An End of Year Boney Mountain Adventure

Runners on Boney Mountain's western ridge
Boney Mountain's western ridge from the Old Boney Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park. The 'Mountaineer's' route more or less follows the skyline. There is a 1500' - 2000' escarpment on the other side of the ridge. (Click arrow to advance slide.)
The Boney Mountain escarpment from the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail. The Mountaineer's route follows along the top of the escarpment.
The run/hike/climb started at the Wendy Drive trailhead on Potrero Road in Newbury Park. The dirt road is Danielson Road, which leads to the Old Boney Trail.
A closer view of the Mountaineer's route on Boney Mountain's western ridge. See the runners?
View west toward Sycamore Canyon from Boney Mountain's western ridge.
The erosion-resistant rock along the western ridge of Boney Mountain is part of a volcanic sequence known as the Conejo Volcanics. According to the Dibblee geologic map of the area the material of which the rock is composed was probably deposited as a lahar (volcanic debris-flow) about 16.1 to 13.1 m.y. ago.
View down Boney Mountain's western ridge from near the top.
Silhouetted Tri Peaks from the crest of Boney Mountain. My route continued over to Tri Peaks, skirting it on the left.
View southwest from the south side of Tri Peaks in Pt. Mugu State Park.
Next stop, Sandstone Peak (3111'), the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The summit of Sandstone Peak was a busy place on the last day of 2017.
The summit of Sandstone Peak (3111'), the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Balance Rock and Echo Cliffs from the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
Running up the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
Tri Peaks from the Mishe Mokwa Trail.
Chamberlain Rock from the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail.
Looking up at the general route of the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail. From the western edge of the Boney Mountain massif the Chamberlain Trail drops about 1500' in 2.5 miles.

The last day of 2017 had been a near perfect day for a trail run. I’d started my adventure with an ascent of Boney Mountain’s western ridge — joining the Trail Runners Club on their annual scramble — and then continued to Tri Peaks and Sandstone Peak, the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. A circuit of the Mishe Mokwa loop had added a few scenic miles and put me on the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail, headed west.

About a half-mile past the Backbone Trail’s western junction with the Tri Peaks Trail, the Backbone Trail begins a 4.7 mile, 2400′ descent to Sycamore Canyon. I had started this descent and was nearly down to Chamberlain Rock, when I heard voices on the trail ahead. They sounded like they were just around the next switchback. Slowing to a walk, I rounded the sharp corner. Three smiling hikers said hello, and I wished them a Happy New Year.

It’s a little unusual to see a group of hikers on this section and for a moment I wondered if they might be doing the full length of the 68 mile Backbone Trail. I asked how they were doing and one of them casually replied, “Doing great — we’re just headed down to the Sandstone Peak parking lot…”

What?? Surprised by the answer, I blurted out something like, “You’re kidding, right?” They were miles from where they thought they were and headed in the opposite direction they should be. Every step down the trail was taking them farther and farther away from their intended destination. They looked fit, experienced and well-prepared, but somewhere along the way, they had taken a very wrong turn.

From what I could determine they had intended to do the Mishe Mokwa – Sandstone Peak loop counterclockwise or a variation that involved Tri Peaks. Apparently, at the top of the Mishe Mokwa Trail instead of continuing toward Sandstone Peak on the Backbone Trail, the hikers decided to take the Tri Peaks Trail. They followed the Tri Peaks Trail until it ended at the Chamberlain/Backbone Trail, about two miles west of Sandstone Peak.

At this junction, to get back to Sandstone Peak (and their car), they needed to turn left (east). Instead, they turned right and headed down the Chamberlain Trail.

The good news is they only had gone about a mile down Chamberlain from the Tri Peaks Trail junction. This put them about 2.5 miles from Sandstone Peak and about 4 miles from their car. It was around noon and the weather was good. If they had no route-finding issues on the way back they would probably still have time to do Sandstone Peak. They just would be doing more of an End of the Year adventure than they planned.

Some related posts: Boney Mountain Western Ridge & Loop, Balance Rock, Misplaced on Mt. Wilson

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