft plants before hitting a service road leading to the tower. I followed the partially overgrown service road all the way to the ridge where the road was clear, turned east and jogged to the small bump leading to the high point. The hills were bright with yellow and purple flowers. Then I reversed course and jogged west to the water tower, following a use trail through tall weeds to the south side looking for Olive 1. I found a damaged marker that might have been the Olive 1 benchmark. I decided to try to make a loop out of the trip by descending the east side service road so I passed below the high point again on the way down. When I reached the point above the park, I could have dropped down a steep slope, but I thought the service road would meet the road leading to park shortly. I continued down the road but it led behind a row of houses with no outlet. Not seeing a way out, I went back up the service road and followed a concrete drainage channel back to the road. On the way back, a bee landed in my hair and I brushed it out. But it harassed me all the way back to the park where I ended its tormented existence with my towel.

Starting in the park, high point not visible

Field of flowers heading to the electrical tower

High point ahead

Looking down toward the Park

Use trail to Olive 1 benchmark

Probable remains of the Olive 1 benchmark

Looking back at Peralta Hills high point descending the east service road

Saturday, March 18, 2017

El Montanon and High Mount Benchmark

Hiked: 3/17/2017
Distance: 9.3 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1808'
Prominence: 1333'
Elevation Gain: 2074'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.65
Round trip time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: $59 Island Packers round trip boat fare
Difficulty: Moderate

Island Packers - Santa Cruz Island

El Montanon (LPC #75) is not the highest point on Santa Cruz Island, but it is the highest point on the public part of the island. The eastern 2/3 of the island is a private preserve. After rained out trips in December and February, I boarded the 9:00 AM boat with a posse from work (Rod, Veronica, Noel and Geoff). The rain delays actually worked in my favor leaving the island thriving and green. We headed for Scorpion Anchorage from Ventura Harbor. The return trip was set at 4:00 PM, leaving us a plenty of slack time for the 9.3 mile round trip. On the ride over, the boat stopped for a few minutes to check out a humpback whale that made a brief appearance. With that delay, and because we had to endure a lecture from the local USFS park ranger before hiking, we started about 45 minutes later than planned. Island Packers asked everyone to be back at the dock at 3:30 PM and with the late start, much of our slack time was gone. To make things even more interesting, Rod was nursing a bone bruise on his heel and was not sure he could make the entire trip.

Noel and Geoff each brought coolers of beverages and stowed them in free lockers near the restrooms. Finally, we took off up Smugglers Road. The whole island was green and blooming instead of the expected 50 shades of brown. The trail was smooth at the start. I had hoped we would see an island fox (only found on the channel islands) and that happened almost immediately. The island fox population has grown so much that it was removed from the endangered species list. We ended the day with 5 fox sightings. The marine layer rose hundreds feet above the ocean and after the initial views over the cliffs, we lost sight of the the ocean for the rest of the hike. In about two miles of steady but mild climbing, we reached the junction of the Scorpion Loop trail and turned south toward the El Montanon ridge line. A rusty, abandoned oil derrick was just off trail after the junction. Past the derrick, the trail to the saddle on the ridge line was a little rougher with plenty of large rocks to kick.

Leaving Ventura Harbor

Humpback Whale

Scorpion Anchorage

Heading toward the visitor's center

First island fox sighting

The tip of Summit Peak on Anacapa Island poking through the marine layer

Looking past the oil derrick toward El Montanon

Looking back, oil derrick on the right

Second fox sighting

From the saddle, the trail skirts around High Mount Benchmark on the east side. I left the trail and went directly up the obstacle free ridge to High Mount benchmark. A couple of tall wooden poles and a benchmark were at the summit. Views were great in every direction, including Devil's Peak and the rest of Santa Cruz Island. The marine layer covered the ocean and only the highest point on Anacapa Island poked out above it. From there, it was less than a mile of clean ridge line to El Montanon. A solar powered radio tower was at the summit along with the register and benchmark (stamped HIGH). Noel and I arrived first at the summit. We were not sure if the next bump on the ridge was higher, so we made the 5 minute trip over there finding only a short metal pole. Whether it was higher or not, the second point is the one marked as 1808' on the topo map. We returned to the summit area with the radio tower and met up with everyone else for a few photos. Rod had been able to gut it out and made it to the top, moving slower than his usual pace. Despite the packed boat on the way over, only two other hikers made the trek to El Montanon. We had planned on a lunch break at the top, but decided to head back and not take any chances with the time.

