Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Horn Canyon Trail and Chief's Peak, 04/28/10

This morning I committed to a trail I've never hiked, and I gambled that the much talked about high winds would blow the clouds off the peaks. On the former, I hiked my ass off! As to the later, I lost that bet and spent the whole day slogging through clouds.

Man, that Horn Trail is steeeep! Much of the Horn Trail is a bit overgrown, which wouldn't ordinarily be a problem. However, because of some early morning showers, and combined with a thick fog, all the grasses and branches along the trail were dripping with moisture. I was dry for the first 20 minutes of the day. The next 3 hours I spent drenched to the skin. I'm a bit finicky about being wet and cold. This did not work for me. Sadly, I had told the Geezers about my plans and they will expect photographic evidence of my achievement. So I toiled on through a forest that had more in common with the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington than it did with SoCal.
The low clouds obstructed Chief's Peak from view for the entire day, and was completely socked in clouds as I approached it. I had only the GPS to show me where the peak actually was. Unfortunately, the device did not indicate a summit trail which explains why I must have just walked right by what passes for a route to the summit. This also explains how a new summit route was pioneered on Chief's today:

Chief's Peak, Direct Northwest Face; Grade II, Class III.
This unpleasant route starts from Nordoff Ridge road and ascends the northwest face. Climb directly up the northwest face making sure to go in a straight line up the mountain regardless of obstacles. Deviating from the route is not advised. This route is characterized by thick brush, prickly plants, scree, loose rock, brush tunnels, and several sections of Class 3 climbing. This climb is not recommended. First Ascent: the author, 04/28/2010.
Upon the summit I was pleased to find a real summit register (last entry: 04/08) and a USGS marker. As you can see in my summit entry I was not impressed with the views (clouds), and I was still pissed about being soaked. The summit is narrow and rocky but I found a sheltered spot to get off my feet and devour my PBJ. I reached the summit at 12:05, 4:20 minutes, and 4,400 feet gained over 7.5 miles.
Lord 'ave mercy! I was able to find something resembling the trail off the peak! It was steep, rocky, and reminded me of a common military colloquialism describing goats fornicating. But it pointed down which is a good place to start. Being in a cloud I was a bit concerned about my direction until I popped out onto Nordoff Ridge and quickly located my earlier tracks. After that I pounded out the remaining 6 miles of grueling downhill.
Chief's Peak from the Ojai Valley.


  1. Hi David,
    You've been kind enough to encourage me to hike Chief's Peak and so I've started hiking some less intense trails to get my mountain legs. I'm embarrassed to say that yesterday I hiked Horn Canyon, hoping to reach the Pines Camp. When I was about .7 miles from the Pines - I became a little panicky. The narrow trail, combined with the steep incline and heights, etc. and the long way down the side of the mountain really scared me. I tried to be strong but I turned around in defeat and headed back down. I'm going to try it again and see how much farther I can push myself after reaching that high, narrow switchback portion of the trail. I just wanted to ask you if you've even known anyone who gets afraid of the steep cliffs, narrow trails, etc and if you have any advice for me? I didn't use poles but I wonder if they would have helped me feel more stable? Thank you for your time. SG

  2. SG,
    Most people have a healthy fear of falling, so that's not unusual. Get the poles and learn how to use them. I don't walk out to get the paper without my poles. -DS

  3. Hi David,
    Hahaha! Thank you for always being so positive and encouraging. I'm going to pick up a set of poles and try to make it to the Pines using them. I'm hoping they provide both a sense of balance and stability as well as a distraction from those heights and edges on the switchbacks up to Pines Camp :) SG