Ascent of Ventana Double Cone on 2022-02-26

Climber: Andrew Kirmse

Others in Party:Colin Gregory -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Michael Toffey -- Trip Report or GPS Track
David Dully
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, February 26, 2022
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ventana Double Cone
    Elevation:4853 ft / 1479 m

Ascent Trip Report

Daryn wanted to get Uncle Sam, so he scheduled a trip into the Ventana with a small group. I hadn't met Mike Toffey before, other than seeing his name on lots of extremely ambitious trip reports, nor David Dully. I had hiked with Colin Gregory once many years ago, on a P1k also in the Los Padres Forest. Originally our plan was to meet at "The Hoist", or the end of the drivable part of Palo Colorado Road, at 8am. However, Daryn bailed out, and I got almost no sleep, meaning I didn't show up until about noon. I thought this would cost me Uncle Sam in favor of Ventana Double Cone (VDC), but things worked out differently.

I parked along the side of the road and checked out the fence blocking access to Palo Colorado Road down to Bottchers Gap "indefinitely". Instead I continued up a dirt road continuing along Long Ridge. This road is quite steep and would be very unpleasant in the heat. Houses are scattered at intervals along both sides of the road. I was surprised to meet Sean and Asaka descending from their first recorded ascent of Skinner Ridge. There was a little snow and ice on the road here, left over from a storm a few days ago. I wondered whether snow would be a problem tomorrow, 2000 feet higher.

After almost two miles, the road descends downhill to the right, and there is a small metal sign spelling "trail" pointing left, very easy to miss. This takes you around the last property on the ridge and then crosses into National Forest land, where it becomes the Turner Creek Trail. This part of the trail had been cleared very recently, which is fortunate because the growth on the sides is thick and thorny. There's plenty of water in the creek. I passed the site of Apple Tree Camp, where there are a few metal barbeque grills, but the ground is overgrown and unusable for camping. After a further gradual climb, the trail reaches its end at a saddle with the Skinner Ridge Trail. Years earlier I had come this way from Bottchers Gap on the right to climb Mt. Carmel. I turned left and climbed steeply 1000 feet up Devils Peak, passing just under the summit. The descent on the east side was just as steep. A broken sign marked the intersection with the trails to Comings Camp to the south, and the private entrance from the White Rock Club to the north, though whether that trail still exists is unclear. More ups and downs brought me past the intersection with the Big Pines Trail, which I had climbed partway in 2020 while going up Blue Rock Ridge. Finally I reached the saddle where the Pat Springs campground is located. The rest of the group had set up camp here in sheltered but otherwise middling sites. They had opted for Mt. Carmel instead of Uncle Sam today, so we had a big day planned for tomorrow. I set up camp a little up the hill on the right at a good spot next to a picnic table. We wandered up a use trail west of camp to the borderline P300 Peak 4044 to check out the sunset.

After a chilly night we set off east. The trail was not as clear as yesterday, but still pretty good for the first few miles. Soon after camp we made a small diversion up Peak 4257, another borderline P300. We passed under the west side of Uncle Sam, planning to climb it on our return. Now heading south, we bushwhacked up to Peak 4366 from the south side, crawling under manzanita at one point. There are great views from the top. Dropping to the next saddle, we found a sign indicating Lone Pine Camp 600' off the trail, with water 900' away, too much of a diversion for us. In long shaded stretches, there was an inch or two of snow on the ground, but never more than that. Despite lots of encroaching bushes, and one or two brief crawls to get under deadfall, the trail was in excellent shape. Mike had been up here before and reported that this was a freeway compared to the extensive crawling he had to do last time. David contributed by lopping some branches as we went.

At the open summit of VDC we found terrific views of every notable Ventana peak. Especially dramatic was the ridge containing Kandlbinder and "The Window" (Ventana), the notch for which the wilderness is named. Separating us from the ridge is a 2000-foot deep gorge of Ventana Creek known as "The Drain". Mike had actually been down, up, and back into The Drain from Kandlbinder on a previous trip, something we didn't envy. The register dated from 2003 and contained quite a few lengthy stories. There are also stone and wood remnants of the lookout.

On the way back down we encountered a local trailrunner named John, whom we recognized from a recent report on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance website. He said that he and some friends had spent hundreds of hours cleaning these trails, for which we were very grateful. We continued down to where the southwest ridge of Uncle Sam meets the trail. Sean had recommended this way up, saying that it was grassy and clear. While there were some grassy sections, there has apparently been a lot of regrowth. I was getting pretty tired by this point, and lagged the others. Finally we all arrived at the rather unremarkable brushy summit, somewhat disappointing considering how many times I'd seen it from elsewhere. We left a register next to the summit rock among the twigs and leaves. To save distance, we went down the northwest ridge to rejoin the trail. This was considerably brushier, with a lot more poison oak, which we'd been mostly able to avoid up to this point. There are also a few annoying bumps to go over.

We finally returned to camp around sunset, tired from the 16 miles and 5000 feet of gain. In the morning I left a little early, expecting to be slow, but the 8 miles back to the car took me under 4 hours, despite having to climb back over Devils Peak. I noted a USGS benchmark on a nondescript rock near Apple Tree Camp that I had missed on the way in. On the Long Ridge road I chatted briefly with a friendly local out inspecting his water tanks. He said that the neighbors are happy to have hikers come through, as long as they're responsible and stay on the road.

The trails here can be nearly impassable, so it's wise to check trip reports at the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. We timed our trip to take advantage of recent clearing work. I estimated around 31 miles and over 9000 feet of gain. Skipping Uncle Sam would save minimal distance and perhaps 800 feet of gain.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Ventana Double Cone left of center, Kandlbinder right of center, with "The Window" (Ventana) between them, on the Kandlbinder side. Taken a few days after a snowstorm (2022-02-25). Photo by Andrew Kirmse.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9513 ft / 2899 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6000 ft / 1828 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:9513 ft / 2899 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3513 ft / 1071 m; Extra: 6000 ft / 1828m
    Loss on way in:6000 ft / 1828 m
    Distance:31.6 mi / 50.9 km
    Route:Long Ridge, Skinner Ridge Trail, Big Pines Trail,
    Start Trailhead:Palo Colorado Road  1340 ft / 408 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: VDC (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Pat Springs Peak2022-02-25 
2Danish Creek Peak2022-02-26 a 
3Peak 43662022-02-26 b 
4Ventana Double Cone2022-02-26 c9513 ft / 2900 m
5Uncle Sam Mountain2022-02-26 d 
Total Trip Gain: 9513 ft / 2900 m    Total Trip Loss: 6000 ft / 1829 m

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