Jun 07

Ventana Double Cone with David mon


David mon and I met hiking Mt. Silliman in the Sierra some years ago

In late April I set out to inventory camps once again in the Ventana.  With my usual partner in wilderness, Sam, unavailable, I turned to a good friend who was readying himself for his third marathon, and knew he'd be up for the challenge of the arduous hike to the Ventana Double Cone.  We followed the Skinner Ridge trail to Big Pines, and on to the VDC trail, on a mission to tag camp sites Little Pine, Lone Pine and the summit for the Rec-Site Inventory.  We began our journey from the trailhead at Botcher's Gap,  at the top of Palo Colorado road above the Little Sur River corridor, due north of Pico Blanco.
Pico Blanco

Pico Blanco

Spanish for "white peak", Pico Blanco is said to be the largest body of pure limestone in California, and stands at an elevation of 3,709 feet above the ocean in the Little Sur River corridor.  According to legend, the mountain was sacred to the longtime inhabitants of the area, the Esselen Indians as well as the Rumsien (Ohlone)- the mountain was considered to be the center of creation where all life originated.  I found this version of the story on a website about the history of Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp; According to Indian legend, the world was destroyed in a great flood, and when the waters rose, the summit of Pico Blanco was the only land to remain exposed. Several creatures--according to one version of the legend, an eagle, coyote, and hummingbird, according to another, an eagle, crow, raven, hawk, and hummingbird --survived the flood.  A magical feather was plucked from the eagle and planted in the ocean to cause the waters to recede, recreating the world.
Young black oak leaves, Quercus kelloggii

Young black oak leaves, Quercus kelloggii

The climb to Devil's Peak

The climb to Devil's Peak; bush poppies, Dendromecon rigida, abound

Ridge vista

Ridge vista; Double Cone, the Window and Kandlbinder

Kandlbinder stands at 4,653 ft. and for many years was known simply as "No-Name Peak".  In 1971 members of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club renamed the peak thusly in memory of their friend Dr. Alfred (Al) Kandlbinder, a Monterey area physician, avid hiker and one of the founding members of the Ventana Chapter.   He passed away in late 1970 before his time and had hiked to the summit of then "No-Name Peak" just before his death.

Skinner ridge


Junction of the Comings camp trail to the south and San Clemente Trail to Pine Creek, to the north


Lovely sea of lupines

Gopher Snake

Gopher snake, Pituophis melanoleucus 


Fork of Big Pines Trail and Ventana Double Cone trail

Log surfing

Log surfing in my Merrell Wilderness Boots atop the ridge at Pat Spring

David mon getting down with the nobility

David mon getting down with the steep sea wave of marble in the distance


Sunset with the pines


Stoneman overlooks

After spending the night at Pat Spring, we awoke early and set out for the Ventana Double Cone with day packs, having filled a few liters at the spring and drinking as much water as possible before leaving.  Doubtful that we would find much flowing along the way, pre-hydration and citrus was going to be the key to our success on this summit attempt, that and hiking fast.

Trail sign at the junction with the old Rattlesnake trail

the Ridge regrowth

the Ridge regrowth en route to Double Cone

The trail to Double Cone was much more open and maneuverable than I had imagined it would be, though don't get me wrong, there was still much brush crashing to do, mostly ceanothus in some sections but with easy enough tread to follow you true.  (Be aware of the switch backs near where you approach the summits, be sure to turn back if you start climbing a creek bed/trail, and refind the trail.) The VDC trail has seen some trail work this past season from VWA volunteers as well as the Stevenson School of Carmel and much fallen trees and brush has been cut out, especially the first part of the ridge from Pat Spring.  Check out the latest conditions on the VWA's trail conditions page;  http://www.ventanawild.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=278

I'm not sure who this guy is

Lookout remains of Double Cone

Lookout remains of Double Cone

The Ventana Double Cone fire lookout station was built in 1935/1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and then was later deactivated in the 1960s; subsequently the structure was burned and destroyed by Forest Service personnel in 1977.  The stone remnants make for a bizarre feel on top of the summit, almost like the remains of an ancient temple.

La Ventana (aka the Window) with Pico Blanco in the background

Couds were nice that day

Clouds were whimsical that day; looking northeasterly

Southwesterly view from the other Cone

Southwesterly view from the other Cone


Looking southeast coming down from the summit

Notice the many Santa Lucia Firs (Abies bracteata)  that stand strong on the mountain side here past the two large pines in the foreground, iconically tall and skinny.  According to the Natural History of Big Sur by Paul Henson and Donald J. Usner, "many were initially attracted to the Santa Lucia Range because of the Santa Lucia fir, which is endemic to these mountains and had become famous in botanical circles by the mid-1800s" (p. 86).  Their strange skinny figures are fun to see scattered around the Santa Lucia's, and I suppose serves as a totem for these extraordinary mountains, where they can be found standing out like cathedral spires across the grand landscape.
fire marker

Pre-attack fire marker turned trail sign


Back at camp

As usual, the hike back went much faster than the hike to our destination seemed to be, (could have been due to the intense thirst setting in and the desire to get back to Pat Spring quickly and gulp some delicious water).  Looking out along the ridge, its a wonderful feeling to be able to see the distance traveled by foot.  Botcher's gap to Ventana Double Cone summit is 14.1 miles, with a net elevation gain of 2,744 feet.  Check out Dr. Jack Glendening's excellent map and route metrics web page to calculate your own Big Sur adventures, http://bigsurhiking.net.The hike out
The hike out
Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla

Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla

Baby buzz-word, Crotalus virus

Buzz-worm, Crotalus viridus, near Botcher's Gap

Hiking out the next day at a mellow pace, David almost stepped on this young rattle snake that was doing a good job staying camouflaged while sunning itself on the trail.                    

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