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Ascent of Junipero Serra Peak on 2019-06-10

Climber: Chris Gilsdorf

Date:Monday, June 10, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Junipero Serra Peak
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:5862 ft / 1786 m

Ascent Trip Report

This ended up being a very expensive peak. I've clarified road directions to hopefully help future peakbaggers avoid making the same mistakes...

I was coming fresh off a successful, legal climb of Laveaga Peak, and had the crazy idea to do a late afternoon ascent of Junipero Serra in the blistering high-90s-degree heat, and hike down after dark. I approached from King City via Jolon Rd, then turned R onto Mission Rd toward the base. Instead of taking the route most people do, I'd gotten it in my head for some reason that turning down Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd, then taking the first right, would be a nice shortcut that would avoid the river. DO NOT DO THIS. The first right after the bridge is a dirt two-track which then enters a sandy wash for an extended period of time. I almost, almost made it through to what would've probably been high ground...and then the car got stuck. Hopelessly stuck. In the sand. I'll spare you the indignity of what followed, but suffice it to say, three hours and almost a thousand dollars later, I was back on pavement and just wanted to get to the damn trailhead. Now on the right route on Del Venturi Rd, I made the two paved stream crossings with ease, and followed pavement the entire way to the turnoff for the trailhead. Please see the attached map...

I arrived at 8pm, slept at 9pm, was woken at 1am by some critter rustling around in the hood of the car, and set off hiking at 2am, in slightly warm but not unpleasant conditions. I was glad to have the GPS track, as the initial trail had a few not so intuitive splits--once past this, the route was occasionally faint/rugged but never really in question. It was mostly just an uneventful, long uphill slog in the dark, though upon reaching the first saddle at 4050', I was surprised by a coyote pup who wandered out of the brush to investigate, and stood a mere ten feet or so from me for a couple of minutes! I reached the upper saddle as daylight began to creep across the sky, and only looking down the north side of the range could I now see any signs of human civilization.

The last bit to the summit went quickly, and I reached the lower(?) west summit at sunrise. There are about three rock outcroppings to tag here. I also climbed the stairs to the observation tower, but there's really no point--the views are minimal compared to several overlooks around the two summits, and at the top of the stairs, there's no platform on which to rest--it's all fallen through! I made my way over to the east summit, supposedly the true highpoint, then hightailed it down to the trailhead. This lower section, first with tree-filled meadows and wildflowers, then open meadows with rather unique rock formations abounding, was actually quite pretty. And, at this early hour, still tolerable in terms of heat. I made it back to the car around 8:15 AM, changed, and very happily left this one in my rear view mirror.

Overall, minus the car fiascos, this one was a little nicer than I'd expected, and if you're seeking solitude, will likely have it in spades. And reaching the summit grew my western glob up into Washington state. But all that said, I don't think I'll be back.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
A map of the approach roads that will hopefully alleviate some confusion and misery.. (2019-06-10). Photo by Chris Gilsdorf.
Click here for larger-size photo.
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