McAuley Peak LPC
Mesa Peak

Sun, Dec 30, 2012

With: Tom Becht
Laura Molnar
Jim Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


McAuley Peak is unofficially named, given by the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club to commemorate a prominent member of their organization. Lying along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California, it was the last of 83 peaks on the LPC (Lower Peaks Committee) list I had left to do. It's a rather easy hike, less than three miles and 1,500ft of gain which would be perfect for a list finish if I was inviting a whole host of friends to join me for a post-hike celebration. But because I'm not the most social of creatures, I didn't really care to have a big party and didn't really care if I had a small one either. But I did invite Tom and Laura to join me the day after we celebrated Tom's HPS list finish on Mt. Deception in the San Gabriels. My brother Jim more or less came along for the ride. I was transporting him from SoCal to NoCal during the holiday break and he didn't really have a choice, but he seemed to enjoy himself and was happy to see Tom and Laura who he'd not seen since the Challenge back in August. The other two members of our party were Loki and Zeus, Tom's wonder dogs that had done so well in the snow the day before. Apparently this had not deterred them in the least and they were eager for more.

We met at the Piuma Trailhead in Malibu Creek State Park, conveniently located just off Malibu Canyon Rd, but not so conveniently asking a $10 fee per vehicle for the privilege. I drove up and down Malibu Canyon looking for a place to park for free, but all the shoulders were signed No Parking for the sole purpose of spoiling cheapskates like myself. Having no idea if the TH is patroled and scofflaws ticketed (and with no other cars to take a clue from), we paid the fees in the self-pay envelopes. Coming back later we found that none of the other half dozen cars we found there had paid the fee (though several had yearly passes).

Our route is part of the Backbone Trail that runs a good portion of the main crest of the Santa Monica Mountains. On the portion we hiked its not so much a trail as a dirt road, a well-graded one at that. Fog enshrouded the lower portions of Malibu Canyon and the Malibu Creek drainage with out hike starting at near the top of the fog layer. This gave Brents Peak to the northwest a very pretty aspect with the sun shining on the peak and the fog below. We climbed most of the 1,500ft in two miles, a fairly steep ascent that warmed us quickly. The fog was starting to clear all the while during the ascent, such that it had mostly dissipated by the time we reached the main ridge. The views open up to the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hills. McAuley's summit is located about half a mile north of the junction reached on the main ridge. It was a small surprise to find a rocky outcrop that was not such a simple summit. A use trail on the south side leads to the east side of the huge summit rock. I climbed a class 4ish face on the east side, but brother Jim found the easier class 3 on the north side. The others smartly followed Jim.

It was 8:30a before we reache the summit, taking just over an hour. All of us reached the summit with the exception of Loki and Zeus who could not manage the last bit of face climbing. They whined a bit about being left behind, but we were not at the summit long. It was a bit chilly up there with a cool breeze blowing over the top and we stayed long enough to take some pictures and finish off a small bottle of hooch that Tom had brought in way of celebration. It was not the big victory party that Tom had enjoyed the day before, but then I didn't really care - the hooch was pretty darned good, though.

Back off the summit, we spent about 20 minutes hiking south to the summit of Mesa Peak, an officially named, but not-so-impressive peak. Lower than McAuley, it sported an old communications tower and lots of brush with a thin use trail providing access from the main road. The views overlooking the Pacific are better than McAuley, at least. Another hour saw us back to the start, finishing up not long after 10a. Laura was to start her long drive back to Bishop, Tom a much shorter drive back to Palos Verde, Jim and I to Santa Barbara to meet up with the family. It was a quick three days in the LA area, but took in a fine hike on Catalina and two list finishes - not so shabby at all...

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