Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monte Arido Peak [HPS] and Old Man Mountain [HPS], 03/14/13

Alright kids, I am back in the miles. This ridiculous day, linking these two peaks together, has been on my list for quite a while. I was inspired in this by the adventures of Der Uberhiker, Bob Burd, he of the monster mileage link-ups (dude's a machine). Anyway, this 26 mile day is a killer. 
Over 7,000 feet of elevation gain anyone?

Check out this elevation profile.

Just a hint of Jameson. Monte Arido Road.

It was a cool morning, crystal clear and starry. I left the parking lot at 5am, headlamp leading the way through a darkened Matilija Ranch. I warmed up quickly and found my stride for a few minutes before hanging a left onto the pitch black single-track of the Murietta Trail. I worked my way up the canyon trail's twisty and rock strewn path, crossed Murrietta Creek once and continued through to Murietta Camp. From there the path narrowed into a mildly brushy trail which twisted through the black forest. The rocky track climbed out of the canyon and I was soon deposited on Murietta Road. Oh, good. Let the true slog begin. It was all uphill from here.  
Cara Blanca from Monte Arido Rd
Murietta Road offers an unyielding uphill grind. I settled in for the next few hours of relentless uphill, setting a ground eating pace that I could maintain. As I passed Murietta Spring the starry sky was suggesting the first vague hints of the coming sun. The air shifted and a gentle breeze slid down the canyon. I killed the headlamp as I crested Murietta Divide and hung a right (N) onto Monte Arido Rd. The trudge up Murietta had only been the warm up for the miles to come. It was time to get out of this forested canyon and start working on the mountains.

A look south across the Murietta Divide at Peak 4864 and Divide Peak.
Monte Arido Road climbs out of the Divide quickly, mercilessly. It's lower portions weave through an impressive band of boulder fields, climbing onto the southern slope of Old Man Mountain. As I gained elevation I earned views of Jameson Lake and I could just make out El Montanon (Santa Cruz Island's high point) peaking out of the marine layer. Eventually the road turns west, traversing across Old Man's southern flank (and losing a couple hundred feet in the process) before wrapping around to the northern side of the peak. Grudging every inch of that downhill across the sunny southern slope, I continued around the back side of the peak, in the steeps again. After I passed the Junction for Old Man's summit run I'd be in new territory. The sun was up and the day warming to a beautiful sunrise, the birds were up and about, and from where I stood at that junction for Old Man...well, it looked even steeper than everything leading up to this. It was time to sit down for a bit of breakfast in the sun.

The view uphill from my breakfast stop. There's a couple more miles of the same right behind what's visible.
Done with my break, it was time to bang out the last 3 miles to the top of Monte Arido. I had a minor argument with my body about this new round of climbing. I won, of course. 
Monte Arido is one of those routes that put a hill in front of you, and just when you're nearing the top of the hill and are thinking that hey, maybe this thing'll level out, it crushes you with successive views of more horrific climbs to come. This part of the day was not fun. I put my head down and paced it out, banging away at the odometer, finally rounding the bald plateau of Monte Arido's summit just before 10AM, making it an even five hours from Matilija.

Monte Arido summit
I spent some time on top, sucking in carbs and water. The day was getting pretty warm now. I'd never been up here so I took some time to appreciate the views of all the familiar landmarks I now viewed from this new vantage. The summit itself is pretty boring, just an anonymous and uninformative benchmark and a coffee can register that bore the signs of someone's anti-Sierra Club ire (see below). I myself have observed that that organization's lobbying arm sometimes picks the wrong battles, expending influence and donor dollars to irritate, rather than work with the various parties in a given issue toward a rational and effective solution. It's one of those "Me thinks though dost protest {about the wrong things} too much." issues. But that's just my observation. At the local chapter level I think the organization is a harmless social club that does some good things with, and for, ecologically aware people interested in furthering their outdoor experience. 

The Sierra Club does have it's detractors. Monte Arido Summit Register.

Monte Arido Summit Register.

Monte Arido register, my map and trail journal.

I reluctantly got myself put together for the knee-jarring descent off the summit, back down the way I'd come, headed toward Old Man Mountain. As I descended I was given great views into the Matilija watershed and of the twin summits of Old Man. Eventually I was back at the take-off for the summit of the old fella. Oh good (again). Another half mile of brushy climbing, this time on a wildly zigzaggy route ending on a few feet of rocky mountain top. I started up the trail and as I climbed I got a good look into Old Man Canyon. I involuntarily shuddered, remembering my descent of that hellish drainage (below). 
Rain catch, Monte Arido Rd
Old Man Canyon. Not recommended.
Old Man Mountain from the north, The right-hand peak is the summit and the route climbs the right of the picture.
Old Man Summit Register

This is a good view of the way up Monte Arido. Taken from Old Man.

The day was really heating up and those little black bitey flies were out in force on the summit so I vamoosed outa there, descending to the road where I found a nice patch of shade to park it for a bit. I nearly fell asleep, jerked awake, and swayed to my achy feet. May as well get this over with, I thought. On that note I began the long and pounding slog down these hills I'd climbed. As I walked I remarked to myself that this beautiful, 85 degree day was probably going to be the day I saw my first rattler of the season, and I was right (below). Aside from that, it was a long and unremarkable slog out to the ranch.

Old Man Mountain's pointy sister peak.

FYI: Water levels are well below normal for this time of year (but what's "normal" anymore?), and those flies? Those little black bitey bastards? It's going to be a buggy early spring. The whole day took just under 11 hours to complete.
My first rattler of the season.


  1. That's a helluva hike. The climb up Monte Arido Rd from Murietta Divide seems like it would be punishing.

    We visited Monte Arido and Old Man Mtn via mountain bike on a Pine Mtn to Ojai shuttle ride. I think that way we came in with 5,000 vertical feet of gain and about 8,000 vertical feet of descent over 35 miles... took about 5 hours including breaks.

    Interestingly I came across my first two rattler encounters of the new year this weekend too. One on Sierra Madre Ridge and one along the SY River corridor near P Bar Flats. They're awake now...

  2. Indeed they are. Hey Nico,
    When you gonna get back to me about that project?
    Yeah, that was long miles, mucho gain. -Stillman

  3. "Just a hint of Jameson." I love that you said that for a St. Paddy's post. ;-) Great TR, Stillman.