Ventana Double Cone Trail

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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by benthehiker »

Date Hiked: March 28, 2013
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Beautiful partly cloudy day. Slept the night at Lone Pine - couldn't find water anywhere. The hike was pretty overgrown to start and cleared up as I got closer to the peak. One warning - I was using the Wilderness Press map, which shoes a trail connection to Tin House that ultimately back to Big Sur Station. I spent an hour looking for this trail and almost got lost on the steep mountainside below Doublecone. I later learned from a local that the trail was totally overgrown and no longer in existence. I ended up spending 24hrs without water and having to divert to Botcher's Gap (18+ mile day!) and bum a ride back to my car at the Station.. Thankfully, I ran into a kind hiker who gifted me two liters, with Pat Springs was still 7 or so miles away.

I attached a beautiful panorama from the top. What a view!
Houston Hiker

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by Houston Hiker »

Date Hiked: March 12, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked this trail via Bottcher's Gap. Chapparal has overgrown the part of this trail from the Puerto Suelo intersection towards the Double Cone for about 1 mile, then the chapparal recedes and the trail becomes fairly benign, although still steep at times. Some folks have described this trail as impassable, but I strongly disagree. The tread is mostly easy to follow, even though the chapparal is overgrowing the trail and you have to push through it. We did miss a switchback and had to bushwack up the hill about 200 feet to get back to the trail...that was tough. Download a track from someone who has hiked this before. Here's a link I pulled from Jack Glendening's post - this helped us tremendously: It was dry and we last saw water at Pat Springs. Camped at Lost Pines. We had expected to be able to find water at Lost Pines or Lone Pine or Ventana such... and we ran out of water by our climb to Ventana Springs even after trying to conserve. If it had been any hotter than our very nice weather of 75 degrees, it would have been a problem.

Ventana Double Cone hike was well worth the push through the bushes. This is a great hike, and the views are amazing.

[Ed: "Lost Pines" probably means USGS quad map's "Little Pines Camp" location, at top of Rattlesnake Creek Trail]
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by The_Anchorite »

Date Hiked: February 15, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Successful Summit! Not for the faint of heart, but still passable.

Having read the trail reports thoroughly and still failed last year to make it beyond the switchback past Porto Suello, I planned this year’s attempt differently. First, I carried a GPS with 24K topos and Dr. Jack’s trail maps loaded. Second, rather than planning a day hike from Pat Springs, I planned to overnight at Lone Pine.

Day 1: As others have said, the trail to Pat Springs from Bottcher’s Gap is a thoroughfare. The spring was running well, as usual. I overnighted on the ridge with howling winds and clear skies.

Day 2: I set out just after daybreak with a full pack (and I’m not a light packer). I encountered roughly the same overgrowth and deadfall before Little Pines as on my trip last year. Conditions got sketchy beyond the Little Pines junction, cleared for most of the Uncle Sam traverse and worsened drastically coming into and through Porto Suello. My subjective opinion is that the Porto Suello section is even worse than it was last year. Numerous times I lost the tread and would have had to turn back if not for the GPS. Much of it would have been tough with a day pack; with a 58-liter pack it was grueling. On a positive note, things clear up considerably approaching Lone Pine.

I dropped my gear at Lone Pine camp, which is in fine shape despite Gordon’s experience. I found it exactly where Jack’s maps said it would be, though there’s no sign of tread left leading to it. The actual location is 100 meters further downhill than Gordon’s location appears to be. It’s quite a distance off-trail just above the convergence of two watersheds. The spring was strong, clear and cold. I summited with a day pack, spent 45 minutes on top and was still back at Lone Pine by 1600. I spent the night at Lone Pine, which is eerily dead silent after a night on the ridge above Pat.
Lone Pine camp.jpg
Day 3: I made the trip all the way out to Bottcher’s Gap. As usual, the return was easier, though I still had to consult the GPS on several occasions.

Five others (in two groups) have summited since the New Year. There were two groups behind me on Sunday eager to follow.

Be forewarned: you WILL belly crawl, you WILL get scratched and bruised, and you WILL lose the tread on occasion. If you have the time, consider overnighting at Lone Pine. I think this trip plan beats the possibility of getting caught on trail after dark returning to Pat Springs.

