By: Charlie Knapke
Last year a visitor to the Lower Peaks Committee website sent me an email about a trip he made to Santa Cruz Island several years before. He described a climb of the high point in the National Park, El Montaņon. I discussed the route with him and I decided this might be worth a try.
Devra Wasserman and I made reservations in early March with Island Packers in Ventura for a ferry trip out to the Island. When we arrived in Ventura, the weather was fine. It was nice and sunny with almost no breeze. We crowded onto the boat with a lot of kayakers and headed out to sea.
As time went on we noticed that the wavers were slowly increasing in size. At about the half way point in the channel, the Captain brought the boat about and announce on the P.A. system that reports from the islnad via radio indicated that high winds had come up and there was no way to let us off at the island pier.
We they experience a one hour trip back to the mainland into an ever-increasing wind. We arrived wet but safely at the dock. Oddly enough the weather at the dock was just as nice as it was when we left that morning.
We then made new reservations for the 25th of March. Again we left the mainland in good weather conditions. The wind again came up but this time it was an on-shore breeze so the pier at the island was sheltered from the wind. We were safely delivered to Santa Cruz Island National Park.
We immediately started on our hike to El Montaņon. The hike started on dirt roads that became fainter and fainter until we were on nor more than a rocky use trail. The winds increased until at one point we were experiencing gusts of 60mph plus. The peak was not as windy as the ridges. The view was better than most HPS peaks that I have done.
We returned to the pier a full hour and a half before the boat returned for the trip back to the mainland. We spent this exploring the immediate area and talking to one of the crew who was well-informed on the history of the island and the park.
We had hoped to do some whale watching on the boat trip but we had to settle for a few sea otters near Anacapa Island.
In restrospect, I realize that we did this trip in the wrong time of the year. Spring has heavy seas, summer has fog. Fall might be the better season for this trip.
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