Monday, December 2, 2013

Whiteacre Peak SVS, 11/30/13

Mark Jiroch and Jack Elliott taking in views of Topatopa Peak and Hines Peak, from the potrero below and north of Whiteacre's summit.

Just a sterling day, weather-wise and in all other ways. Jack Elliott and I were joined on our repeat ascent of the demanding and brushy Whiteacre Peak by another Ventura local with whom I've been corresponding, Mark Jiroch. He's laid some comments on the blog over the years but this was our first time out and he came as advertised, one lanky and lean Marine. For what it's worth, he is now officially a "friend of the blog". Welcome, Mark.

This time around our choose-your-own-adventure route was a bit brushier than on our previous visit however there did seem to be signs of several recent attempts to reach the summit plateau, namely a pretty well worked use trail all the way up to the Notch. I say "attempts" because both Jack and I were surprised that there had been no new signatures in the SVS summit journal since our last time here, so clearly people have tried the peak and gotten turned back at the Notch or in the brush tunnel directly above it. That's too bad because this hike, I am convinced, is one of the best day-hikes in the SLP, and the guys with me this day would agree.

We were subjected to the same meandering brush battles and rock scrambles on the summit plateau that Jack and I had previously experienced, though this time it was notably more overgrown. As we scrambled up on to the summit ramp we caught a condor fly-by. When I called it out, Mark was able to chimney up that slot with haste and catch his first glimpse of a condor in the wild before the bird turned and sailed out toward Cobblestone Peak. "Don't worry," I said, "he'll be back." And around 20 minutes later he did indeed return for a few lazy loops at about 50ft above us as we enjoyed the summit. After that cherry on the day we went exploring, uncovering more fossils than we had previously discovered, and we headed south across the bluffs for a ways. During that exploration we encountered bear tracks galore and some additional fossils, very clear indications of what had at one time likely been coastal mud-flat (below).

All in all we had a fun and adventurous day on the peak, the type of day that is difficult to replicate. I want to emphasize again that this one of those peaks that, despite it's strenuous and brushy nature, is oh so worth doing. There's plenty of space in that summit journal so get on it before it is overgrown so completely that getting there becomes impossible. 

I'll refer you to my and Jack's Whiteacre Trip Report for a more thorough description of the route and if you have questions on the nitty gritty you can feel free to email me at

The sandstone bluffs of Whiteacre Peak. "The Notch" ascends the left-most (N) portion of the ridge.

Jack below the notch with San Rafael Peak on the center-right skyline. 

Wind caves abound in between the slabs of the summit plateau.
Jack clearing the awkward/sketchy jump to the summit ramp.
Condor pee on Whiteacre's USGS marker.
Another fly-by by a CA Condor makes 2 for 2 for Jack and me on this summit, and a first for Mark.
Jack Elliott and Mark Jiroch on the summit of Whiteacre. Topatopa Peak dominates the right side of this frame.
This lost condor beacon antennae decorates the slab below the summit.
A sedimentary layer of pebbled sandstone near the summit contains large bony fossils. (and below)

Fossilized tidal mudflat (probably).

Jack Elliott on a bluff south of the summit.
There are many wind caves and geologic oddities near the summit of Whiteacre.
Mark Jiroch descending "The Notch".
Large puma print. This month's National Geographic has a great article about the "return" of the  North American mountain lion.
A view east into the Agua Blanca Watershed. The big ridge above the drainage comes off Cobblestone Peak.
Whiteacre Peak at sunset, from near Dough Flat.


  1. Hey David, Great TR!

    I noticed your image of the AB watershed, I've been looking at maps of that area for a while. I'm wondering if you've heard of anyone trying to tackle Cobblestone from the South via a subsidiary ridge?

  2. There used to be an old trail that climbed out of Piru Creek to Cobblestone Spring and from there to the summit. I have never met anyone who has attempted that trail in modern history. -DS

  3. i believe kim c. did that as part of a solo dough flat / big narrows / piru creek / cobblestone spring/mtn trek a few years ago.

  4. If anybody could, it would have been Kim. I'm not at all surprised. Hard man. -DS

  5. for what it's worth, kim c did do that in dec of 10 - day 1 = dough flat / ant / ellis apiary, day 2 = halfway spring / cobblestone register / saddle below, day 3 = saddle / agua blanca / saddle skirt / ant / dough flat. rained night 2 and day 3. very hard man.

  6. You can also summit by contouring around the north edge of the peak and ascending more towards the east.

  7. To add a bit to this discussion, I have been down to Ant Camp 3 times in the past year as day hikes and after some trial and error, have found a fairly clean route up Cobblestone from the South. Hope to complete it next time out. I headed down Aqua Blanca for about 1/4 mile below Ant Camp and then followed a fairly good game trail all the way to the obvious ridge that heads south and then west from Cobblestone. This ridge ends at the narrows above Ant Camp near the old Saddle Skirt campsite. This route is becoming brushy and will probably only be passable another year without some work. Jeff Cannon- Newhall

  8. Heading up to White Acre Peak on Sunday. Looks fantastic! I usually bring my dog on most hikes and backpacking trips. Would you recommend a dog for this trip? Small 15lb but tough and agile.

  9. Colm, you will undoubtedly need to lift/shove your dog through the notch, and especially if he is to finish the last 100 feet to the summit. Otherwise a dog should be ok. Luck. -DS

  10. Thanks man. Aborting WAP until a friend can get us through to Dough Flat. Doing Santa Paula peak instead. My knees are already screaming!

  11. Isn't Whiteacre Peak part of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary? Meaning no humans allowed? Sespe Condor Sanctuary
    The Sespe Condor Sanctuary north of Fillmore, CA, was established in 1947 and expanded in 1951 to its current size of 53,000 acres. The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service intended the Sanctuary to be closed to all public entry except by permit however there are four one-quarter mile wide recreation travel corridors that can be used to hike through the Sanctuary – the Sespe Creek, Agua Blanca Creek, Alder Creek, and Bucksnort Trails.
    The California condo was recognized as “endangered” in 1967 and received legal protection in 1972 when the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty was amended to include vultures and certain other families of birds. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, federal agencies were required to protect habitat and to prepare recovery plans that specified actions for its recovery.
    The Sanctuary lies within the boundary of the Sespe Wilderness and is where the Forest Service provides critical habitat, wildlife refuge, and land management for the protection of the California condor. The Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act of 1992 established the Sespe Wilderness, which is also regarded as the “Home of the California Condor.” These protections include the controlled public access to the Sanctuary to protect condor nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat. Survey data shows that California condors heavily use the Sanctuary to breed, nest, roost and forage.
    As condors expand their use into their historic range, interactions with humans continue to be a concern. Refuges of high-quality habitat without human contact are necessary for the continued recovery of the species. Contaminants, primarily lead exposure from lead ammunition, continue to be a threat to the condor and the Sanctuary provides an area of protection from exposure.
    The frequency of human trespassing in the Sanctuary, particular the Tar Creek area, exposes condors to human food and microtrash as well as direct human contact. This habituation increases the risk of injury to condors as documented by a condor that was strangled in a climbing rope in 2008. Adjacent to the Sanctuary and also closed to public entry is the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. It is maintained as a refuge to protect the Sanctuary.
    The Ojai Ranger District is working with local partner organizations to deter inadvertent trespassing through educational outreach efforts at parking areas adjacent to the Sanctuary.