Christmas Weekend 2004 Trip Report

Dates: December 23-26, 2004

This was a peakbagging trip designed to capture 2,000+ foot prominences for Edward Earl and myself. Despite the trip dates which suggest a longer duration, the trip lasted just under three days since we departed my home at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday the 23rd, and returned there on Sunday the 26th at about 5 p.m.

I had already done the first two peaks - Sandstone Peak and Santa Ynez Peak - and repeated these with Edward on the first full day, Friday the 24th, as the only peaks low enough in elevation to be guaranteed that access problems due to snow on the approach road(s) was not an issue.

On Sandstone Peak I assisted Edward in his first use of a novel system, of his design, for assessing the relative heights of contending high points - a hose level.

We determined that the eastern of two summit rocks is two feet higher than the western rock - all the more surprising given that the trail leads to only the western rock area with a memorial plaque to a Boy Scout leader and register.

Here is my note to the prominence discussion group regarding the experience.

"Edward also determined that an eastern rock atop Sandstone Peak is higher than the presumed summit rock (with plaque and register) by about two vertical feet.

The two contending points are 70-90 feet apart.

I was a partial "hose length" in-between the high points, holding the hose while standing precariously on a boulder. I indicated the hose's water level with my free hand, while Edward, near the western rock (the presumed summit) sighted past my hand towards the eastern rock. A hand level would have done just as well, and would have been easier to use, at this short distance.

Sandstone Peak is the Santa Monica Range highpoint just northwest of Los Angeles, California. It was an uncharacteristically cold and windy morning with gloves required (for southern California).

        Adam Helman"

My previous Sandstone Peak report adequately describes both the road approach and hike.

For the Santa Ynez Range highpoint, Santa Ynez Peak, Edward earlized the summit by downclimbing just over a thousand vertical feet, on trail, and returned to the summit where I had eaten a good lunch that included pastrami on matzoh with assorted condiments; as well as breakfast cereal with much milk and assorted, fruit-flavored jelly beans. I was napping when he returned.

We drove through Ojai to find the only supermarket jammed with people making final purchases for the upcoming Christmas Day. I decided to not wait in line and thus ended up eating the same for dinner as I had done at lunch - albeit with a different combination of condiments and a mini Snickers bar with milk instead of breakfast cereal.

In the late afternoon we were turned back from an attempt on Reyes Peak by a locked Forest Service gate that would have meant a twelve mile round-trip hike on the road. It will be more efficient to return there another season after calling the Forest Service to verify that the gate is open.

We camped Friday evening at about the 6,850 foot level on the Forest Service Road leading up to the summit of Frazier Mountain - the highest peak in our weekend plans at 8,013 feet.

On Christmas morning, Saturday the 25th, Edward and I hiked up the road to Frazier's summit. Although there was some ice on the road, Edward says that he nevertheless could have driven his Nissan truck to the summit. Instead, we had earlized the mountain as is his way.

We drove east, crossing over Interstate 5 enroute to Liebre Mountain. At 5,760+ feet, it competes with Burnt Mountain (5,788 feet) for 2,000+ feet of prominence. The summits are roughly five miles apart, and Edward was determined to use his new hose system to shed some light on the matter.

I got way ahead of Edward on the trail, somehow missed the correct junction, and found myself without map in a gully, having ascended perhaps 800 vertical feet in 28 minutes. I returned to the car and, without a key, lay down in the sun with my daypack as pillow, and largely ate cashews, chocolate chips and jelly beans with dry Halloween-motif Apple Jacks cereal (all green with ghost-shaped marshmallow bits). I also took a nap.

Edward returned within a minute of my prediction - 3 p.m. - and we drove back over the Interstate for an evening climb of Alamo Mountain by full moon. The ascent entailed a total elevation gain of some 700 feet, and so, upon return to Edward's vehicle, he promptly dropped down an extra 300 feet and returned to the car - explicit earlization.

Here is Edward's account of what he learned atop Liebre Mountain as sent to the prominence discussion group (I have made small editorial changes).

"Over the long Christmas holiday weekend I made a trip to evirons of Santa Barbara and Ventura to bag several 2,000+ foot prominence peaks. Among these were Burnt Peak and Liebre Mountain, which compete for the same prominence. Burnt Peak has a 5788 foot benchmark, while Liebre Mountain has three 5,760+ foot areas but no spot elevation.

