Ahh, geeez. Where do I start with this one? I guess I'll say that White Ledge Peak has shut down so many attempts to reach it's rocky summit that the mountain has seemed to grow an aura of invincibility as time went by. When folks in our business think about White Ledge they shake their heads and mutter something unintelligible followed by a discussion of trail projects in the works that may some day be linked with the peak, maybe. So there it has sat, high above Ojai, viewed from Ventura, Carpenteria and Santa Barbara, and untouched for possibly decades until this first day of 2013.
White Ledge has been a no man's land for decades, literally. Any approach using the idea of the long vanished Ocean View Trail can expect to be met with an impenetrable wall of brush. This is not a fight somebody can win, take it from me (TR). The only other options for an approach to this peak involve crossing a combination of private property lands, Bureau of Land Reclamation holdings, and Casitas Water District land. It's complicated, and the jist of it all is that your not going to get permission to approach through the large private property holdings, and you aren't likely to catch a ride in with the CDF or CalFire because those same property owners generally don't even want brush clearing crews up in their hidden valley. Joe at USFS Casitas was of the opinion that most of the owners under White Ledge weren't very friendly. Good to know.
|White Ledge via our new line "Trespass Gully".|
On New Years Eve I sent Jack a text, said **Call me if you can get out**
He texted back, **Where we goin?**
T'was time for a parlay.
As to the access issue, I will not discuss how we arrived at the mouth of Trespass Gully. That shall always be held in brotherly trust between Jack Elliott and I. So don't ask where our day started. Really, I won't answer that. I can say that we took full advantage of the fact that nobody is up and about real early on New Years Day. We started the day at 04:45, stealthing up a road under a cold moon light. I can say that about 30 minutes into the morning we were startled by the eerie yowlings of a mountain lion across the canyon from us. I will also say that our total mileage for the day was... considerable.
But understand that this TR is about finding a new way up a long abandoned peak, a peak that has pushed back all attempts for many years. And you want to talk about how good that feels? Staring at a problem from every angle, talking to the USFS, looking at property lines and easements and fire roads versus ranch roads versus fuel breaks. Working the satellite data. Seeing a possible way up this thing now turning into the first stirrings of a plan to do just that. After a brief presentation to Jack during which I said, "There's a lot of ins and outs. A lot what ifs and what have yous. But this is my best guess at the best shot up the thing. From the angle it should go, but I have no idea what'll happen up there. Whatcha think?"
So lets start at the mouth of Trespass Gully, many miles behind us now, sweat turning clammy in the clouded morning chill, feet damp and muddy, scrounging through the pack for calories and Advil. The sound of a creek bubbling just 50 feet away, pouring down our new gully. A smoke, pills, and a few bites of food help me put the previous approach miles in the rearview. Those miles hadn't come free, Now we were quietly adjusting to the next stage of this reality. The reality where, if I had had to guess, our world would promptly go to shit.
I was right. We immediately plunged into a creek bottom of the worst sort. This thing was a true american horror show. Layers of deadfall sticks and limbs, brambles, nettle and poison oak vines, blackberry vines, stands of willows and springy scrub oak, slick and mossy rocks, decaying leaves a foot thick, and of course the creek itself. We saw what might be called an intermittent path the first quarter mile after which the only paths were 100% bear made. We were in a brawl with many years worth of dead biomass. It was exceedingly hard work, painful and bruising. We bashed forward through all. Not far up the creek we encountered the first real obstacle of the day, after which the hits kept coming. We were presented with a 15 foot high waterfall and the best option in this case was to climb a muddy and sketchy margin up the right side of the thing. We encountered dozens of these small waterfalls, each unique and beautiful, each presenting a problem to climb past. Some were easy, or easy but scary, while others were a brush-busting cussfest, and some were just plain sketchy. In between these falls we'd have to hammer through more deadfalls, feet snagging in the blackberry, limbs slapping at the eyes, sticks prodding random body parts. This went on for hours. Below are some shots from the lower half of Trespass Gully.
Jack and I had finally cleared a way through the first gate of hell, the reward for which was a drastic reduction in brush. The second half of the Gully is narrower and steeper, with significantly less brush than that morass below. Excellent! Trespass Gully had narrowed to a slab-sided chute requiring all sorts of craziness to ascend. We had an unending series of waterfalls to climb. One 200 foot section had a stack of falls that looked like nothing so much as big fish ladders. This section of the gully was unlike any drainage I've been in around here. We just kept climbing stacks of waterfalls and rivulets, finding a way up. This is an amazing place, and the climbing was fun.
As you can see in the pictures below, some innate climbing ability is required for this route. I had brought along 90ft of 8mm rope which we did not need for either the ascent or the descent.
|A view of White Ledge from high in Trespass Gully.|
|Jack, high in Trespass Gully.|
There wasn't a summit register when we got there but there is one now. The only adornment on the summit is a very old wooden cross that has baked up there for so long that what had been an inscription on one side was now illegible. We took care to re-erect the cross. We spent over an hour on the summit, partly because neither of us were particularly enthusiastic about descending, but also because we both understood that this was probably a one time thing. Yeah, we did it, but the best one word descriptor for the ascent is: BRUTALITY. That was a seriously difficult climb. Our summit smiles were shaded by pain and dirt and some expression that is very difficult to describe; a far away, knowing stare, elevated a bit beyond the concerns of the norm and appearing to be repeatedly boggled by what he can see with his own eyes. We were worked.
|The snowy White Ledge Ridge|
|That's me being really happy. This was a good one.|
|Jack on the White Ledge summit ridge.|
|Jack, topping out on White Ledge.|
|Peakaboo, the shiny new summit register can see you.|
|The newly restored summit cross.|
|Santa Cruz Island from the summit.|
|Jack, high in Trespass Gully.|
|Jack, under the face of White Ledge Peak.|
|Jack, descending yet another obstacle.|
|Lake Casitas, Ventura and Anacapa Island.|
By the end of it all we had spent 14 hours on the go, much of it on some seriously steep terrain.The drive home featured long and pained sighs, exclamations of "we did that?", "hoooly shit" and "Christ on a crutch". Fortune favors the bold. We are the conquistadores of the useless.
"Yard work builds character.", isn't that what dad always said?
I can't endorse it, but if anybody takes on Trespass Gully I'd enjoy hearing about it.
|Kings crest from atop White Ledge Peak|