Monday, February 5, 2018

W6/SC-130 Cabezo Prieto

Cabezo Prieto was the first peak I had climbed in the Big Sur region, and what a beautiful region it is. I drove down Friday morning, leaving early to try and beat the traffic. I mostly succeeded, only getting stuck in a short slowdown near Monterey. At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park I paid my entrance fee, and parked in day use lot #3. This is the closest to the Mt Manuel Trail start.
Start of the trail.
 The trail follows a paved road a short distance, where it turns to dirt. At the homestead cabin I made a sharp left and started the single-track portion of the trail. There were a few deer here that were fearless, not running away even though I got within a few feet of them on the trail. After a few switchbacks, the state park ends and the national forest starts.
National Forest boundary.
 Much of this area was burned in the Soberanes Fire in 2016, and some of the trails in the area had just reopened within the past month or two. Despite the warnings on the sign, the hike did not seem more dangerous or difficult than I expected. Once the trail is in the NF, it quickly climbs above the trees and opens up to spectacular vistas. Initially they are of the ocean and Big Sur River Canyon, but higher up you can see into the heart of the Ventana Wilderness.
View of the trail. It climbs up and around the ridge before heading up to the summit.
The trail was well graded, and looked like it had seen recent maintenance. It was a joy to walk on a warm, clear, winter day. The Pine Ridge Trail, on the other side of the canyon was visible as well. I found out later that the trail is closed because some slides have wiped out the trail to the bedrock. Blasting may be necessary to repair it. I made good time on this section.
First view of Ventana Double Cone. Reminds me of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The trail got progressively rougher as I climbed, but was not hard to follow. I was glad I had worn long pants and long sleeves while pushing through the chaparral. I did manage to slip and cut my finger at a joint which was painful. Eventually I made it to the top of Mt Manuel, the first peak along the ridge. There is a large, square structure just below the summit. I don't know what it is or is for.
Backside of the square. I think that's Cone Peak on the left.
Along the ridge the trail is an old firebreak. This is wide and easy to follow, and even included switchbacks on the steepest sections. However, parts of it were overgrown with waist-high brush. It wasn't hard to push through, but could be in a year or two. Then, I was on the summit of Cabezo Prieto, just off the main trail. I looked around, and found a better viewpoint on the bump just to the north of the summit, where I set up.
I now know why its called Pico Blanco (left). Mt Carmel center.
I did not have any cell service, so I relied on the RBN to spot me. This worked out fine, and I made contacts on each of the HF bands I tried. I briefly tried VHF, but didn't get any responses, as I expected. It was getting quite warm, and I still had another 5.5 miles to go back to the car, so I didn't spend a lot of extra time on the summit. On the way down I was surprised to pass a group of about a dozen hikers making their way up. One of them, Jack, is a volunteer who also runs a website with current Big Sur trail conditions.
Ventana Double Cone on the left, other Ventana Mountans on the right. Junipero Serra in the far distance on the right.
The hike down could have been a slog, but the excellent views made it a pleasant walk. Back at the state park I took a closer look at the cabin, then filled up my water bottle for the long drive home.
The sign says around 10 people lived in the cabin at the same time.
This was a great hike, so you can expect to see more trip reports from the area over the next few months.

Trailhead: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, day use lot #3. There was a sign for trailhead parking.
Website: SOTA SitePfeiffer Big Sur SP
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes mapBig Sur Trail Conditions
Route: Take the Mt Manuel Trail. Was not difficult to follow.
Red Tape: None.
The Big Sur River.

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