The easternmost of the three areas on Liebre has a cairn and an HPS register, and the topo map shows a 5,759 foot spot elevation at a road intersection on the south side of the countour. By a series of horizontal sightings from my eye level into the ground uphill of where I stood, I estimated that the summit of the east area is 5,776 feet to 5,778 feet. It is difficult to compare the three areas because of vegetation that precludes any useful sightline. The middle area is probably lower than the east area because both contours are about the same size but the middle area is flat, whereas the east area is conical. The west area, though larger, is divided between two summits about 200 feet apart.

The 5,788 foot bench mark on Burnt Peak is not at the exact summit. To survey the matter, I used a newly-fashioned hose level, which is about 50 feet of plastic tube full of water. By comparing the water level in opposite ends, one can compare elevations or generate a very level sightline.

I stood on the benchmark and held one end while Adam, who was with me, stood 50 feet away in the direction of the highest ground. By sighting past the water level in both ends, we determined that the highest ground is 4.5 feet higher than the BM, making for a summit elevation of at least 5,792 feet.

Burnt Mountain is therefore 15 feet higher than the east area of Liebre, and I feel that the east area of Liebre Mountain is probably the highest of its three areas. I therefore give a 90% chance that Burnt Mountain is higher than Liebre Mountain.

If anyone has connections to the HPS and can find out what is their rationale for placing the Liebre register at the east end, I would like to know. If they know of some survey that shows that the east summit of Liebre is the highest, I would like to hear about it. Until this can be resolved, however, I think there is just enough chance that one of the other Liebre Mountain areas takes the Burnt/Liebre prominence that they all should be climbed in order to claim the Burnt/Liebre 2,000+ foot prominence."

We had decided to do Liebre Mountain before Alamo Mountain because it would free-up time the following day, Sunday, to meet my parents for a mid-afternoon meal at a restaurant of our choosing. With 2,100 vertical feet of elevation gain, Liebre takes longer than the remaining venues. Realizing this, we effectively swapped it for a less time consuming effort on Sunday morning.

We drove back east over Interstate 5 and camped at the very location where we had started the hike up Liebre Mountain. The wind started up just as we decided to cook our meals, at about 9 p.m. I had purchased a new variety of Campbell's Chunky soup - "Italian Wedding" - and it was nearly impossible to enjoy because essential items were being blown off the hood of Edward's car where I had decided to set up supper. I ended up eating the last portion inside the cab to keep the wind from cooling down the pot so quickly. The soup was good with plenty of added parmesan cheese.

The wind died down immediately after supper - a case of remarkably bad luck.

I awoke at 6:30 a.m. and, after Edward ate his customary pair of brown sugar Pop Tarts cold and without milk, drove with him to a somewhat windy pass for our hike to Burnt Mountain. I have gotten in the habit of eating nothing at all for breakfast, when with Edward, because I enjoy taking my time to eat - and he has historically ended up waiting for me to eat after his quick meal. So with gloves and parka I head up the road with Edward, munching on a candy bar as consolation. On a serious climb, such as our plans for Aconcagua in January 2006, breakfast will be an important part of our daily cycle.

The summit area is a dead-flat (but not level) circular plane with the FAA Lake Hughes VOR transmitter at center (108.4 MHz). I decided to risk radiation sickness and briskly walked past the white, bowling pin - shaped device, touching it as I passed by. In truth, no study to my knowledge has demonstrated conclusively that radio frequency energy is harmful to human tissue.

As described above, I assisted Edward in determining that the benchmark is nearly five feet lower than Burnt Mountain's highest ground - so explaining the figure of 5,793 feet I use in my climbing peak list rather than the 5,788 foot benchmark elevation.

Upon return to Edward's vehicle he once again took a trail downhill so as the earlize Burnt Mountain. This time he left the daypack and took only a handful of maps. I slept in the cab and awaited his return - one which surprisingly took an hour despite a net loss (and re-ascent) of just 400-500 feet.

My mother had graciously offered to meet us on Sunday for a restaurant meal near their home in the San Fernando Valley. Since my parents eat mid-day (which is healthier than in the evening), I realized that making such an appointment would be difficult given our full schedule of peak ascents.

I was dismayed to learn that she was unwilling to compromise by offering a later meeting time than a 12 noon to 3 p.m "window". I was equally dismayed to witness that Edward was unwilling to at least temporarily abandon his earlizing habit so as to free-up the required time.

