Sunday, December 30, 2012

King's Crest (Peak 4864) and an attempt at White Ledge Peak 12/27/12

The moral of today's story is that it's sometimes a nice thing to have a Plan B. I started the day committed to taking an honest crack at getting to White Ledge Peak using Murietta Canyon as the approach. I didn't give myself very high odds of success in that endeavor which is why I had figured it'd be wise to have that Plan B. Good thing too.

My morning started at 0500. It was cold. And windy. As I marched through a darkened Matilija Ranch I was pelted with granules of snow that were being blown down-canyon by the arctic breeze. Overhead was a glittery sky ablaze with the silver glow of a full moon which shone with a cold palor, and a luminescent halo ringed her. I trudged along in the frigid pre-dawn, head down, eyes watering, crunching footsteps on the frozen soil.

I reached Murietta Divide, took a left and started up the steep climb to Divide Peak and the end of the East Camino Cielo motorcycle trail. This short piece of trail is a bit of a grind, and being on the steep north side of the ridge, it was extra cold and windy. Having reached the ridge I continued east on the MC trail, following that track until it stopped going east. At an unmarked junction where the MC trail takes a last turn to the south to it's terminus, I continued east toward White Ledge Peak. 

The ridge to White Ledge Peak, from the end of E Camino Cielo.
White Ledge Peak has been a no man's land for such a long time that I haven't even heard of anyone who has been there. I have gotten pretty accustomed to bad brush and that hard earned tolerance gave me a small hope that I could find a way through the manzanita planet that was once known as the Ocean View Trail. Leaving the MC trail I ascended a narrow and brushy track that was clearly the work of someone trying to reestablish that old trail. The route was good, though nearly overgrown, and it only lasted for about a third of a mile. Brush cuttings along the way indicated to me that no real trail work had been done in at least a couple of years. This "trail" continued east under the crest until the ridge descended to a saddle. Here the trail came to an abrupt halt. Several trails continued from there, the paths of wandering parties who were coming to the conclusion that their trail had concluded and the day was about to get much more difficult. I had hit a solid wall of brush. I continued eastward at an abysmally slow pace, twisting and shoving through acres of healthy manzanita, scarcely making progress. I kept at this for over an hour before reaching a rocky point. I dropped pack for a bit and really thought about what I was doing out here. I had maybe done a half mile of this cursed ridge and that yardage had cost too much in time and energy. I gazed at White Ledge and understood with sterling clarity that this was not the route that would get me there. It had been worth the try.

The ridge from hell. Lake Casitas to the right.

Admitting that I wasn't going to get to White Ledge on this day took all the pressure off me. Now I could have some fun. I quickly backtracked to the MC trail and headed south out to the stubby summit of at the end of E Camino Cielo. Standing atop the cluster of rocks that crown this nob I could clearly view Catalina, Santa Barbara. Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands. I lingered here for a while before returning toward Divide Peak to the west. Here's where I started implementing Plan B.

Backing up for a minute, if you were to climb through Murietta and ascend the Monte Arido trail to the motor cycle trail, and if you looked up and left (east) once you popped out on that ridge trail, you'd  see a steep, bouldery, brushy climb to the sky. The summit at the top of this brush-fest is called Peak 4864. It is considered to be the highest point in the Santa Ynez Range, that chain of ridges that make up the front range of the coastal mountains, the mountain chain visible from Hwy 101 all the way from  Sea Cliff to Goleta. I figured that I since I'd been shut out on White Ledge I owed it to myself to stand on top of something tall and pointy. Up I went.

The route up King's Crest ascends this rocky brush buffet from the Divide Peak MC trail (E. Camino Cielo).
Class 3 ridge climbing on the north side of Peak 4864. Murietta Canyon below.

Snow flurries over Matilija canyon.
There isn't any true trail up King's Crest. Climbing the thing is kind of fun and adventurous with lots of route finding and rock-scotching. The first step got me up onto the crest of this peak after which I had to traverse for some distance to reach the summit. This traverse was interesting and I found that the best route for me was to ditch the brush and scramble across the rocky northern side of the crest. If you aren't a rock climber you may find this approach to be sketchy and exposed (Class 3). A few minutes later I discovered (much to my surprise) a small summit cairn with a register. I took a few minutes to watch a line of clouds that were dropping snow all over the mountains (Reyes, Matilija and Dry Lakes Ridge) to the north. The view to the south and west were the same incredible vistas that I'd been seeing all morning, the Great Blue Pacific.

