Ascent of Santa Cruz Peak on 2015-05-17

Climber: Mark Lyons

Date:Sunday, May 17, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Santa Cruz Peak
    Elevation:5570 ft / 1697 m

Ascent Trip Report

This weekend's hiking was devoted to the HPS "Big Three," with a couple of add-ons (an extra ascent of McKinley, plus Cachuma Mountain). I had done two of the three, but needed Santa Cruz Peak.

After solo hiking Cachuma, San Rafael and McKinley on Saturday, I met up as planned with an HPS group led by Ignacia Doggett on Sunday morning at my campsite. The group was doing all three of the "Big Three" in one day as a bike-and-hike, and started by the short-and-steep McKinley Mountain. I was happy to do this lovely summit again, two days in a row. (In retrospect, given my exhaustion at the end of the day, I probably should have skipped this "bonus" ascent of McKinley.)

After that we did the very difficult hike to Santa Cruz, which I thought was harder than Big Iron, and about as tough as Rabbit/Villager or Cactus-to-Clouds. Perhaps this was because I had hiked around 18 miles on the previous day.

Although everything about the area is absolutely beautiful, I can see why this peak seems to be pretty much ignored by anyone not checking off the HPS list. It's long, there is a lot of descent to be regained, and there are several false summits along the way. The final summit push is nearly a bushwhack at some points, although at present there is indeed a trail that's more or less discernible; I can easily see how this trail could get overgrown quite quickly. At the summit, there are trees and other greenery that block much of the view, so there's not really a big reward once you get there. But yes, it's still beautiful (I keep trying to remind myself). We had good weather for this hike, relatively cool (in the 60s, I think) with a bit of clouds that blocked out the sun once in a while. This would be a miserable hike to do on a hot, sunny day.

After returning to McKinley Saddle, the group continued to San Rafael Mountain while I headed down along the now-seemingly-endless fire road back to Cachuma Saddle...absolutely exhausted. I arrived at my car at 7:45pm, which was just enough to get me past the unpaved sections of Happy Canyon Road before dark. And then came the 110-mile drive back home...trying to stay awake. Total mileage for the weekend was about 37 miles.
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