Ascent of Big Pine Mountain on 2016-05-17

Climber: Steve Johnson

Date:Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Big Pine Mountain
    Elevation:6800 ft / 2072 m

Ascent Trip Report

I met my buddy Mike in Taft for dinner, and we drove into Santa Barbara Canyon as it was getting dark. Unlike last year, the road was fixed and the gate was open at the Santa Barbara Ranch and we were able to continue driving the additional 5 +/- miles to the mouth of Alamo Canyon, where we spotted a couple of vehicles parked at the side of the road in a flat area. This last 5 miles of dirt road was a piece of cake for our jeeps, and probably passable for a non-4 wheel drive with good ground clearance.
Deciding to not drive further up the road, we stopped slept here, and realized the next morning that we were about .75 miles short of the final gate, which would add a mile and a half to an already long trip.
After a slow morning, we were on our mountain bikes at about 8, with the sun already on us for the long climb. Coby King had mentioned to me that April was the time to do this mountain, and we knew we were probably pushing our luck a bit with our mid-May timing, but the weather turned out to be just about perfect…warm but not too warm, clear skies for the most part, with enough of a light breeze when we needed it. We made Chokecherry Spring about 11, and found that water was available from the upper tank by opening a valve. I had my steripen along with me to treat it, which after looking at the water in the horse trough seemed like it might be a good idea.
Continuing on, we stashed a liter and a half of water at the Madulce trailhead for the way back. We passed a large van, empty, parked at Alamar Guard Station, wondering how it had gotten there. As we contoured along the north side of Big Pine Mountain we noticed a number of fresh mountain bike tracks, and as we turned off the fire road to take the short summit trail we found 7 bikes, with camping gear, already stashed there. That group was an impressive collection of young men and women from the Thatcher School in Ojai, out on an unsupported 6 day mountain bike camping trip….pretty cool, and we had a nice chat at the top.
The foot trail to the summit is almost non-existent, but it was relatively easy route finding, simply avoiding the shrubbery and sticking to the grassy areas. The burned out summit, while generally clear of trees, is at least green, and the views out to the ocean, covered with fog, were wonderful., as was the summit register with entries dating back, in the 3 notebooks, to 1993 as I recall.
After chatting with the high school kids and their leader, taking pictures, having lunch and taking in the views, we headed back down, getting back to the cars and our camping spot at about 5:30. Shortly thereafter, a truck stopped by, having also come down from somewhere up on the mountain. Turn out the driver was the owner of the Santa Barbara Ranch, an old gentleman who had been on the land his whole lie. He said that his family has been on the property since 1850…you gotta like meeting those folks. E was very pleasant and we invited him to join us for spaghetti at our camp. He laughed and said he thought he could probably do better at home which was likely true.
Stats as follows: 34.7 miles, 5646 feet of elevation gain, 9 hours and 43 minutes. Carried and drank about 4 liters of water, didn’t need any additional from the Spring. My 56th California County high point, Mike’s 45th.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear

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