Dr. Jack: My sincere thanks for the GPS trail map overlays; they saved my hike on many occasions. Also, I remembered to bring a large Ziploc bag for the Summit Registers; they’re safe and dry.

[Editor's note: thanks for taking the initiative to carry out those waterproof bags. Nice to hear the maps helped you. JG]
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Ventana Double Cone Trail to the summit

Post by Gordon »

Date Hiked: January 19, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Two of us intended to backpack to Lone Pine camp for the night and to reach VDC the next morning. We each carried moderate sized backpacks. We're strong hikers with extensive peak scrambling experience in the High Sierra, but had no bushwhacking experience in the Ventana Wilderness.

Trail conditions were good as Larry at Bottcher's Gap Camp noted, until after Pat Spring. The western camp sites at Pat Spring (200 yards before the saddle) were clean and in excellent condition. A small stream was flowing a few feet from the camp sites. About 300 yards beyond the saddle at Pat Spring, serious bushwhacking conditions were encountered, this section lasted about 1/4 mile, where we needed to crawl under dense deadfall to get through certain sections, and sometimes needed to recover the trail after going around a few yards of deadfall. From this point to Little Pines camp the conditions were passable for about 75% of the time, the rest being serious bushwhacking. Around Little Pines we lost the trail and had to backtrack about 30 yards to find it. Certain areas were covered by walls of new growth, one must swim through while paying attention to the ground which was barely visible underneath. The way we were able to follow the trail was by looking for absence of shrub roots. Near Little Pines camp there were a few pieces of pink tape on the branches marking the way. The camp site, marked by burnt sign posts, still has a large clearing surrounded by abundant dead madrone branches.
From Little Pines through Puerto Suello to Lone Pine camp was the worst part of the bushwhacking, where trail was difficult to follow about 50% of the time. A few pieces of pink tape marked the route near Puerto Suello junction as well as Lone Pine camp. We lost the trail once again before reaching Lone Pine camp, backtracking was the only viable solution. We had to squeeze in between small oak branches then crawl on the ground for several yards to get through the worst section, as going around was not possible. Lone Pine camp barely had space for one tent, we had to clear some brush to make space for a second tent. We melted snow to get water, hence did not look for water in the gully.
Lone Pine camp
Lone Pine camp
Trail near the summit
Trail near the summit
The trail from Lone Pine camp to the summit was mostly in good condition, with only 2 short sections of bushwhacking nearer the camp. As the trail climbs the high ridges and rocky slopes the size of plants became much smaller so that they could not cover the trail or obstruct sight lines. We made it to the summit in about 1 hour from Lone Pine camp. From our observation, the worst bushwhacking occurred on north facing slopes or relatively flat areas, such as Puerto Suello/Little Pines; south facing slopes tended to have little brush. Our conclusion is that if no trail work are done in the next season the trail will be impossible to follow by most people if they're not armed with a GPS and an detailed trail map.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by sugg »

Date Hiked: January 19, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Yikes, Ma Nature is taking this baby back!The trail is in great/perfect shape from Skinner Ridge to Pat Spring = no issues at all. 1/4 mile past Pat Spring to Puerto Suello - the trail is becoming overgrown with that gnarly green bush/plant. A hiker can push through this growth, but the going gets slow. When the plant grows really aggressively, and a tree falls on the trail, it can get a little tricky to recover the trail. When snow is added to the mix, it gets even more tricky. There are extended sections of thick brush - 50 to 100 yards long. There is misc. deadfall on the trail as well.

From Puerto Suello to Lone Pine Camp - I didn't quite make it to Lone Pine Camp. The green brush is taking over the old Puerto Suello camp area. The switchbacks leading up and out of Puerto Suello towards the Double Cone are REALLY overgrown. The physical trail is fine, but the brush is thick. If you have a large pack, you might not be able to get through. I had to crawl in a couple of spots. With time and determination, you can make it to the Ventana Double Cone. I wanted to make it to the Double Cone, but I could not - didn't have my Petzl, and my confidence/enthusiasm was waning.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by RSIBryce »

