|October 16, 2010|
Anna and I set off again on our 2nd consecutive multi-peak weekend. Last weekend was focused around Earthquake Valley in Anza Borrego, and this weekend was to be focused around San Diego's Sunrise Highway. There were eight peaks on the San Diego County peak list that were accessible from Sunrise Highway, and we hoped to bag four peaks on Satuday and four on Sunday. Most of the peaks appeared to be quite easy so this isn't the overwhelming feat it may sound like, but we would have our hands full.
Manza was to be first, and I had expected it to be one of the easiest. It was, after all, just 500 feet of gain and a mile from the road. How hard could it be? Well, it wasn't necesarily hard, but elusive. I'll spare the mystery and just say that Manza took us 5 hours to get to the summit and back. More acurately, it was four and a half hours to the summit, and 30 minutes to get back.
Manza from the east
We first tried approaching Manza from the east via the Sunset Trail, never seeing a feasable route through the dense manzanita. We attempted to bushwhack our way over in a few different spots with no luck. The manzanita was so dense that it was physically impossible to fit our bodies through, it just wasn't happening. We returned to the truck to try a different approach. We decided to go the trespassing route. I hate trespassing and Anna is even less of a fan, but when doing the reserach on this weekends peaks, I noticed that another rather popular peak seemed to have a published trespassing route. I began to wonder if this was not only accepted as okay hiker etiquette, but that maybe it was necesary to bag certain peaks. So we decided to approach Manza via Crouch Valley, by hopping a short fence and walking 3/4s of a mile across someones private pasture. It got us to within a 1/4 mile and 300 vertical feet from Manza's summit, before the intense manzanita again stopped us in our tracks. We tried from several directions, attempting to force our way through, and concluded that this was not the way. We again returned to the truck, I rechecked the map and saw a dirt road leaving the Sunrise Highway just southwest of Manza. We drove over, checked it out, and again, not happening. Not even close.
Miles of manzanita
At this point, several hours had gone by. Our weekend was being dismantled by this little 500 foot-gain peak. I decided that we had to make the summit, no matter how long it took. I'd searched for info on Manza before the trip and had come up with nothing, so I was probably never going to have more info than I had now. So, we again tried the Crouch Valley approach. And again, just southeast of the peak, at about the 5200 foot contour, we started to force our way up. There was a line of trees that ran from near the summit ridge down to where we were, so we tried to stick near them, proving to be a slightly easier path. It was just enough for us to be able to fight through it. The occasional broken up boulder pile was mixed in here and there for fun, and I think I've set my lifetime record for doing the limbo. It wasn't easy but we made it happen. And then, we were on the summit ridge, and we found a use trail. Someone had clipped a path through the manzanita, and we followed it to the summit. For a trail it was rough, but it wasn't too bad, and it would have been next to impossible to reach the summit without it.
The view north from Manza
The views from the top were great, espeially looking north into Noble Canyon. After spending a few minutes on top, in a slight daze about how the day had panned out, we followed the clipped use trail back, and we were able to follow it all the way down to the north end of Crouch Valley where Anna and I returned via the trespassing route. It took less than 30 minutes to get from the summit to the truck.
I had warned a friend about Manza and I passed him the info I had about the clipped use trail. He was able to put two and two together and found the remainder of the clipped use trail from the Sunset Trail, making the route legal. Anna and I had just missed it, but I guess we didnt' really know what to look for either. And since our hike there, I've now heard of Manza's reputation, having turned away several peak-bagging veterans on their first try. I plan to head back to check out the legal route myself sometime soon.
After spending all that time on Manza, it was after 2pm by the time we started thinking about which peak to go for next. We definitely weren't going to get the four peaks that we had hoped, but we thought we'd at least get what we thought would be the most time-consuming peak. We followed the scenic Sunrise Highway north, stopping to score a campsite at the Burnt Ranchita campground, and made our way to an intersection wth a dirt road that would take us to Roost BM. Roost seemed to be a desert overlook rather than a peak, and was accessible with the help of a few dirt roads between the highway and the desert divide.
We parked at a turnout on the west side of the Sunrise Highway, walked across, and then started down the dirt road on foot. Roost was 1000 feet below our starting point, so we'd have to drop down to get there and gain the elevation on the way back. It may have been possible to drive further into the area from further south, but I figured the hike was short enough to not matter too much. This particular road was pretty rough though and I would not have wanted to drive it (a gate blocked access, but was unlocked). We were surprised to see a van parked on the dirt road just out of view of the highway, and it looked like someone was living in it.
Hiking the dirt road en route to Roost
We followed the road about a thousand feet down, across the Oriflamme Creek bed, and then northeast until it thinned out and dissapeared, just over 3 miles after leaving the truck. From there we pushed through some thin brush for a few hundred feet until we eventually saw what must be Roost.
Our first glimpse of Roost (rightmost bump)
Going cross-country from there was over easy terrain, and this last half mile seemed to have its own unique landscape, with orange colored rock mixed in with green grass and the occasional stripped manzanita.
Terrain near Roost
We continued towards Roost BM, hiking up and down over a few small hills, and doing a little bit of a steep class 2 scramble the last 100 feet to the summit. As expected, the views from Roost were amazing, with 180 degree views straight down to the desert floor.
The last 100 feet on Roost
Granite Mountain from Roost
The Roost survey marker
With unique terrain the last 1/2 mile, the awesome views, and the short but fun scramble up to the summit, Roost was a blast and made the day. We signed the summit register and started back for the truck, the dirt road being even longer and more monotonous than on the way out. We passed by a couple of dove hunters that had driven in from further south and were setting up camp near the creek bed, hoofed it the 1000 feet back up the dirt road, and then ran into the guy that was living in the van up near where we started on Sunrise Highway. He was sitting outside when we passed by, listening to a Mexican radio station. He was from San Diego and had come out to this spot to camp in his van for years, and was spending his nights teaching himself Spanish. We talked to him for a good 20 minutes before heading back to our campground at Burnt Ranchita, getting settled in for another day of hiking tomorrow.
Manza stats (legal route): 3.5 miles roundtrip, 800 feet gain/loss
Manza stats (our route): 2.5 miles roundtrip, 450 feet gain/loss
Notes: The yellow line is a clipped use trail, vital for reaching the summit.The blue line is the trespassing path that Anna and I used to reach the summit (not recommended).The green path is the remainder of the clipped use trail that a friend found, accessible from the Sunset Trail.
Roost stats: 7.5 miles roundtrip, 1600 feet gain/loss
*-driving directions are for the legal route via the sunset trail