Approaching the saddle and High Mount Benchmark

Looking west to the rest of Santa Cruz Island from High Mount Benchmark

The ridge to El Montanon

Radio tower

Rod coming over the last bump

Looking northeast back toward Scorpion

El Montanon benchmark stamped "High" in 1951

Work posse on the summit

Below the oil derrick, we returned on the other half of the Scorpion Loop trail. Again, the green fields and exploding flowers caught us off guard. We passed a couple of busy campgrounds on the way. It was an ideal time to be on the island. We got back with about 30 minutes to spare and spent most of it imbibing from the coolers. Two more island foxes wandered by, probably looking for hand outs. As we lined up to board the return boat, we spotted a dead or sleeping sea lion on the rocks below the dock. Noel didn't think it was dead, but the sea lion remained motionless and oblivious to the crowds (and the flies). Either way, it didn't dampen our spirits on a trip that exceeded expectations.

Returning on the other half of the Scorpion Loop trail

Pair of foxes

Sea lion, dead or asleep

Cliffs near Cavern Point

Friday, March 3, 2017

Unintended Peak First Ascent

Hiked: 3/3/2017
Distance: 9 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3075'
Prominence: 324'
Elevation Gain: 2177'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.74
Round trip time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 84 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

When I first looked at a map of Bluewater Canyon, I wanted to find the highest peak on the perimeter to get the best view. In June, 2016, I unsuccessfully attempted to climb peak 3070+. It was only after reviewing my track the next day that I realized it was not the highest peak on the perimeter, but the second highest. I had tried to climb the wrong mountain, an "Unintended Peak". The following month, I climbed the highest perimeter peak, Bluewater Crown. Although this peak dropped lower on my to do list, I didn't forget it. This hike was a first ascent (AFAIK). The peak was previously unnamed and unmarked.

"I'll be there as soon as I can
But I'm busy mending broken
Pieces of the life I had before
-- Muse, Unintended

A quick recap of my first attempt. From 4 Corners, the North Tenaja trail winds around the peak to the east side where an obvious wide gully looked like the best bet. Unfortunately, about half way up it turned very nasty. The chaparral in the Santa Ana mountains is some of the most dense and brutal I've encountered. Sometimes, it takes an exceptional effort to force your way though. I made attempts left and right of the gully, then toward the ridge line hurling bone and blood against root and sap. All those routes collapsed into 15' high walls of brush. I clawed back to the trail and made a fourth effort up a less friendly looking gully that appeared to have helpful boulder outcrops. I felt the last route was workable, but I could not complete it. I was too exhausted from the prior attempts and completely out of water. Cast down with blackened feathers, I stumbled back to the car and drank two bottles of water before driving home. For the second attempt, I headed directly back to the promising route carrying extra water and humility.

Bear Canyon Trail start

Unintended Peak from the north

Wide gully doesn't look too bad...

...but is mostly this

First attempt routes

After a relentless, wet winter, I was not surprised to find water flowing in the small stream that crosses the Bear Canyon trail. The trail itself was a running stream in sections leading up to 4 Corners. This led me to believe the plant life in my ascent gully might have exploded, making it more difficult than last June. When I reached the ascent point, I stopped for a break. I put on gaiters, gloves, and got the clippers ready. The nice weather had me on guard for reptile friends, so I probed hidden areas with my trekking pole and stepped carefully. The strategy I used last time continued to work. I headed for the biggest outcrop of boulders, climbed up, then aimed for the next, and the next. I clipped spots that were dense and crashed through lighter stuff. My concerns about the water causing explosive growth were unfounded. In fact, the torrents had uprooted or weakened a lot of brush, making it easier than my first attempt. The slope grew steeper as I got higher, but the rocks did not exceed class 2. The crux was a 30' thicket past one of the largest boulders. After that, the slope angle eased and the brush got lighter. Other than a few yuccas, there were no thorny plants, and I didn't see any poison oak. Because this is not an area sane animals travel, there were no ticks. A cluster of small boulders made up the summit. I wandered around the top and looked into the massively eroded gully on the east side. There was a huge difference in the brush and difficulty between the two gullies. I placed a register in a plastic jar at the summit with a painted "solitude" rock. It was nearly a flawless execution, except I forgot to bring a pen to leave in the register. Doh! If you are reading this and climb the peak, please bring a pen to leave in the register jar. Thanks!

Slimy run off across the trail

Ascent gully

Looking back part way up

Looking back from a boulder, a little farther up

About 30' past this boulder, the brush thins out

Unintended Peak summit boulders

View into Bluewater Canyon

Looking northwest to the local mountains

Eroded summit area

Eroded gully



Zoom to the San Bernardino mountains

On the way down, I wandered a little from my ascent track, but tried to stick to outcrops. It wasn't long before I was back on the North Tenaja trail, just in time to dodge two mountain bikers screaming around a corner. I had twigs and leaves in my shirt, my pockets, and had to stop twice to remove twigs from my underwear. It was that kind of day. I finished faster than I expected, so I dropped my pack in the car and walked the short distance down the San Juan Loop trail to check out the waterfall. It was in full song. I scrambled down close to the base of it for some nice photos before going home. It was a satisfying day to get this one.

Unintended Peak from Keith Winston on Vimeo.

San Juan Falls from above

San Juan Falls from below