Date Hiked: December 10, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Big Pines trail comes to a fork, to the right is the Ventana Double Cone trail, also known as Ventana trail. Burned signed at junction has "Pat Springs" carved into it. Some dead fall on trail but not too bad. More or less open and easy to follow. Lots of camps at Pat Springs. Spring box was in good condition and water was delicious. Really pretty spot. Can see the lights of Salinas through dead pines. Use trail goes up to the ridge from saddle to some really amazing views.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by RSI SamE »

Date Hiked: December 8, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Ventana Double Cone Trail
Twixt Big Pines Trail junction
And Pat Spring Camp
• Trail: Passable (some deadfall)
• People: 3
• Signage: Burnt sign at junction with Ventana Double Cone Trail and Big Pines Trail. Carved into burnt sign post is written “Pat Springs, 2 km” with an arrow pointing down Ventana Double Cone Trail to Pat Spring Camp. No camp sign at Pat Spring Camp.
• Note 1: Lots of camps and water from spring box on ridge at Pat Spring Camp.
Last edited by RSI SamE on Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Adventure Grrl

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by Adventure Grrl »

Date Hiked: November 24, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Two of my buddies and I headed up from Bottchers Gap this past weekend to summit Ventana Double Cone. We are all seasoned hikers, so although we heard it was overgrown, we decided to make the trek anyway with full gear to Pat Springs on the first day and day packs up to the peak the second day. Bottchers Gap to Pat Springs, albeit a challenging ascent, is in good condition and the camping sites provide gorgeous views. There is ample water up there, an important note as you will need plenty of water should you decide to make the trip up to Double Cone.

Unfortunately we were unable to make it all the way the second day. By Puerto Suelo the trail is hidden beneath 6ft+ tall bushes and shrubs (there are tough patches beforehand, but it gets really terrible at that point) and one can very easily find themselves off the path. We made it about halfway up Uncle Sam's Mountain before we decided we would run out of light should we attempt the final few miles.

Per Dr. Jack's recommendation, DO NOT attempt this without a GPS. We ran into him (he did successfully summit, but said it was the most difficult he'd ever seen it and felt it would soon be completely impassible) and even he got turned around on the way up and back and he's not only done this trail many times, but also mapped the area in its entirety. After speaking with him, the best and only way to summit right now is to leave Pat Springs at dawn with a GPS unit, keep a strong pace and make sure you're headed down shortly after as you will be arriving back at sundown. Doing this with headlamps is really not an option.

All that said, the journey to Pat Springs alone is worth the voyage and anything more than that is icing on the cake! Enjoy fellow pack rats :-)
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: November 24, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)


No one has reported getting to the VDC since last May, the four Trail Reports since then all turning back at some point because of trail conditions (time and energy being lost to pushing through brush and hunting for the trail). I had been there myself last May so wondered whether things had really gotten much worse after that trip, since this was outside the growing season. Curiosity (which has killed cats) induced me to make my own visit, deciding to do the "classic" route since I had never stayed at Pat Spring (on both previous trips to the VDC I camped overnight at Little Pines Spring).

I did get to the VDC, but it was definitely a struggle and I was exhausted after getting back to Pat Spring. Without any rest stops, it took 4.0 hours to reach the VDC and 4.2 hours to return (obviously tiring, since the return is more downhill). I left Pat Spring 45 mins after sunrise and returned 30 mins after sunset, spending 1.5 hours atop VDC enjoying the view. (How tired was I at that point? I realized afterward that I had gotten distracted by reading other register entries so never finished or signed my own register entry!) Frankly, I had to push myself too hard, to the point where I did not enjoy the last part of the VDC return, the evening/night afterward, or the next day backpack from Pat Springs.

Reading the register there, I found that 5 people have reached VDC since last May. Their observations about trail conditions:

Nov 11: "bushwhacked long and hard from Pat Springs"

Oct 22: (from Hiding Canyon Camp) "badly overgrown"

Aug 18: "I hope an effort can be made to clear the trail. If it is cleared it would truly be a gem."

July 1: "thanks to those who continue to post about trail conditions and mark the way"

July 1: "worried about the trail - no entries since May"

Looking at the same period in previous years, the number of people reaching and enjoying the VDC is clearly diminishing.

So getting to the VDC is getting more difficult. And getting less enjoyable. As all have reported, the tread is eroded and the brush considerable (ceanothus completely overgrowing the trail in some places).

