Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cedar Peak [SVS], 04/23/13

There's a certain kind of person who is compulsively driven to go where few travel. Several years back, a bloke I'll refer to as KC started collecting particularly remote and troublesome peaks that nobody else in our forest even knew how to approach. This gentleman left his SVS mark on some very unique and challenging peaks, and Cedar is one of four of these summits that I've hit. The first time I encountered one of his registers I saw the SVS thing and thought, "Now, what could this be about?". I've since learned that SVS stands for "Seldom Visited Summit", and when you see these letters on a summit register in the Southern Los Padres it means you worked your ass off to get there. These peaks don't have trails, it's up to you to figure it out... and I think that's great. So KC, if you read this I'm drawing a complete blank in my hunt for the final two (I was certain that there would've been one on Devils Heart) and just a hint would be nice. And I like your taste in peaks.

The most sensible way to reach Cedar Peak is to walk up the beautifully forested Cedar Creek until it's time to leave the trail for the summit. Unfortunately, the trailhead for Cedar Creek lies within the Grade Valley/Mutau part of the SLP, and the USFS seldom opens Grade Valley Rd before Memorial Day. Another way for crazy people (Jiroch, KC) to get here is by traversing the crest northwest from Thorn Point. That route looks entertaining. And then there's the way I went, straight the hell up from the Gene Marshall Trail.

I took off from the Sespe/Piedra Blanca Trailhead at 6am. It was a cool and gusty morning, cold enough for gloves. I crossed the desperately low Sespe and turned up the Gene Marshall, headed into Piedra Blanca rocks as the eastern sky was lightening. An atmospheric haze washed out the morning colors and as I descended the north side of PB rocks and turned upstream I was greeted with a persistent blast of wind that gusted down the Piedra Blanca drainage. I made good time and soon passed Piedra Blanca camp and a couple minutes later I took a time out at Twin Forks to charge up before tackling the gnarly climb up to Pine Mountain Lodge.

I put my head down and paced out the 2,400ft climb out of Twin Forks. I somehow managed to pick a pace which I was able to hold the entire way to Pine Mountain Lodge. Not one stop, not even for a minute. This is a hell of a hill, good training for whatever makes you feel good. Before long I was cooling off in a stiff breeze, enjoying the sounds of the wind in the cedars. As I rolled into Pine Mountain Lodge I breathed in the scent of pine and cedar and purely clean air. I was back in the high country and loving it.

After a nice break at Pine Mountain Lodge I picked up the Cedar Creek Trail and settled in for the next mile of uphill. I hadn't yet walked this portion of the Cedar trail and was curious what I was in for. This mile climbed through a beautifully forested ravine, passing between large sandstone formations while rising to a saddle. The Cedar Creek trail continues east over the saddle and descends into that even prettier drainage. From the saddle I turned SSE, climbing a poorly defined ridge through brush and forest. 

After some initial route finding I picked up a poor excuse for a use trail. The most recent traveller on this "path" was a big bear, the same bear I'd followed up the hill from Pine Mtn Lodge. This path wended through manzanita and deadfalls, cedars and pine. The ridge line dropped a couple times before a last, steep and rocky scramble to a bald summit. I rolled up on the summit and paced a wide circle around the peak, taking in all those familiar landmarks from this new perspective. I enjoyed reading the very brief list familiar names in the SVS summit register. The last visitor had been KC himself, in September of 2010. "Seldom Visited" is right!

Click the image bigger to see Thorn Point Fire Lookout, from Cedar Peak.

After some time on summit I descended back toward PM Lodge, taking time to explore some of the caves and overhangs on the numerous rock formations. Done poking around I finished the walk down to the camp and took a nice, long break in the shade. A half hour later I got going again, certainly not looking forward to the long and punishing down grade back to PB. 

Cool rock formations along the Cedar Creek trail. Reyes Peak in the distance.

This is all the water you get at Pine Mtn Lodge.
I basically blasted out of that place, trotting and jogging the whole way out. Just as I crossed the Sespe I saw a big and beautiful grey fox, kind of the icing on this day's cake.

The Rain Rock at Twin Forks needs a better view.

Here's the way the day went. Starting at 06:00 I reached Pine Mountain Lodge at 09:15, and summited at 11:05 (5:05). Was back at the trailhead at 15:40 for 9:40 on the day. That's not too far off what I thought it would be, considering that there's 5,000 feet of gain and loss on this 16.5 mile day. 


  1. The whole Pine Mtn area has got to be one of the nicest places for a walk in the SLP. Cooler temps, less dense brush (generally) under the big trees, the pines themselves... It's always a treat to get anywhere in that vicinity.

    I've only been through the actual Cedar Creek trail once... in the snow... in the midst of a long 45-mile overnight loop through the Sespe. I really enjoyed the area but just didn't have the time on that trip to pause the give the place the attention it deserves. I need to get back up there and spend some quality time wandering around those canyons and ridges. Lots of potential there for good adventures, I reckon.


  2. I reckon so. Looks to me like cat country for sure. About a million holes to poke your head in. And I agree with Nico that the high country between Pine Mountain and Mutau is the best zip code in the SLP.

  3. You've piqued my interest with this SVS business. Any more hints about KC and the summits? I don't recall anything from your prior posts.

  4. Well, JR. I know WHO KC is, and have emailed him once or twice, but I haven't heard from him in a long while. DS

  5. I just got back from being out of the country for a month. Congratulations on finding Cedar Peak. One you have not visited yet we call Cream Puff. It is best done as part of a Topatopa Triple. Start at the Sisar Trailhead and hike to the top of Topatopa Bluffs, descend the backside of the bluffs toward Hindes Peak. There is one peak between the bluffs and Hindes Peak which we call Cream Puff. Climb Cream Puff then finish by climbing Hindes Peak. It’s a great day hike.

  6. I have been out of the country for the last 30 day. You have not visited the peak we call Cream Puff. The best way to do Cream Puff is a Topatopa Triple. Start at Sisar Trailhead and hike to the Topatopa Bluffs. Descend the backside of the bluffs toward Hines Peak. Cream Puff is the peak between Hines Peak and the bluffs. Climb Cream Puff and then Hines Peak. It makes a great day hike.


  7. Arghhh!!! (Shaking fist at sky). I honestly considered that summit! Sounds like a really good day. -DS