Grapevine Peak P1K

Fri, Jun 12, 2009
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

I had originally planned to head to the Sierra for one of the long hikes to a yet-to-reach SPS peak, but the weather had been unsettled and downright nasty since late May with almost no respite. The forecast for most of the state was similar, but not quite so bad in Southern California. I still had a handful of HPS peaks in Ventura County to visit, so this seemed as good as any for a backup plan. I had only one day, Saturday, before I had to return for family obligations, but I managed to sneak out early on Friday afternoon with the intention of climbing another peak that same evening. Most of the peaks I was interested in were either not really on my way, or were on private property in the Diablo or Temblor Ranges, and I had little time to collect any beta. I settled on Grapevine Peak, a private summit at the west end of the Tehachapi Mtns, just above the town of Grapevine. I believe the land the peak lies in is all owned by the Tejon Ranch Company - one of the largest private landholders in the state dating back to the time of the Spanish and Mexican land grants.

An accident on SR152 slowed traffic to a crawl through that corridor across the Diablo Range and I lost almost an hour. Consequently, it was after 7p before I reached the Tejon Ranch exit just before the town of Lebec. The route I had plotted was all on dirt ranch roads so it didn't seem problematic to get back in the dark, which it surely would be. The summit is crowned by an antenna complex, so the dirt road is kept in very good condition. The road alongside the starting point saw modest traffic between Lebec and Tejon Ranch. I waited until there were no cars visible, then hopped over the locked gate and started up the road.

I didn't get very far before it occurred to me that the route could be shortened considerably by heading straight up the grassy slopes on my left. This would get me off the ranch road and lessen the chance of being spotted there. The route up the slope was exposed to the traffic off to the west, but I figured it was unlikely I would be noticed heading up that way.

The slopes were quite steep, but manageable. The grass had been cut short by regular grazing, so there were few thorns and stickers that found their way to my socks. After a climb of nearly 1,000ft, the slope leveled off as I reached the long ridgelines running atop the range. From this point on it was a very pleasant and easy hike. Though not yet on the main road, there were old dirt roads on the subsidiary ridgelines that looked to get very little vehicle traffic, though fine for hikers or cows. I came across old installations and an abandoned truck riddled with bullet holes, and about halfway to the summit a small herd of cattle. They were not happy to see me, running off to get away. Not the brightest of God's creatures, they kept running up the road in my direction of travel, taking off again each time I appeared again from around the bend. This went on for about a mile before they turned off a side road.

The sky was heavily overcast due to afternoon thunderstorms that never really developed into real rain, but it kept things looking dark around sunset. I arrived at the top at 8:20p, about 10 minutes after sunset. I looked around for a benchmark labeled "POLICE" as shown on the 7.5' map, but could find it nowhere. It's possible that the USGS marker was obliterated when the large concrete pad was laid for the main antenna tower. The views were all but non-existent due to the weather and lateness of the day. After about 10 minutes of looking around, I headed back down.

I attempted to follow the same route I had done for the ascent, successful for about 3/4 of the route. When I got off the main road and onto the subsidiary ridgelines, I missed the ascent route and ended up further east before finding my way down to the road below. I used my headlamp sparingly. It was easy enough to hike along the roads without it, despite the absence of moon or stars, residual city lights reflecting off the cloud cover proving mostly sufficient. Where I needed to see better on the uneven cross-country portion down the steep slopes, I held my headlamp close to the ground to keep from becoming an obvious light beacon moving down the slope. It was after 9:30p before I got back to the van.

I drove into Frasier Park for dinner and gas, then found a turnout outside Gorman to sleep for the night. I was scheduled to meet up with Tom Becht at 5a, so by 11a I was on my way to sleep...


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