Ascent of Cobb Mountain-Southwest Peak on 2016-04-23

Climber: Mihai Giurgiulescu

Others in Party:Travis Ash
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 23, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Cobb Mountain-Southwest Peak
    Elevation:4480 ft / 1365 m

Ascent Trip Report

Access notes:
From San Francisco or Sacramento areas, make your way to CA-29 and follow that northwest to Calistoga, passing through the world-famous Napa Valley. In Calistoga, the highway turns turn north rises over the eastern shoulder of Mount Saint Helena (Napa CoHP) before dropping into Collayomi Valley and the town of Middletown, which are in Lake County. In Middletown, connect with CA-175 and follow that road west for approximately 7 miles to the community of Whispering Pines. From the highway, turn left on Maple Shadows Road, left again on Brookside Drive and stay left where Pinewood Way splits off. These local roads become progressively narrower and steeper, so caution is warranted. The paved portion of Pinewood Way terminates in a non-descript spot that is surrounded by houses and yards, with clearly marked 'No Trespassing' signs. There is no room to park without being on someone's property, so the alternatives are to backtrack down the hill until finding a pullout, or leaving the vehicle next to the decrepit red truck in a small driveway, with an apologetic note on the dashboard (like we did). For these reasons - private property and no room to park - it is advisable to take no more than one vehicle to this starting point, which is at about 2900 ft in elevation. If locals are present, be courteous, friendly and honest, and chances are no one will interfere with your plans.

Climbing notes:
As county high points go, Cobb is one of those where the main route is entirely in a different county, of which it is not the high point. Other examples are the Mariposa liner (CA) with the hike in Tuolumne County and the Pinal liner (AZ) with the hike (not the drive) in Pima County. The hike to Cobb is in Lake County, and the only time one reaches Sonoma County is on the summit of the Southwest Peak. Cobb also got severely burned in the Valley Fire of 2015, the effects of which are clearly visible all over the mountain, though new vegetation is already growing back.

From end of the asphalt on Pinewood Way, walk up the road past the old gate, which is laying thrown off to the side. In about 1/4 mile, the road splits, with the better maintained track going left and downhill. Take the right fork and begin a steady climb up a jeep trail. There are downed trees and other obstacles to negotiate, but the going is steady and the road gains elevation at a good pace. The road eventually peters out and younger trees are found growing in its bed. At this point it helps to have a GPS for navigation.

Past a small rocky protuberance to the south, the road is almost indistinct, so one needs to pay attention to the direction one is headed in. Eventually, the south slopes of the East Peak are reached, from where a beeline can be made straight to the top. There are undamaged communication antennas surrounded by a chain link fence on this summit; the highest accessible point is a boulder to the east of the fence. There are some views to the east and south, including glimpses of St. Helena, but still a lot of burned tree trunks blocking the way. No register present.

A maintained road connects the East Peak with the main summit of Cobb, which is just 16 ft or so higher. There are some functional antennas here too, and other destroyed or damaged equipment as well. I looked around briefly for the remnants of the register, as noted by previous visitors, but could not find them. I also didn't see the USGS benchmark, but I was in a hurry to grab the CoHP so I didn't spend much time on the main summit. Some good views are available to the west.

We followed an old road south from the main summit, then continued dropping on the ridge. It's really tempting to stay on this ridge as the going is easy, however I realized we were overshooting the saddle with the Southwest peak, so I made a course correction to the west that required plunge-stepping down bare slopes of dirt and charred woody debris. At the saddle we bypassed some dry brush that had somehow miraculously survived the fire, then completed the short but steep rise to the top.

The summit of Cobb Southwest is completely anti-climactic and, with the complete destruction wrecked by the fire, somewhat spooky. The day was mostly overcast, yet the sun broke through the clouds just when we got here, immediately causing steam to rise out of the moisture-laden ground. With the blackened tree trunks all around, it felt like we were in some medieval British bog or swamp. I could not identify a high point, so I just selected a random rock for the waypoint. Could also not see any signs of a register.

On the way back I was able to take a more efficient route back to the main summit of Cobb, then elected to plunge-step a beeline from the east summit to where the dirt peters out. This allowed us to shave off some distance and also meant we dropped elevation fast, which is what I was hoping because I was in a rush to get back to San Francisco.

In the end, I can't say there was anything memorable about this CoHP other than that I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend and got to drive through Napa Valley for the first time. The movie set atmosphere on Cobb Southwest was interesting, however the overall mood gets depressing once it's clear how thoroughly burned the mountain is. Would not recommend going in the summer as I imagine it can get pretty hot.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:830 ft / 252 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2620 ft / 798 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.2 mi / 6.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
Descent (To Destination) Statistics
    Gain on way in:430 ft / 131 m
    Loss on way in:670 ft / 204 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    Route:South Ridge/West Slope XC
    Start Trailhead:Cobb Main Summit  4720 ft / 1438 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1950 ft / 594 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1550 ft / 472 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:3.2 mi / 5.1 km
    Route:Cobb Main Summit/Abandoned Fire Roads
    End Trailhead:Pinewood Way  2930 ft / 893 m
Ascent Part of Trip: SF Bay Area CoHP 04-16

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Cobb Mountain-East Peak2016-04-231780 ft / 543 m
2Cobb Mountain2016-04-2380 ft / 24 m
3Cobb Mountain-Southwest Peak2016-04-23830 ft / 253 m
4Mount Vaca-North Peak2016-04-24145 ft / 44 m
5Mount Vaca2016-04-24220 ft / 67 m
Total Trip Gain: 3055 ft / 931 m    Total Trip Loss: 3051 ft / 931 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Mihai Giurgiulescu
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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