Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cream Puff Peak (SVS), with Hines Peak and Topatopa Bluff, 06/02/13

I've felt myself getting a little soft lately. Haven't felt like I've put down anything all that hard in a while. So why not make it 3 summit day? And while I'm at it, why don't I make it a time trial? I've kind of gotten away from timing myself but this route is always a great test of one's general level of toughness and stamina. The Suffer Machine and then some.
I'll get to the stats at the end. 

This is a route I know so well that it's easy for me to quickly settle in and bang out the miles, adjusting  my rhythm with each familiar grade. Not having to do much other than march up this thing. I left the trailhead at Sisar at 06:00, moved quickly up canyon and through the woods under White Ledge Camp where I stopped for a couple minutes. I sat in the morning half light under that little camp's green canopy of alder and sycamore. A couple minutes after my heart rate had normalized it was time to pace out the next two mile climb to the ridge. I knew I was firing on all cylinders when I glanced at my watch and did a bit of comparison arithmetic. The numbers were right where I wanted them to be. I blew by the tank trap at the end of Nordoff Ridge Road and followed the line eastward until I stood under Hines Peak.
Hines Peak (L) and Cream Puff Peak (R)

There are two different ways to approach linking these peaks, one of which was new territory for me. The way it was recommended to me was to top out on Topa Bluffs and descend over to Cream Puff, do that peak and finish with Hines before heading out. I prefer to knock off the biggest, baddest bruiser of the day at the outset so I used what I know works for me. Hines would come first and Topa would be the last. I shattered my record for Sisar to Hines by 20-something minutes. Next, a date with a pastry parlor.

Cream Puff Peak SVS is that steep sloped thumb off the starboard wing as you cruise east toward Hines. I've walked by it at least a dozen times and only a couple times did I consider heading up it, and then I found out that it was a claimed and named summit. Furthermore, that name was Cream Puff! Now I had to do it! Those of you who've climbed in more than a couple places understand our fixation with crafty and ridiculous names ("Hobbit in a Blender" or "Poodles are People Too" come to mind). There's often a story behind the good ones. In the summit register on Cream Puff is a plastic package lid from a big tub of yes, cream (not creme) puffs! While on the summit I meditated deeply on this mystery, cream puff wrapper clenched tightly in hand, eyes raised in prayer to the Great God Cream Puff of Arcadia California, prayed for an insight into nascent origins of this most lavishly christened crag. I had a vision.
Here's what I got: Two guys sitting on the summit. They have this tub of Costco cream puffs for some reason. They're also pretty stoned. I know this because nobody but stoners buy Costco cream puffs. One of them has a mouth full of cream puff. The half empty tub lies between them. The other guy exhales a cloud of blue smoke, coughs a bit, swats away a fly and asks the first guy "Hey man, what do you think we should name this peak? Like, nobody's been here, right? So it's, like...ours to name! Right?" The other guy's just crammed another cream puff in his face so he's trying hard not to suffocate on the powdered sugar coating while giving his friend a thumbs up. "Riiight! (nodding violently) That's what I'm sayin! Ours to name bro! So...umm, what do you want to name it?" Cream Puff face can't answer because he's just mastered the proper rate of nasal breathing required to stay alive while attempting to swallow another cannonball of dough. "So what do we name it? Hey, you okay?" Cotton mouth and cream puffs are a bitch. It doesn't go well, and the Heimlich maneuver is used to separate the man from the cream puff before order is restored to the name selection process. After all that they'd be obligated to call it Cream Puff. I wouldn't have named it Cream Puff. 
Zoltan's Throne maybe.

Hines Peak
Cream Puff Peak from Hines Peak
So getting back to Hines. A Class II slip and slide with some rocky nonsense at the top. Been here many a time. I didn't stay for more than a few minutes before turning back on my route and descending back to the Red Reef. Next up, Cream Puff.

Cream Puff Peak from under Hines
Bigelow's onkeyflower
Grinnell's pestemon
The climb up Cream Puff is even steeper and looser than the path up Hines. I would venture to say that trying to get up here without trekking poles would be frustrating. This is a 50 degree shale slide and there isn't really a route up it, more like a shadow of possible assistance left by those few who had come before. Basically you climb straight up the f**kin thing. Despite it's being only a 400 foot climb from the trail, this little peak makes you earn it, and by the time you top out you won't be thinking about is as a "afterthought" or "gimmick". This peak offers really neat perspective, a nice addition to my catalog of mental summit shots. I particularly liked the views of Hines and the north edge of the Topatopa Ridge. This peak is well worth adding to any linkup along this ridge. I liked it. 
This gives you an idea what passes for "trail" on this slope.
Cream Puff Peak (SVS) 6,486'

A view due north with the Red Reef in the foreground and Thorn Point in the distance.

After a few minutes with the register I skated down to the Red Reef and resumed westward travel. Back under the north side of Topa Bluffs I climbed the gawdawful steep track up to the summit of Topa. I didn't hang out.

