Monserate Mountain P500
Peak 5,200ft P500
Peak 5,019ft
Peak 5,718ft P300

Sun, Apr 7, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profile


The previous day had been a busy one. There was a memorial for Matt Yaussi in Glendale that occupied me until around 3p. Matt's mother, sister and other family members shared memories with perhaps 100 of us that had gathered at the church. Iris, too, gave a touching tribute that captured the feelings that many of his climbing friends shared. A sad occasion, to be sure, but I'm terribly glad I was able to be there and share the collective grief felt for the loss of our friend. I had a nephew's wedding to attend at 4:30p in Temecula, so I had hurriedly dismissed myself to get on the freeway heading south. I ended up missing the ceremony due to an accident that had I-15 closed temporarily, with 30min spent at a dead stop. The cause had been the death of a motorcycle officer who had pulled someone over to write a ticket. Another vehicle, piloted by a drunk driver, had been driving on the shoulder and plowed into the other car, sandwiching the officer and his motorcycle between them, a most dreadful incident. Yet another reminder of the tenuous hold life has on us all. I made it to the reception with hardly a soul noticing I'd missed the ceremony, and spent the rest of the day and evening in the companionship of my large extended family (Catholic, you know). After we were kindly discharged from the wedding site around 10p, I chose to get some sleep rather than join the others for either of the two options, an after party in Temecular or gambling at the Pechenga Casino south of town. I made my way to the trailhead for Monserate Mtn on the east side of I-15, south of Temecula and spent the night there. The interstate traffic was constant which made sleeping in the back of the jeep easier than one might think - the road noise was more like white noise than the occasional interruptions which would have been worse. I figured I could get a hike in to a local mountain in the morning before the family had gathered for breakfast after sleeping in. This worked out quite nicely. After breakfast, there was another event planned for the afternoon at the bride's parents' home, but I decided I'd had a full amount of family and would enjoy a lonely drive more, so I headed off to Nevada, stopping in the Alabama Hills for some late afternoon leg-stretching.

Monserate Mountain

The mountain is located in the Monserate Mountain Preserve which is managed by the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, open to the public. There were already half a dozen cars in the informal parking area off Horse Ranch Creek Rd when I got up in the morning. I didn't realize how popular this park is, equally shared by hikers, runners and dog enthusiasts. I made a 4mi+ loop of the hike to allow me tag a trio of other minor, PB-only points that can easily be accessed from the trail network. There is an American flag flying at the highest point, along with a benchmark that has been battered beyond recognition. The hills were very green from an abundant rainy season, some flowers in bloom including some large yuccas found alongside the trail. I was watering the bushes atop one of the minor summits when I was suddenly overtaken by a horde of swarming bees. Their droning noises came on quite suddenly, catching me with my pants down. I had to stand there, letting them bounce off me as they made their way south to north across the summit, without moving a muscle. I knew they were focused on playing follow-the-leader and treated me as any other immovable obstacle in the way, not really interested in causing me any harm. But I also knew enough not to panic and pull up my pants, duck, or otherwise try to avoid them as that could easily trap one or more individuals who might suddenly feel compelled to attack. They passed by within 5-10 seconds, leaving me no worse than when I started. By the time I got back to the TH around 8:40a after an hour and a half's effort, I found the parking area now filled with dozens of vehicles, attesting to the hike's popularity.

Alabama Hills

I arrived in Lone Pine sometime after 4p, with afternoon sun showing just how much snow there was in the High Country. The Alabama Hills do no go much above 5,000ft and were nearly bone dry, save for a few pools and thin threads of water in some of the deeper recesses. I'd visited the two highest point in this movie-famous collection of hills and rocks five years earlier, but had come back to do some of the others that I'd left for another time. I first drove to the north end of the range from the well-graded Movie Flat Rd. There is a whole network of lesser roads on this western side that can be used to get close to most of the summits and a whole host of hidden camp areas. There were numerous RVs and other vehicles taking up positions for the night or the weekend, having found a nice time to visit before the summer heat sets in. Peak 5,200ft lies at the north end with a steep 4WD track running to the very top. This made it the easiest of the three I visited, but they would get progressively harder. Peak 5,019ft is located a few miles further south, a small summit separated from the main group and just above the Eye of Alabama Hills Arch. I found a good starting point northeast of the summit, less than a quarter mile away. There is no use trail that I could find, but the going is fairly tame, class 2-3, with the class 3 only necessary if you aren't more careful in your route-finding. Once at the summit, however, there is an impressive 20-foot summit block standing at the highest point. On three sides it is clearly unwise to climb it without a rope but the north side offers the scrambler a way. I'd give it a class 4 rating, mostly friction with some key steps at the beginning where the rock rolls off most sharply. A very unexpected surprise on an otherwise easy summit.

Peak 5,718ft proved the biggest challenge of the day. It lies well west of the range, just north of Whitney Portal Rd. I suspect the easiest way to tackle it is from paved Whitney Portal Rd to the south, but I approached from the northeast since that seemed straightforward on my return from the other two summits. The one-way distance from the starting point at the end of the spur road and a hidden campsite was about 3/4mi, following up what seemed the obvious gully heading to the peak. This gully quickly became a class 3+ challenge with giant boulders providing great scrambling and no clear way to the summit until one is nearly upon it. I kept expecting to find my way blocked, and in a few places it did become so, but only briefly as I was able to quickly find another route around these points. I hadn't appreciated that the summit is some 400ft higher than the HP of the Alabama Hills and when I started out at 5:50p I expected I would easily get back before sunset around 7p. It would take me 50min at a hard pace to reach the summit and another 40min to get back. I took a very different route on the return, but it proved to be equally challenging with even larger blocks and some pretty cool tunneling sections, too. I got back by 7:20p with sufficient daylight, but was glad it didn't take another 20min or more because I had neglected to bring my daypack with my headlamp. It had been surprisingly warm this afternoon as I found myself having worked up a good sweat and somewhat dehydrated. Worse, I got several bites from the first mosquitoes of the season. I suspect they will be particularly bad this Spring and Summer.

After showering in the Alabama Hills and dining in Lone Pine, I drove north to Big Pine, then up to Westgard Pass in the White Mtns. It was only after reaching above 7,000ft that it was cool enough to sleep comfortably. The weather was supposed to stay warm for another day or two which would work well with my plans for the next few days...


hightinerary comments on 04/27/19:
What's that purple thing on the side of the boulder in picture #19?
That's my leather glove. Placed there for perspective.
hightinerary comments on 04/28/19:
I thought maybe it was some kind of artificial foothold. Now I'll have to take another look at that boulder. Last August I approached it, walked all the way around it, then decided to scramble up a nearby hill instead.
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