Thursday, December 15, 2011

Piedra Blanca West 12/15/11

My route through the western rocks. It involved blood, sweat, climbing skills and determination to reach the summits of these, more remote and inaccessible formations. I have to guess that I did a solid 4 miles of  "anything it takes" to explore this side of the range.
I had promised you all that I'd finish up the entire Piedra Blanca tour and that time has come. Over the past several posts I've re-explored the entire area including the paintings in PB Creek and the bleached stone formations of PB East. To finish the circuit required a visit to the western formations which I've designated as Piedra Blanca West.

I knew that assaulting PB West would be far more difficult than my prior exploration of PB East. First of all, nobody goes there so there aren't any consistent trails to traverse this side of the range. Second, the formations on the west side are more distant from each other and much brush-busting is required to get anywhere. So, once more into the breach, up the mountain, under the brush and through thin air on my lonely travels to the remote. Today was not a good day to get hurt, I'd never be found.
This site is atop the first formation to the left (west) of the massive, central  PB formation.  This was a surprise, as in WTF?!? I saw no reason to believe that this rock design hadn't been sitting there, just like you see it, for years. First of all, just getting to this point was difficult (scary) and required considerable route finding skills.  On the way to this summit, I utilized some very old toe-holds that had been carved out of the soft sandstone. The holds were very eroded and I speculate that they had been there for a very, very long time. I saw no other evidence during the day that anybody ever goes to this side of PB.
Abandoned honeycombs. A large, fresh bear scat was situated very near by.
Sad rock.
In addition to the remote, untraveled nature of PB West, it is an older (geologically) set of formations. The elevation of the western-most rocks are a couple hundred feet higher than on the eastern rocks. The ancient sedimentary seabed, which is what the rocks of PB are made of, has risen more in the west and the decay and erosion of the formations is notable for the degree of difference between west and east. These rocks were far more crumbly, which made climbing up a couple of the formations pretty damn exciting. I thought, at least once, that I was a couple of grains of sand away from taking a slide.
The Citadel, western-most of the formations, viewed from the north.  I encountered absolutely zero indications that anyone had ever even been here. 
The Grand Vista, looking east from atop The Citadel.  
The snowy peaks in the distant right are Topa Topa and Hines Peak.
Sometimes a guy has to go the extra mile to get what he wants.

After a helluva slog. Miles to go.
Above and below: highly eroded formations.

Again, I reassert that any time you think you are truly in the sticks you will run across a beer can with a bullet hole in it. 
The Chumash High Dive. This rock, of some significance to the Chumash,  isn't too difficult to find, and makes a  great springboard. It can be found on the Sespe less than 0.25 miles from the PB/Sespe parking lot.
After today I can truthfully say that I've been to the top of every significant rock in Piedra Blanca, and that I circumnavigated the base of most of the formations. I didn't see anybody else the entire day, which is probably a good thing because I was covered in bloody scratches and spent the entire drive home picking sticks, spiders, and seeds out of my hair, ears, etc...
I feel pretty good about this most recent triad of trips. Piedra Blanca and it's environs are worth exploring. The place has a natural beauty and appeal. It has been in more or less continuous use by hominids since forever and a few relics of our ancestors passing can still be found on the old paths and forgotten corners of this Upper Sespe region. Take some time to just explore, scramble about and find the hidden gems tucked in Las Piedras Blanca

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