Looking back from Topa at Cream Puff. Just the tippy top of Hines is visible behind cream Puff from this perspective. The massive Topatopa Ridge is jutting out in the distance. I didn't like that place.
Topatopa Bluff
I popped a caffeine tab and jogged off of Topa, kept jogging when I hit the road, and jogged all the way down to White Ledge where I dunked my head for a few minutes and let myself cool down a bit. So I was sitting on a log next to the main fire ring in the camp and I could swear I kept hearing little bird chirps! Not up in the trees with the other birds but right next to me! I was baffled, made a joke to myself about the seldom seen western pygmy voice-thrower finch. Couldn't figure it out until I finally stood up and looked straight down into the fire pit. There I saw a pair of scarcely fledged sparrows. They were in bad shape, had been hit by some kind of parasitic insect that incubates larvae in other organisms. The tops of these little bird's heads were just drilled with huge holes. These little guys were hosed and after trying and failing to get decent film or video I backed off and left them to their fate. There were what I assume was a father/son duo camped there. I spent a few minutes speaking with him before I was able to get moving again.

Barely a trickle from the spring at White Ledge Camp. Water is available in the adjacent creek but probably not for long.

I stropped a couple times for pictures but otherwise I jogged the whole way out to the truck.
Here's how the day went:
06:00 Left from Sisar TH
10:09 Summit Hines Peak (4:09)
11:19 Summit Cream Puff Peak (5:19)
12:37 Topatopa Bluff (6:37)
15:04 Sisar TH (9:05)
22-23 miles
>7,000 feet gained

Yellow Mariposa lily



  1. Congratulations. Only two Seldom Visited Sites left. One is at the base of the 100’ plus waterfall in Santa Paula Canyon and the other is on San Cayetano Mountain.

  2. Probably Bigelow's monkeyflower.


    Great shots, by the way!

  3. Hey thanks, that's pretty much what I thought. -DS

  4. David,

    Incredible time for such a gnarly hike! Your tales never fail to amuse and inspire me.

    Just did the TopaTopa Bluff and Hines route from Sisar yesterday with a couple buddies and my interest about No-Name aka Cream Puff was piqued, so when I got home I searched and found this. You managed to do what we did as well as Cream Puff and still finish an hour faster - amazing!

    You should really look into trail (aka ultra) running, you're a natural for it. It's what you're doing already in fact and you might enjoy running into other similar-minded crazies from time to time.

    On another note, I'm wondering if you heard anything about the nice wooden Last Chance Trail sign at the base of TopaTopa Bluff that was knocked down last spring or why there is an increase in litter on the trail recently. I picked up what I could and deposited in the barrel on the way to Hines, but it always depresses me when I encounter senseless vandalism. The Punch Bowls are ruined up the Jackson Falls and were pristine 20 years ago. Volunteers clean it up and the tagging is back within a few weeks. Hope that sort of nonsense doesn't spread...

    Regardless, great job with the blogging and hiking. Keep up the good work!

  5. Hey Joe,
    Nah man, I don't know who crashed the LChance sign but it's been that way for a year or so. I agree that some people are stupid and spray-painting diaper dropping scum-sucking bottom feeders are representatives of a lower life form. Sadly though, the Punchbowls haven't been pristine since the late '60s. You may have noticed that I don't go to Ferndale and probably haven't been there since 2 days after the great flood of '03 that destroyed the canyon. I and a friend were the first up there, cars hung from trees. Hillsides were just gone. It was impressive. ~DS

  6. Hey, I did my first Topa Triple today. The weather conditions were ideal but it's a butt-kicker any way you slice it. =) I went up Topatopa first so I did in the other way around, If I ever get the urge to do this again, I would try Hines first since it was really hard tackling that beast after the first two climbs. Thanks for this blog because I would never have attempted this or even climbed Cream Puff without it.

  7. Strong work Joe. That day is a solid piece of work. -DS

  8. Saw your entry on the three peaks from earlier this summer. Great over-all time. I just did my first Topa Trio on Friday (9:17 RT).

    Hines was good fun when you pick out some brief sections of Class 3 up to the west sub-summit.

    Cream Puff peak is a piece of work though... I was coming down via boot-ski and the ground underneath the sand slabbed out, my boot-ski took a rather spirited acceleration before I stopped myself via fingertips and toenails and proceeded to edge my way back onto the peak's north rib. Tip to any possible confectionary ascensionists: stay on the descenders right (east) of Cream Puff's North Rib, the sand is thick and boggy whereas the west side steeps out to 50 degrees of sand over slab.

    TTB felt like a victory lap.

    White Ledge Camp is still green and shady but the well spring is bone-dry... The only water is between the second crossing in Sisar Cyn and the bottom convergence of the Road Switchback.

  9. Awesome! I thought skating down Cream Puff was a good bit of fun. Now you've got to start tackling some of the more remote SVS summits (see sidebar). They make for interesting climbs, and well off the beaten path. -DS