06 December 2014

Cathedral Peak

Santa Barbara front country

Locate the trailhead.

I am feeling it is about time to tackle Cathedral Peak again, so it is off to fight for parking at Tunnel Trail on what is meant to be a cool and clear weekend day. I can only manage a spot that clocks a quarter mile before even reaching the gate to start on the trail. It is a minor addition to a much longer plan. I climb Tunnel along the old pavement that becomes quite broken after the water pipe. The trail follows the left fork of the catway briefly, then turns off to the right into the chaparral while I continue on Jesusita that forks off to the right after not much longer. The pool is full again, but there is only a small trickle of water flowing through the creek as I cross it and leave Jesusita for the use trails that clamber up Cathedral Peak and around Seven Falls to Three Pools.

paved start to Tunnel Trail
There is a little bit of storm damage to the otherwise smooth paving at the start of Tunnel Trail.

forward peak of Cathedral
Looking up at the southern peak of Cathedral, commonly called Arlington Peak. The climb is along the bony ridge.

trickle of muddy water
The pool is staying full from now, supplied by a trickle of water.

The climb starts immediately, first getting to a minor ridge, then up to the rocks above. The trail to the top of the falls breaks off in multiple places with some routes being better than others. As I hit the top, it looks like the trail has been designed to steer all coming down to drop down the steep soft dirt on the other side of the ridge. Out on the ocean, a few islands poke out through clouds. A few voices float over from hikers heading up to Inspiration Point on Jesusita.

catway to point panorama
Panorama from the Edison Catway to Inspiration Point.

Mission Ridge
Mission Ridge, which actually takes a little less clambering to cross.

I have company as I climb, but not much. One guy climbs past me, a bit more certain of the route. Below, I can spot the pools of Seven Falls. Above, the lookout on La Cumbre Peak is easy to pick out. I turn back for a different route when I recognise a yucca I trimmed on during my first attempt. It is one of the sticky spots where it is hard to pick out a route that keeps to class 2. The lone guy comes down again and another fellow who passed me near the beginning of the trail comes down several minutes later and then I am alone on the mountain. Well, somewhat, anyway. There seem to be a number of paragliders and hang gliders drifting nearby today.

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point from above.

Mission Ridge
Mission Ridge again, now at a similar height.

paraglider and hanglider
One each of the paragliders and hang gliders floating through the air.

The clouds are coming in a bit as I arrive at Arlington. It obscures the view, but there is really no good place to stand here for the view and the real peak is still a fair distance away.

along the ridge
Looking back down along the ridge and up to Mission Ridge on the other side.

names carved in sandstone
Another autograph rock, this time on Arlington Peak.

real peak
The real peak is two bumps further.

Below the peak, there is a large cave that I have heard a little about and would not mind visiting. Just before the trail starts to climb to the real peak, a smaller but well established trail drops down steeply to the bottom of the south face of it. The route feels like a very long way down, but at the end there really is a cave. It must be the largest natural sandstone cave I have ever encountered.

the mouth of the cave
Looking into the sandstone cave below Cathedral Peak.

other side of the cave
There is lots of texture to the sandstone of the cave.

Climbing back up, the route feels like only about a third as long as it seemed coming down. It is only a few more feet to be sitting at the real top of Cathedral. The clouds are rolling past, making me wait for any view. Here, it is very obvious where to sit to find the view.

Arlington Peak
Arlington from Cathedral Peak.

I head down a second way that is a little steeper and has a connecting trail from the other side anyway. From here, I keep going down before the rest of the ridge only to find that it gets to a point where I am very uncomfortable with continuing down. Deciding it will kill me to continue, I head up again and back down to the junction for the cave. There is no other trail, so I head up and try again only to find there is plenty of trail along the ridge line I had dismissed. This quickly finds a much more tame downhill, then trashes through the brush a little getting bigger as it is joined by two more trails from those who continue further down the ridge before dropping. From here it is a brush tunnel for a while, then gets out into the sun. There is not much braiding as it climbs.

clouds moving
Clouds moving over the Santa Ynez Mountains.

looking back
Looking back to Cathedral Peak along the route up to La Cumbre Peak.

It is a steep walk, but it is a walk with very little call for hands all the way up to La Cumbre Peak. The trail forks and wanders off toward the satellite dishes or climbs a short way to the road for the old campground on the peak. There are a couple people headed down as I get to the top and plenty of activity below. It is a short and easy road walk up to the top by the old lookout.

La Cumbre Fire Lookout
The fire lookout on La Cumbre Peak looks a little worse each time.

backcountry mountains
A peek into the backcountry from the peak.

The point of climbing all the way up here is so I do not have to go back down the same way. Instead, I can go down Tunnel Trail. To get there from here, I can either follow the road down to Camino Cielo or take a small trail along the ridge that will also eventually get to Camino Cielo. I go past the fence of the radio facility and follow the trail I find there heading east. It is not always easy to see the correct route and I drift southward into the manzanita, ending up swimming through it a little to get back to the pines without so much undergrowth. It would probably have been easier to backtrack than to push through.

clouds crossing the ridge
Clouds crossing the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Tunnel Trail below Rocky Pine Ridge
Tunnel Trail as it carves its route around Rocky Pine Ridge.

I find myself on the road without any more attempts to make things more difficult than they have to be. There is one group picnicking in a turnout and a few people driving the road. One bicyclist is especially enjoying the view and seems rather happy to see someone else who worked at getting it. Eventually, I get to the motorcycle speedway of sorts and work my way through it to Tunnel Trail.

Tunnel Trail
Walking down Tunnel Trail with La Cumbre Peak in the background. The lookout is lost in the trees from this angle.

From here, it is just a long, familiar way down.

sunset from Mission Falls
Sunset from Mission Falls.

Cathedral Peak
One last look at Cathedral Peak.

As I go, I cannot help but notice there are two groups out on Cathedral and making their way down. One is up where they will leave the ridge line and turning the correct way. The other is out on the steep slope to the top of Seven Falls and progressing slowly downward before progressing slowly upward again. At least the recent rain should make the dirt hold together better for the climb.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 15 December 2014

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