I finally turned my attention to the summit register (there is no benchmark). This Peak was named King's Crest in 1990 by Mark King when he claimed the summit as a first ascent. If you look at the original summit entry you can see where he wrestled with whether this point should be called "crest" or "peak". His party had attempted White Ledge Peak, also unsuccessfully. The register indicated that ascent parties (mostly the same few people again and again) had visited on an annual basis for the first few years before tapering to a trickle. The most recent visitor had signed the book in October 2010. Curiously, there isn't any mention in the register of Peak 4864 being a "high point" until the late 90's. This peak is unnamed on maps.

The view toward SB and Jameson from halfway down King's Crest.
After a bit of lunch I descended back to the MC trail and walked over to a 5 acre park I call the Divide Peak Boulders. I wandered around for a couple more hours, enjoying the day, staying out of the wind. I wandered all over the area before reluctantly turning back to the Monte Arido descent to Murietta Divide. 
Divide Peak Boulders.

Divide Peak Boulders.
Divide Peak Boulders.

Divide Peak Boulders.

Anacapa Island.

Santa Cruz Island from the Divide Peak Boulders.

Haddock Peak from atop Peak 4864.

Now, you may not believe this, and lord knows I was was surprised when I ran into three guys ascending the Monte Arido as I was going down (there was an Eric, and Tristan who works at the Trek store in Ventura, and another fella whose name I can't conjure up). Anyway, these guys were going after that peak too! What the hell? Nobody climbs the thing in over 2 years and all of a sudden 4 people go up it in a day?!? On a Thursday in the winter? Weird.

I had a good day on the ridge tops. And it was good to prove to myself that I need to find another way to get at White Ledge.
A peek into Murietta Creek.


  1. Hi David, nice report. I think there is a mistake about the peak you are referring to as Chismahoo. Chismahoo is a 2900' peak about 2.2 miles south of where you were, at coordinates 34.444161 -119.420953 and on fire road 4N05. Also see here:

    The labeling of peaks in Google Earth cannot be trusted to be correct.

  2. Hi David,
    I was excited about the mention of Chismahoo as I tried to get to Chismahoo Mountain on fire road 4N05 but was turned back by local landowners. Even though on a fire road it is essentially landlocked from public access. Oddly, Google Earth has Chismahoo Mtn mislabeled as La Granada Mountain.

    On a 2012 White Ledge Peak, CA topo, there is just the one Chismahoo, labelled as mountain. The other peak appears as an unnamed 4600' summit. BTW, you probably already know this, but the very latest USGS topos are available for free download here:

    Anyway, whatever the peak is called, this was an impressive hike as usual. Keep it up.


  3. I would've been going nuts if you had made it to White Ledge. That's been on my radar for years considering I stare right at it out my office window. It. Haunts. Me.

    I reckon the easiest routes were, at one time, approaching via the Ocean View Trail from either end. Perhaps at some point down the road, this trail will become viable again either due to the eventual re-opening of the Franklin Trail from Carp or the recent work to re-connect the Kennedy Ridge Trail to the old E Camino Cielo route from Ojai area and then continue on west to the OV Trail.

    I've also discussed with various folks who've attempted from the bottom up via either Laguna Ridge heading west from Lake Casitas or from the Rincon/Chismahoo area closer to Carp. Problem with these routes (besides that you eventually end up below the peak in thick brush with no discernable route) is extensive private property holdings that must be negotiated.

    Alas... looks like this might stay on the to-do list for a while longer. If you aren't making it there, I reckon neither is most anyone else...

  4. Interesting to read your post today. I was that last visitor on 10/16/10. I ascended a fairly open, obvious gully at a bend in the road, got up to the west shoulder and then went to the steep, fun north side you mention. I was also surprised by the register, and also was scouting for any sign of a 'easy' passage out to White Ledge. On an earlier hike or two, I'd reconnoitered out the ridge like you did, initially excited to see a nice path...
    Surprisingly, in retrospect, peak 4864 repelled me the first couple of times I tried!

  5. Hey there George. Well met.
    Sounds like our experiences overlap a bit. I thought 4864 was a fun summit. I really enjoy that whole ridge area. It's just the damn brush...