Little Stonewall Peak
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
Date: March 6, 2021
Distance: 8.09 miles *
Total Elapsed Time: 8h 24m *
Total Moving Time: 4h 43m *
Summit Elevation: 5,217 feet
Elevation Gain: 662 feet
Trailhead: Trout Pond Parking
Previous Ascents: N/A
Part II of a day spent searching for Boundary Markers all morning
Peakbagger Peaks - 1
Time and distance reflect the 'roundabout' nature of today's activities
Having spent the morning searching for Boundary Markers, I thought I'd take a quick hike to the Little Stonewall Peak summit and bag the companion peak to Stonewall. In my mind, this was a quick hike, and in reality, it probably would have been, had I opted to stay on the Stonewall Peak Trail to the split at the base of Little Stonewall. 🤔
Instead, as I walked across the Stonewall Mine Cultural Preserve, I thought following the ridgeline up to the summit would be a better route. The lower sections of the ridge were gently sloping and appeared relatively clear and I could see lots of boulders on the upper section which I figured would give me a decent route.
I cut across the open meadow towards the base of the ridge, as I got closer I picked up a single-track Use Trail that appeared to follow the contour of the ridge to the west towards the Stonewall Peak Trail, about 400-feet short of that connection, I turned south and began working my way up the slightly more than three-quarters of a mile to the peak. The first 600 yards wasn't bad, a moderate slope, and the vegetation was easy to navigate through.
Then I ran into a wall! Literally. The manzanita and whitethorn chaparral were super thick and I knew I was going to have to clip my way through the worst of it. I climbed up on a boulder and looked around for the best path, then I set out clipping and picking my way through the brush and boulders towards the summit. Periodically, I'd scramble up on the boulders to make sure I was still on track (and maybe score some advantage by boulder-hopping)
Fortunately, I had several positives working in my favor:
I was hiking solo, so I didn't have to deal with dissenting opinions on my route choice. 🤣
I always carry my E-Z Kut clippers, I just never know when I'll need them.
It was a simply gorgeous day with a light breeze, so the weather wasn't an issue.
I had no hard schedule, I knew I could take as long as I needed to summit.
Despite the bushwhacking, I was feeling "in the zone" based on my success locating lots of survey markers this morning.
Still, it was A. LOT. OF. WORK. 😬 I had my leather climbing gloves on and my usual long pants, Sitka gaiters, and a long-sleeved shirt, but my arms were taking a beating from the thorns. The bloodstains on my sleeves reminded me that the long sleeves were good for sun protection, but that's about it. It took me 2 hours and 12 minutes to go the remaining 800 or so yards to the summit!
The summit plateau is at 5,200 feet elevation and is oval-shaped with four major boulder formations spaced out on the centerline of the plateau, the third one in line with my approach is the actual high point. Once I was on the plateau, I could make out some old footpaths, maybe former Use trails, maybe just game trails, it's hard to say, but it was easier going at that point. I worked my way over to the fourth boulder formation, dropping my pack along the way as it was a little tricky getting to that fourth formation.
The views were amazing and yes, worth the climb and effort. Naturally, had I opted to bypass the ridgeline and kept going to the Stonewall Peak Trail to ascend from the west, I would have traveled about the same overall distance, but only would have needed to scramble up 429 yards to the summit with much less bushwhacking required. 🤷🏻♂️
Even upon my descent, I could not see a clear Use Trail to the bottom, there were lots of cairns, but they must have been old because I still had to pick my way through the brush doing down, carefully choosing the path of least resistance. Since I had gravity and momentum working for me, I didn't worry about clipping a path down.
My descent via this route only took 30 minutes to get down and rejoin the Stonewall Peak Trail. Looking back up I had a great view of the plateau with the backbone of boulders stretching across it.
I followed Stonewall Peak Trail to the Los Vaqueros Trail, cutting across the Cuyamaca Meadow Cultural Preserve to the Marty Minshall Trail that I started on. Along the way, I was rewarded with deer, lots and lots of deer...probably about 25 in all. I first encountered them as I reached the Los Vaqueros Trail, they jumped across the trail and headed up on the ridge just a little above me. I paused and just watched as I took pictures and recorded some video, surprisingly, they hung out on the ridge watching me!
When I entered the meadow, I could see them leaping across through the tall grass, again I paused for more video 😉 I must've just stood there and watched them for 15 minutes, they were far enough away that I wasn't a threat to them and it was cool just to chill out and be an observer.
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