Santa Ana Mountain P500 CC

Wed, Jul 29, 2009

With: Steve Sywyk

  Story Photos / Slideshow Map
later climbed Sun, Sep 6, 2009

This was a moonlit hike hampered by the fact that we had no moon light to help us out. Though a day past half moon and high overhead when we started out, a layer of fog surrounded our peak and blocked out the moon. Located in San Benito County, Santa Ana Peak is on the dubious CC peak list as well as on private property. The shortest route to the summit is only about 2 miles from Lone Tree Rd, but involves several thousand feet of gain. It was this route that Steve and I gave a try to on the fog-shrouded evening.

Our first obstacle was a major one, dropping south from the road to a creek and climbing out the other side. It was difficult not due to water (there was only a modest amount of water, easily crossed), but by the formidible barriers of poison oak that lined the near side of the creek, combined with a rickety barbed-wire fence that was not welcoming to visitors. After trying half a dozen locations I was ready to give up and head home, and told Steve so in about that many words. He was a bit more tenacious than I, eventually finding and talking me into a suitable crossing point. The crossing and far bank of the creek were much easier than expected, and we were soon climbing up the grassy slopes under a scattered oak forest. We left a small cairn, a pile of cow dung really, to mark the location for our return.

I knew from Google maps that there were dirt roads enroute to our summit, but none of them seemed to go to the peak itself. So while we were able to find several of these, they were not much help in getting us to our goal. As we climbed higher the fog became pervasive and a fine mist filled the air in front of our headlamps. We could see the ground perfectly well, but almost nothing beyond about 20-40 feet. Eventually we were reduced to following the compass direction on our GPS that had the summit of Santa Ana input as a coordinate. After about an hour of this, having covered only half the distance (and hardly any of the elevation gain as yet), I called for a retreat a second time. Steve talked me into climbing a small hill on our right that turned out to be a local highpoint just west of the more serious incline up to Santa Ana. But we knew nothing of this at the time and could only stare out into a blackness that was as chilly as it was unwelcoming. It would be far better I figured to come back another time when we could actually get a view and see where we were going.

We used the GPS to retrace the track that I saved in memory, and it did a fine job of this. We would have been hopelessly lost without it, not knowing which way to turn or where we had come from. We agreed that we'd likely have to spend the night out if we didn't have the GPS to tell us where to turn and which slope to drop down. Back down at the creek we came across a lump of unmoving feather the size of baseball's home plate. It turned out to be a dead turkey that had keeled over next to the creek, probably in the last few days. That we paused to take of a picture of it lent some measure to the grasping we were doing to make something out of this adventure.

We were back at the car shortly after 11p, not even two hours total on the evening. But with Steve's perseverance I was convinced that this is the approach to use, once the poison oak fortifications along the creek are breeched. We'll head back there on another moonlit night to finish the adventure. Hopefully without the fog.

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