I ended up making the required sacrifice - deciding to delay a re-attempt on Liebre Mountain to a future trip in combination with Reyes Peak. When Edward returned at nearly 11 a.m. there was adequate time for us to drive up Liebre Mountain (by a completely different approach than the previous day's hike) - however we would arrive in the San Fernando Valley at just about 3 p.m. - cutting it "too close for comfort".

My parents are kosher - as was I for my first twenty-three years. This places a severe restriction on what they "allow" to be ordered and eaten in a restaurant. Edward was about to learn firsthand what this really means, after years of purely academic discussion of the topic between us two.

My mother suggested three good restaurants, and of these Edward and I eventually decided upon the California Pizza Kitchen, which serves Italian cuisine - far more than mere pizza, with a dizzying array of appetizers, main course salads, pasta and pizza, plus desserts.

Despite being limited to the non-meat items on the menu, there was plenty for me to enjoy. Edward enjoys sausage pizza or spaghetti with meat sauce. I advised him that to order either would not only result in him paying for his own meal, but also create a tension with my parents that would make everybody uncomfortable. Fortunately Edward thoughtfully gave-in and had spaghetti with a plain tomato sauce as entreé, followed by apple crisp a la mode (which he ate separately, completely finishing the ice cream before touching the pie!!!!). Later Edward told me that he had not ordered plain cheese pizza because he would rather not have pizza at all than have it some way he does not prefer, i.e. with sausage.

There are, in fact, several pizzas available, all vegetarian, besides plain cheese.

My hummus appetizer was wonderful - and Edward enjoyed the hot pita bread with plenty of butter. My parent's hot tortilla soup was especially welcome after the often cold hours spend outdoors that weekend. I even got a slice of their five-cheese pizza.

My main dish was Thai linguini, spicy with peanut-ginger sauce and julienne carrots, green onions, cilantro, and roasted peanuts - topped with (tasteless) bean sprouts. I added shaved parmesan cheese and even a mix of Cajun blackened steak seasoning mix that I had snuck in a pants pocket. The pasta was tasty even before my mix-ins!

My dessert was key lime pie - although it had the consistency of cheesecake with way too little lime flavor. My parents split a decadent hot fudge sundae with three scoops of Haagen Dasz vanilla ice cream, pecans, whipped cream, and maraschino cherry. The bite I got was tastier than my own dessert since it was cold, creamy, and bursting with flavor from the hot fudge sauce.

Were I to order the sundae I would request that the hot fudge (or caramel) be served in a separate container so that it does not immediately start to melt the ice cream. Furthermore, I do not understand this fascination with Haagen Dasz as being superior to other brands - it is way too full of fat and quite frankly has less actual flavor than, for instance, Ben & Jerry's. Enough said.

At mother's suggestion I ordered as take-out a second entreé (since I could not decide between two of them as my main course) - pear and gorgonzola pizza studded with roasted hazelnuts! I look forward to enjoying it, perhaps on New Year's weekend coming shortly.

Our meals were all filling and delicious - and my parents had treated us both, Edward and myself. I am certain to return to the "C.P.K." for more non-meat, kosher meals with my parents.

My mother presented me with several bags of fruits and vegetables purchased that morning at Gelson's supermarket - enough healthy food for January until my upcoming trip, January 18, to climb Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic.

She also purchased for me a pint of cottage cheese, a pint of sour cream, and a quart of eggnog sweetened with honey instead of plain sugar. These items currently sit in Edward's apartment refrigerator until the day I feel "deserving" enough of treating myself, brandy or Southern Comfort in-hand, to my monthly alcohol intake - for I choose to enjoy the eggnog, in the holiday spirit, appropriately spiked with booze. One bottle a month is my limit for this admittedly nasty but utterly enjoyable habit - and since December's treat of Zapopan Silver Tequila has been internalized, I must wait until January for the next round of evening imbibition.

I do not possess the mental strength to resist the temptation of opening the novel eggnog container were it to sit in my own kitchen refrigerator. Hence the limited accessibility via a nearly twenty mile round trip to Edward's apartment.

Edward dropped me off at home, and assisted in both making a minor repair to my sleeping bag's main zipper, as well as verifying that my Outdoor Research overboots are indeed that instead of just supergaiters. The overboots will be used on Aconcagua at the highest elevations even though most people would find that to be overkill on top of plastic mountaineering boots. On Denali, a mountain colder still, this footwear will be more-or-less mandatory.