Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reyes Peak via Chorro Grande Trail, 04/23/2011

I've been up Reyes Peak a number of times, and I've always started at the trailhead at the end of Pine Mountain Road, but I never really felt like I "earned" the summit. It's just too easy from the road, three-ish miles with only about 500ft of gain. Yesterday I earned it.
The Chorro Grande trail takes off from Highway 33 at an unmarked trailhead (2 posts where a sign should be are the marker), at an altitude of 3,400ft. The trail ascends at a moderate angle for a couple miles, climbing through low-land chaparral before the trail abruptly jacks up the steep, and stays that way until reaching Pine Mountain Road at what boulderers call Enlightenment Ridge.
As special word about this three mile "hill". My kindest adjective for this hill would be the word "arduous". I mean, this is right up there with memorable heart-break hills in the Tetons, in the Olympics, the Sierras. It is steep, sustained, arduous.
I blasted through the brutal 5 mile climb from the 33 in 1:50minutes I took a nice break at the last camp on the summit ridge. Patches of snow are still to be found in the shade. The whole ridge felt clean, renewed. The hordes of campers and climbers haven't yet invaded the mountain top. Everything is green. The chalk has been washed away by the winter.

After my break I headed east down the 1.25 miles to the parking lot at the Reyes Peak trailhead and just kept walking right up to the top of Reyes. There are a few steeps in the pines on the way to Reyes, some with snow, but after the grind up Chorro these seem short, almost pleasant. Reyes is a spectacular summit at 7,500ft, notable really for it's 360 vistas. The only direction you can't really see from the summit markers is toward the north, but the views to the north as you descend the peak on your way back are just spectacular. The Cuyama Badlands are quite a sight.

In what seemed like no time I was off Reyes and hooking a left to start the knee-bashing Chorro Grande downhill. It's hard to decide which is worse, the quad-killing uphill or the jackhammer knees on the way down. I can tell you that it's far easier to observe and enjoy the sights on the descent. For instance, I took a nice break at Chorro Grande Camp. This is a comfortable place nestled in a hip of the mountain. It has a clear spring which flows from under a cavernous rock. There are Chumash grinding bowls on camp boulders and the whole place is shaded by pines and oaks. It is a peaceful place and feels very old.

I resumed the knee-bashing descent, most of which provides impressive views up the upper sespe. This is the kind of view that I enjoy traveling through, grand and broad. I could broadly state that my truck seemed grandly far away.
Trip Stats:
Distance: 17 miles round trip
Elevation gained: Over 4,000ft
Time (including breaks): 6hours 20 min

Below: Remains of somebody's bad day, Hwy 33, right above the Snakepits.
Below: Mt Reyes over Piedra Blanca, clouded over as the day grew long.

1 comment:

  1. You're a mad man! Thanks for all the great posts. Yesterday my wife and I did Chorro Grande to the ridge but didn't have enough daylight left to make Reyes Peak. Bugs galore including a fresh hatch of lady bugs at Chorro Grande camp. I could have done without the constant gunfire echoing up from the canyon below. We stopped at Boccali's on the way home to replenish the 3000+ calories. All told it took us 3:06 to the ridge, 1:58 back to the car.