Monday, February 24, 2014

Cobblestone Mountain via new route, "Redrum Ridge"

The idea for this new, southern approach to Cobblestone Mtn came from Jeff Cannon of Newhall. He thought that the route ought to be called the "Southwest Spur", which (no disrespect to Jeff) is kind of boring and benign, and while the climb up this ridge is many things, it is neither boring nor benign. After my attempt on Valentines Day (trip report) and again during this climb today, I was reminded that there is nothing humble about Cobblestone Mountain. I have now earned this route, and I am christening it Redrum Ridge. Those of you who haven't see The Shining can simply spell "redrum" backwards and it will all make sense.

There are two elements beyond human control that make this ascent possible. 1.) There needs to be water in Agua Blanca Creek for this to work. I went through close to eight liters of water for the entire day, 4.5 of which went down on the actual mountain. 2.) The temperature has to cooperate. The entire route climbs the southern aspect of the mountain. There is very little shade anywhere along the route, and this part of our forest tends to be devilishly hot even when other areas feel cool. If those items are in order then one can focus on the mountain.

Click any image to enlarge it.

I once again knocked out the eight miles to Ant Camp in rapid style, stashed some items, topped off on water, and set about climbing this thing for real. The use trail which crosses the meadow NE from Ant Camp leads to Agua Blanca Creek, and by crossing the creek and going downstream for about 150ft one arrives at the start of the route. The climbing starts immediately, ascending the left side of a steep canyon of grasses, yucca and low scrub. Gaining elevation, one eventually clears the canyon and begins to wrap around the upper portions of this first hill. It is best to angle NW across this slope until crossing a small gully, then up, up, up to the mother of all ridges.

This detail shows the lower portion of the climb ascending to the ridge.
The big slope which climbs out of the gully to the ridge is a grind. The slope is hot, loose, and a bit brushed up. This part of the climb is long and steep and it sucks. After attaining the ridge one gets a bit of a break. The top of the ridge from this point is large and rounded, and though it too is brushy, meandering upward through the scrub is not difficult. The route continues up this ridge, climbing two short steps before reaching the first red dot noted in the image below. To the north of this dot is a minor saddle where about 150ft of elevation will be lost. To minimize this loss, and to get some time in the shade on the north side of this lower part of the ridge, I shortcut across the northern aspect of the ridge below the red dot using a pretty good animal trail. Below, on the saddle is another opportunity for shade in some pines, a time to gather oneself before attacking "The Three Evils".

Detail of the mid and upper ridge.
Elevation profile from Agua Blanca to summit.

The 3 Evils. Three steps, each longer than the last. Each climbing at between 30 and 50 degrees for their entire length. This part of the ridge has a character all it's own. Steep, rough, rocky and loose, with old pines dotting the narrowing ridge. The first time I ascended these steps the experience was soul crushing. On this day though, I was out for revenge, attacking each step with raw determination and brute force. Hostility might be the best word for it. I knew what I was in for and I brought my game face. On a hard mountain this stretch was the hardest. One gets a bit of a break after topping out on the second step. Here the ridge turns northwest, cresting and dropping over a couple minor rises before settling once more into a steep climb which wanders around intermittent stands of charred brush. My tracks fell in amongst the tracks of an enormous mountain lion, and figuring he knew where he was going I let him lead me almost all the way to the summit.

Summit, from the lower ridge.
False summit, from the saddle below The 3 Evils.
The third of The 3 Evils.
Looking at the summit from the east.

At last I topped out. I didn't make a big production out of it and only stayed long enough to take a few photos. I noted that fewer than a dozen people had summited since Nico and I had in spring of 2012 (TR). Jeff Cannon had been there twice by two different lines. Not a popular peak. Hard country.

This climb takes some strategy. I was very disciplined about my approach to this one, as I am with any of the more brutal days I've put down in the mountains (Brutal means different things to different folks. It's all relative. This mountain is a brute.) I took only two real breaks during the entire day, 20 minutes on the summit and 20 minutes on the return leg back at Agua Blanca Creek. All other stops were held to under three minutes, just to blow and shake out. I used a lot of water, understatement. I used every trick I know of for staying motivated and physically on top, and was even better prepared for this go around than I had been on Valentines Day. This is a big day to swallow all at once, but it could reasonably be done with a fresh start from Ant Camp, meaning as an overnight. Despite what you may think, I truly loved this climb. Must be the masochist in me.

The lower aspect of Redrum Ridge.
Looking back down Redrum Ridge.
A view down the ridge from atop the first Evil

Here are my times start to finish. I was surprised by these numbers given the scope of the day.

Gate to ABCreek 2:15
AB-Summit 3:50/6:05
Summit-ABCreek 2:25/8:30
ABCreek-Gate 2:40/10:45 
GPS had it as nearly 26 miles on the day.



  1. Nice work. Looks like a real challenge; i'd be keen to give it a go someday but will wait for a rainy winter when the Cobblestone Spring is running and a nice cool day. Probably spread it out as an overnighter... maybe up "redrum ridge" and return via the saddle b/t Cobblestone and White Mtn and then down the Agua Blanca back to Ant Camp. Could be a "fun" option someday...

    Anyway, I'm impressed. The stats from the day speak for themselves. Cobblestone is no easy feat no matter which way you come from.

  2. Nico, that one sounds good too.. The uppermost drainage of Agua Blanca back down to Ant looks pretty intriguing. -DS

  3. So DMS, was there water at Agua Blanca Creek, or did you carry it all into Ant Camp and then cache some for the return trip?

  4. Rico,
    There was weak to moderate flow in Agua Blanca Creek at Ant Camp. The water is clean and clear.-DS

  5. Great stuff David. Love your sense of adventure. Keep it up and keep writing about it.

  6. A blessing from The Master! You made my day, Bob. -DS

  7. I was at ANT Camp on 3/8/2014 and there was plenty of water.

  8. Hi David, nice blog! I am thinking about possibly doing this one this weekend. Did you use a GPS when doing this? Do you have a GPX file you could share? My email is Thanks!

  9. Erin, good luck. I don't ever really use a GPS unless I suspect I might be off course and can't see land marks, so sorry I can't help ya. -DS