Antimony Peak, Eagle Rest Peak
9 January 2002
By: Karen Isaacson Leverich
I live in Section 4, "Southern Kern County West of Hwy. 5", perhaps the most dense in drive ups of all our Sections. (How embarrassing!) But one peak in particular, which I see down San Emigdio Canyon almost every time I drive out of here, is far from a drive up. Eagle Rest! How I've wanted to go there! But the only scheduled hike since I became active in HPS was canceled. Then, in early December, the snows came, and it seemed I'd have to wait until spring.
Well, one thing about the weather up here: it never fails to surprise. The early storms were succeeded by a long spell of warm dry weather. One day, on my way out to get some groceries (a downside of living up here is that it's 60+ miles to the nearest large supermarket), I couldn't resist turning onto the West Tecuya Mountain Road and driving up to the Antimony Peak trailhead, just to scope out the situation. Temperatures were in the 60's, and there were the merest patches of snow on the north face at the trailhead. I was so delighted, I immediately phoned Mars Bonfire (who I knew needed both Eagle Rest and Antimony, along with very few other peaks, for his fifth list finish). "I'm at the Antimony trailhead. The gate is open. It looks great! You want to do these peaks this week?"
Apparently so -- two days later at 6AM, we met at the turn off onto West Tecuya Mountain Road. It was barely light (actually, it wasn't light at all) when we reached the trailhead, though by the time we had our gear organized, the world was beginning to emerge. Peering to the west at San Emigdio Mountain, we saw the cliffy north face was pretty much snow free. Of more concern was the cloud bank below us in San Emigdio Canyon -- our route for the day would involve a lot of ups and downs, and those pretty clouds we were looking down on would possibly look more like fog as we passed through the various saddles along the way.
Lots of ups and downs -- what we intended to do (what we did) was to reach Eagle Rest via Antimony. Judging from the trip archives, this was once a popular pairing that has apparently fallen into disfavor in recent years -- the current, conventional, routes to Eagle Rest seem to be the northern approach, coming in via Wind Wolves Preserve after obtaining the gate combination(s), or the southern approach from Pine Mountain Club, down and back up San Emigdio Canyon. Our route would begin at 6660' at the Antimony trailhead, then down to the Antimony Saddle (6000'), up to Antimony Peak (6848'), down to a saddle (5520') between Antimony and bump 5990', up and over bump 5990' (5990'), down to the saddle before Eagle Rest (5037'), then up Eagle Rest (5955'). And then, ulp!, turn around and go back.
At some point en route, I learned Mars had only done this route once, and then only one way. That time, Carleton Shay had led, effortlessly navigating through the brush. Then the group had hiked out to the north, tidying things up with a very long car shuttle (56 miles!).
To the top of Antimony, the route is brush free, albeit a bit rocky and steep on the old road (if one can call it that!) switchbacking up Antimony's south face. It's hard to imagine anyone ever having driven on that road, though it must have happened. Antimony isn't an overly attractive peak, but it is pleasantly forested on top, and I of course feel sentimental about it, because it was atop Antimony last April that Brian and I discovered HPS. There had been a few wisps of fog as we went up, but while were on the summit, it all disappeared, almost as if someone had thrown a switch. What a relief, not having to deal with fog!
At first, the descent of the north side of Antimony went well -- no ducks but also no brush. We were pleasantly surprised. But it didn't last -- well before the saddle, we were looking right and left, trying to find passable corridors through the prickly oaks, pushing through when nothing better seemed on offer. Those oak leaves are definitely annoying, down the neck, pants, etc.
Heading up bump 5990' (we called it the Bump With No Name, and theorized it might have been HPS-worthy, if only it had had a name), the brush changed from oak to yucca, and Mars pretty quickly found a clear route up, though it was steep and loose. Never mind, I was so grateful for the respite from the annoying oak leaves that I'd probably have gladly gone straight up scree.
The north side of 5990' brought us back into the oaks, until we suddenly arrived in an open sage meadow in the saddle before Eagle Rest. Me: "So, we're done with the brush until we head back!" Mars: "Well, um..."
So we pushed on through more brush, and headed up the south side of Eagle Rest, eventually taking a break under a pleasant pine, caching some of our water there. While I admired the view (were those cloud banks redeveloping? surely not!), Mars scouted around for some ducks, since he knew we had to be almost to the ducked route.
He was, of course, right. We scrambled up and over rock, arriving on the summit just as the fog rolled back in. So much for our view! Mars climbed up onto the boulder where the HPS register resides, only to discover ... it wasn't there. Looking down to the east, he spotted the can and register -- they'd apparently blown off. They didn't look too far down, so off he went to fetch them.
In the event, Mars was gone for quite awhile, before reappearing, a tad wild-eyed, from a totally different direction. Retrieving the register had been more of a challenge in rock climbing than he'd expected. Deciding to spare future climbers this experience, we scrounged up some rocks and placed the register in a more sheltered location, at the foot of its former boulder. "Hey, you didn't retrieve the pen!" Talk about getting a dirty look! I found a pen in my pack and we signed in.
Eagle Rest was not exactly the most popular of our peaks in 2001. We found only two signatures -- Roy Randall who wasn't sure how he'd gotten there, and Ron Zappen who had come from Antimony. (C'mon, Ron, you could've trimmed some of that brush!)
Meanwhile, oops!, the clouds/fog had rolled in. Views? There were no views. (I said that already, I know.) Our old friend, bump 5990'? Antimony Peak? Not a sign of them. So another interesting challenge for Mars, and one I was absolutely fascinated to observe -- navigating us back to the saddles, along the ridges, over the bumps, through the brush ... in the fog. The lessons to be learned from this very accomplished outdoorsman are seemingly endless.
On our way back up Antimony, we deliberately opted to cross the lower, western, summit, to see if it was easier than sidehilling. Plus who knows, maybe we'd find the mine Hugh Blanchard had been seeking. (See "Searching for the Lost Mines of Antimony Peak" on page 18 of the January/February 2002 Lookout.) No luck, but we were at least out of the brush, and it made for pleasant hiking.
We were at the top of the steep jeep road as dusk arrived. I made it down the first few switchbacks without my headlamp, but then gave up and turned it on. Mars toughed it out all the way down to the saddle. As an experiment, I turned off my light, but even after waiting for my eyes to adjust, it was still pitch dark. "Mars, how can you see?" Turns out he'd been "borrowing" my light, plus feeling his way with his poles. I must have sounded horrified, as he then got out a light for our final ascent to the trailhead, to our cars.
It's only a mile or two back at that point, 700' gain, gently angled, but I suppose we were a bit tired -- it seemed to go on ... and on ... and on. The peak guide pegs this route as 11 miles round trip, 2400' gain to the peak, 2900' gain on the return, or 5300' total. "Sheep and Martinez on Sunday will be easier," Mars promised.
He was wrong...
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