Leaders: Joe Young, Asher Waxman
Participants Jane Gibbons, Mars Bonfire, John Connelly and Leo Rosario greeted the leaders at 6:00 am at the Woodland Hills rideshare point. Two participants, Mars and Jane, had climbed Big Iron the day before; they were about to complete an 11,300' gain weekend. The six of us then "consolidated" into four (!) vehicles for the trip to the trail head for route 1 for Hildreth, at Agua Caliente hot springs. The long drive took over 2 1/2 hours, and the hike began at 9:00 am.
After some brief concern by Joe that the obvious trail might not be the right trail, he settled down and proceeded up the main trail. We lost sight of the trail briefly at the second creek crossing, but quickly regained it. We proceeded to the picnic table just after the tenth creek crossing, and observed that it was established by the Lompoc Search and Rescue. Four more creek crossings brought us (at 10:30 am) to the foot of the ridge that tops out at elevation 3511'. Although there was no sign (duck, pointer, etc.) that this was the right spot, we headed up this ridge. We were all struck by the green coloration of one section of the ridge, a sign of copper, presumably. Beyond peak 3511' the brush is intense, especially so if one attempts to stay in the middle of the ridge. At times we simply lowered our heads and plowed through the brush, thankful that it was not cat's claw or other thorny types of brush - just intense. We arrived at the road which leads to Hildreth at 11:30 am. Once on the road at the west end of the ridge we looked back up the ridge we had just traversed and observed a possibly better route clinging to the south side of the ridge to peak 3511'. We felt that this possibility deserved more exploration.
We then proceeded up the steep road to Hildreth. The six of us formed two groups: Fast (Joe, Mars, Leo), and not quite as fast (Jane, John, Asher). The fast group arrived on the summit of Hildreth at 2:00 pm; the not quite as fast, at 2:30 pm. We found a register in excellent condition on the summit.
We headed down at 2:45 pm. Descent down the road to the westerly edge of the ridge to elevation 3511' was very quick (2-1/2 hours up, 1 hour 8 minutes down). During descent we glanced at the brushy ridge we were soon to traverse - again - and reaffirmed to ourselves that a possible route existed on the south edge of the ridge. Upon arriving at the western edge of this ridge we examined the route through the brush on the ridge which tops at 3511' and found it quite passable. Nearing 3511' we either lost the route or it disappeared, and we curved around 3511' to its north side, then had to scurry back over to the route that leads down to the east.
Our main concern at this point was imminent darkness. We arrived at the main trail at the base of the ridge just before 5:00 pm. After a brief rest we hiked quickly out, the leader finding the darkness overwhelming at about 5:45 pm. So he grudgingly started using his flashlight. But overall we had no problems following the trail. We arrived at the cars at 6:15 pm.
This had been a fine day of hiking, with some beautiful trails and country in the canyon, character-building brush, and steep road hiking. The weather was sunny and only slightly too warm. Thanks to Asher for his patient co-leadership today.
There are some lessons we learned today.
Planning a rideshare meeting at 6:00 am is a mistake. This long, strenuous hike involves a long drive and you just can't forfeit 1-1/2 hours of daylight, especially in winter months.
The peak guide instructions, driving and hiking, are accurate. The admonition "Do not go up Diablo Canyon by mistake!" is puzzling. (I am aware this caution has been in several incarnations of peak guides for Hildreth Peak.) If one follows the main trail, there is no temptation to go up Diablo Canyon.
After attaining elevation 3511' on the ridge to the road to Hildreth, work your way as soon as possible to the south edge of the ridge to the road. We found a relatively open brush route.