But the view remains incomparable and worth reaching!! It is my favorite place in the Ventana.
[To entice hikers, I've put a 360-degree panorama from the VDC at ... otated.jpg - when you look at it, remember that it is far better seeing yourself!].

To those making the attempt, I'd advise

() Expect a difficult unmaintained trail, with much brush and eroded tread, which will be tiring and time consuming. In some places the ceanothus is so thick you must use your feet to feel your way along the path. So more time and effort is needed than for a maintained trail of the same length.

() Expect to lose the trail on occasion. Flags do mark the way at some, but not all, confusing places (I added some this trip, was pleased to see some from my last trip). Personally, I don't want to waste time and energy trail hunting, especially without a companion to help trail-hunt, so brought a GPS loaded with the actual VDC Trail (available at my on-line trail map website Despite my previous experience, I lost the trail three times going and once returning but using the GPS was quickly able to recover and move on. Also, it was reassuring to know that should the unforeseen delay me so I'd not be able to get back to Pat Spring by dark, the GPS could help keep me on the correct route. ["Bottchers Gap Larry" told me about a fireman who dayhiked to VDC last year and did reach it, but lost the trail on the way back after it got dark, despite having a headlamp, ending up in his using a cell phone to get a helicopter rescue.]

() Allow as much as time as possible, leaving early in the day to have more time to enjoy the view on the VDC. [After the hard work of getting there, you don't want to be forced to quickly leave due to time pressures - or even worse, have to turn around before getting to see the view you've been looking forward to!]

() Bring all your water along. The closest water (0.05 miles off-trail) water is at Ventana Spring but that is unreliable - I found water there last May but none on this trip. Puerto Suelo and Lone Pine Springs are 0.13 and 0.17 miles off-trail, which take time and effort to reach.

() Bring a single pole to help with eroded tread along the side slopes, so one hand will always be free to deal with brush (two poles get in the way in the brush, a single pole is more manageable)

() The heaviest ceanothus growth is around the intersection with the Puerto Suello Trail (marked by a cairn and firering) - at the sharp switchback 0.2 miles beyond (rocks and flags have been placed to prevent you from missing the switchback, which otherwise would be easy to do) you will have left the worst of the brush and eroded trail difficulties behind. Beyond that as the trail ascends the biggest problem is route finding since bare places appear which can be mistaken for the trail.

FOR ANYONE WHO DOES REACH THE VDC: the two summit registers are in a small ammo box but I found nothing inside protecting them, so they are showing some moisture damage. PLEASE BRING ALONG ONE OR TWO GALLON-SIZE FREEZER PLASTIC BAGS AND PLACE THE REGISTERS INSIDE TO BETTER PROTECT THEM. I did have a supermarket plastic bag which I used to wrap the registers, but they deserve better. I'd not remembered that deficiency from my last trip - or perhaps there was a plastic bag then. I did remember that last time there was no working pen so had left my personal pen (since pen writing is a lot easier to read in the register than the pencil which fades with time) and so I'd brought two additional pens to leave. Also, please leave the ammo can in an upright position so the inside is better protected from the rain - I found it on its side with a rock on top and, my brain being tired, left it the way I found it, realizing later that was a mistake.

Big Sur Trailmap:
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Post by lori »

Date Hiked: November 11, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I am marking this difficult because the limiting factors for someone who has been to the Double Cone before are time and water sources.

To anyone expecting a nice long strenuous hike who hasn't been here before: the trail to the Double Cone past the turnoff to the Puerto Suello trail is heavily overgrown, and parts of the tread are crumbling. My group ran into another group who came up Puerto Suello and camped at Lone Pine - the spring there is dry or retreated far downhill, so they were eating snow left from the last storm. They described the route as "nasty" up from Hiding Camp (the Carmel River Trail they also described as "nasty" and "not worth it").

My group hit a set turnaround time and did not make it to Lone Pine. Too much ceonothus and brush to make much progress. Several times, the trail vanished and the group had to work to find it again. Once we walked in a complete circle! One of the group fell off the trail in a steep section where the edge is crumbling. This is not really a hike, it's a bushwhack, and definitely a challenge.

Anyone attempting this should have knowledge of the route, leather gloves, good boots, and LOTS of water - and hopefully more daylight than there is currently. This would be dangerous in the dark, to say the least.
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