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David R

Whitaker Peak

I've been hiking a lot but mainly standard routes so haven't done any recent write-ups. This last Thursday I tweaked my ankle running and knew that I would have to do something a bit easier this weekend. I picked out Whitaker Peak since the gain was moderate and was mainly on a fireroad.

Whitaker Peak is primarily known for being one of, if not the windiest spot in SoCal. Whenever the Santa Anas blow in they talk about Whitaker and the 115 mile per hour gusts it gets. There is an installation on top of the peak which apparently is used for various weather recordings.

The route starts just north of Castaic off of Templin Highway as you head to Frenchman's Flat. An old sign shows the turnoff just before Whitaker Summit. The first mile and a half are along a paved road as you climb the western ridge above I-5. The noise is a bit annoying but soon you reach the ridge and get your first view of the backcountry of the Los Padres. The route still had wildflowers blooming but the season is ending fast. Another half mile gets you to the fork where you go left to drop down to the saddle that connects you to Whitaker.

The moment you leave the first ridge, quiet descends on you and you would swear you were miles from civilization. The saddle has spectacular Ruby Canyon to the north and a subsidiary canyon of Canton to the south. Ruby is known as a great canyoneering location and seeing all that conglomerate rock it is obvious why. The next mile and a half is mainly on a dirt road as you get fabulous views to the north of Cobblestone, White, Dome and Slide.

One write up I had found noted that the installation was actually on the lower east summit and that the west summit was actually higher by 20 feet. A peak bagger has to have his priorities in order so I decided to first hit the west summit. The saddle between the two summits has the road cut going through it making access to the ridge a little more difficult. I noted at the far end of the long saddle what appeared to be the easiest access point and sure enough it was and it had a duck there too. I reached the ridge and there was a little rock arrow showing the way down. From hereon in there was no evidence of any hikers being on this route as you follow the narrow ridge in a SW direction. Sometimes there would be too much brush on the ridge and you had to move off of it typically to the south. The brush was less annoying then the remains of the fire that left lots of sharp dead branches to stab you with at inopportune times. Fortunately the off trail section was quite short at about 1/3 of a mile and I reached the summit with a benchmark located there. Surprisingly there was also a little sign-in bag left by the king of the Lower Peaks, Jorge Estrada. There were only five signatures in there all dating from 2011 including Mr. Matt Maxon.

I dropped back down to the fireroad and continued to the end of the ridge where the best views are located. The spot has unparalleled views to the north, west, and south. You can clearly see almost the entire Piru drainage to Piru Lake and see all the way out to the Piedra Blanca. This may be the best overall vantage point in the Los Padres and it is clear why they made a LO here.

From there it was another 4.5 miles back to the trailhead with my ankle getting ornery on the last half a mile. For the entire hike I did not see another person despite this being such an accessible and relatively easy route. I did just over 9.5 miles with a little over 1.600 feet elevation gain in a leisurely 3.5 hours.

Thanks for the nice report! My friend Kate and I (Mike) are two of the few entries in that register from 2011 (we did it in June and again in September...but somewhat more slowly than you!)...guess not a lot of people do that hike, which is too bad, because as you say, it's got some wonderful views.

But you need to get a camera! I enjoy your reports, but would also like to see pix!  Here's one from the west end of the ridge, looking east back at the electronics, and beyond and to the right of them, the actual Whitaker Peak with the benchmark...


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