La Luneta
Elephant Hill
La Lomera
El Piton
El Perro
La Cumbre 2x

Feb 13, 2024
La Cumbre
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX
Cumbre, La previously climbed Jan 5, 2022

On my previous desert trip, I had stopped on my drive from San Jose to hike a few summits in the Kettleman Hills along Interstate 5 in the Central Valley. It made for a nice break in the 6-8hr drive, so I decided to do the same at the start of a two-week trip to the Las Vegas area. For better or worse, the Kettleman Hills contain oil deposits. For a hundred years, they have been expoited by oil companies, though they fell into disuse a few decades ago when the oil began to run dry. The fracking innovation gave them new life and they once again caught the attention of their owners who reinvested more funds to bring the fields back to life. Most of the efforts are concentrated on those fields southeast of SR269 (Skyline Blvd). On the northwest side of the highway, the northernmost parts of the range, there has been only modest re-investment, and it was here that I planned to hike today. I saw only one working pump and one newer facility. Most of these lands see little commercial use. They do, however, seem to have an inordinate amount of roads, Jeep trails and motorcycle tracks, many of them quite old. I don't know if this activity is sanctioned or just a matter of looking the other way while the locals from Avenal and Coalinga use them to recreate. But there are No Trespassing signs at the property entrances both at SR269, and from the north off Jayne Ave where I entered. I saw no one else recreating for the two hours I was there, but I did see a PG&E crew working under a transmission line, and one white truck that probably had official business in the area. I drove by it where it was parked, the driver making no effort to get my attention or follow me.

All six of these are officially named summits with little prominence, named decades ago as part of the ranching and oil extraction efforts in the range. La Luneta and El Piton were the only two that required any hiking effort. La Luneta, the northernmost summit, is located on adjacent ranchlands to the west. My choice of roads wasn't the best (finding the best options from the satellite view is an interesting exercise), but I got within half a mile before pausing where the road had a small washout that seemed best not to try and cross. I hiked a pipeline road and then across the boundary fence to the ranch, and eventually to the summit in less than 15min. Views today were hazy (as they usually are in the Central Valley), but the hills were nicely green and only mildly muddy from from the previous week's rain. My driving route to El Piton was similarly non-deal, stopping a mile short of the summit at a more serious washout. The hike along the oil and ranch roads was nice, so I hardly minded. El Piton is also located on the adjacent ranchlands. Elephant Hill and La Lomera where short, one minute hikes from the main road I traveled through the oil fields. El Perro and La Cumbre were drive-ups with high-clearance (no 4WD needed or used today). El Perro was also to the west on ranchlands, but there was an opening in the fence one could drive through.

It was noon by the time I finished up, letting me get back to the highway driving - another 5hrs+ before I would be done for the day...

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