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Monte Arido, Old Man Mountain

15 November 1998

By: Joe Young

Leaders: Joe Young, Maggie Wilson

Virgil Popescu and others had warned me that getting a permit and proper combination to open the locked gate to access the Potrero Seco Road through the Ojai Ranger Station was not reliable, especially if you depend on them to leave the permit out for pickup. So the day before the hike I drove to Ojai, stood across the counter from a Ranger, and filled out my permit as well as Maggie's (which she had phoned in), and the Ranger wrote down on my permit the "current" combination to the lock. She also indicated that if the lock's combination were to change, there would be a new combination which she also wrote down on the permit. Armed with permits and accurate (so I thought) combinations, I drove home.

Sunday morning Tom Neely, Virgil Popescu, Sonia Arancibia, Jan Brahms, David Reneric, James Carden, and Robert True met the leaders at the Woodland Hills rideshare point. The nine of us consolidated into the leaders' cars and drove to Ojai, where some of us ate a late and quick breakfast, then headed up Hwy 33. We arrived at the beginning of the Potrero Seco Rd at about 9:00. Joe got on his back and tried combination no. 1 on one lock, then the other. Then he tried the second combination. No luck. Over the next 1/2 hour almost everyone tried the combinations on the two combination locks: no luck.

All cell phones in our midst indicated "out of range," so we theorized that if one of us drove up the road to Reyes Pk a ways that at some point the cell phones would be in line of sight of some repeating station, and that after 10:00 AM one of us could call the ranger station in Ojai and tell them our situation. Maggie drove up the road towards Reyes while the rest of us waited. About 10:20 Maggie returned and reported that they had made contact with the Ojai ranger station and that we had been told that the combinations we had been given should be correct, but nevertheless here is an older combination (that is, a third combination!). Jan Brahms graciously volunteered to get down on her back and try the new (third) combination, and it worked! Soon we were off to our peaks!

We drove the excellent, well-graded dirt road 14.3 miles to a locked gate and parked our vehicles. Shortly after 11:30 we began our hike, arriving on the summit of Monte Arido at about noon. Wasting no time we quickly hiked down to a prominent saddle north of Old Man Mtn and paused for a rest stop/split break. We noticed several ducks/cairns at this saddle. Some speculated that we should go up the fire break here, but the leaders felt that this was too soon to head up to the peak. The peak guide says "go up to the saddle at 5250'." No mention of leaving the road. So Joe continued up the road, looking for some obvious route up any ridge to the summit. He found none, so he continued up the road to a point where the ridge leading south from the east (false) summit of Old Man Mtn meets the road. We then headed north along the very brushy ridge to this false summit. (This is consistent with the route 1 as shown on the HPS map.) Encountering some heavy brush, the end of the group wound up in a better position through the brush and Maggie began leading at this point. Maggie led the rest of the way to the top of the east summit, then down hill through more dense brush, then up to the true west summit. The going had been slow. We arrived on the summit at about 2:45 PM.

After a short respite on the summit Joe led westerly along a ducked route, then found an apparent duck pointing northward, and proceeded down to the north but encountered heavy brush. Maggie stayed on the ridge top a bit further and avoided the brush. Soon Joe and those that had foolishly followed him rejoined Maggie along an open path and proceeded northward following a ducked route to a firebreak, then headed down the firebreak to the aforementioned prominent saddle north of Old Man Mtn.

Maggie led out to the cars, arriving there at about 4:45. James Carden bagged Monte Arido again on the way back, claiming a "pathfinder" ascent for himself.

During the return Joe worried about the locked gate at Hwy 33. Would the Forest Service change the combination to their lock again, while we were on our hike? Would we be stranded inside the gate overnight? However, his fears proved to be unwarranted. We arrived at the locked gate at about 6:00 PM. Again, Jan Brahms crawled under the gate and tried the third combination that had worked earlier and managed to open the lock. So at about 6:00 PM we headed down to Ojai. All Of us dined at a Chinese restaurant in Ojai.

There are some improvements needed in the peak guide and map for Old Man Mtn. First the route indicated on the map that leaves the road and heads up the south ridge to the east summit of Old Man Mtn, then on to the west (true) summit should be deleted. This is a very brushy and slow route. Second, the route 2 hiking description needs a few more instructions. The guide should add that at the prominent saddle north of the peak, one should leave the road and proceed up (south) a steep fire break. When the fire break disappears, follow a ducked route southerly and around rocky outcroppings to a shallow saddle. From here head easterly up a brushy ridge to the summit.

Thanks to Maggie for assisting/leading this outing. She is a strong and capable leader.

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