Monte Arido and Old Man Mountain 01/16/2022

Monte Arido (6010 feet) and Old Man Mountain (5538 feet) are a pair of HPS peaks located in Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County. I planned to climb both via a long dirt road hike beginning from the Matilija Trailhead. I woke up early in my hotel near Ventura Harbor and drove about 45 minutes to the trailhead. From Highway 33, I drove west on Forest Route 5N13 (Matilija Canyon Road) about 5 miles before reaching the locked gate and parking. This road is paved and passes through a residential neighborhood. I started hiking at 6:23am from 2033 feet above sea level.

I went through the locked gate and walked west on the paved road past a few more homes. At 0.4 mile I crossed Matilija Creek. I took off my shoes and socks to walk through but I realized on my way back that there are some rocks one can hop across on the left side.

The road continued west past the creek as it turned to dirt. I went left at a fork at 1 mile.

The road turned south as it entered Murietta Canyon.

The road then turned southwest.

It was a long haul up the canyon. At 3 miles I crossed a small creek.

The grade steepened beyond the creek. The canyon was very beautiful.

I reached the Murietta Divide at 4.9 miles at 3453 feet. I turned north onto Monte Arido Road. This road was rough and overgrown.

I got my first look at Old Man Mountain in the distance. Monte Arido was hidden behind it.

The road climbed steeply for the next few miles. At some point I crossed from Ventura County into Santa Barbara County. At 8.5 miles I reached an elevation of 5200 feet near the southern base of Old Man Mountain.

The next mile or so was relatively flat as the road made its way around the west side of Old Man Mountain. I started to see some poodle dog bush, a plant known for causing similar reactions as poison oak. It is commonly found in recently burned areas.

There was more and more poodle dog bush as I continued. There were a few sections where it was so dense that I really had to walk carefully. The plants looked mostly brown and dying, but I was still careful since I have no idea if they lose their potency when they look like that.

I reached the turnoff for the use trail up to Old Man Mountain at 10.3 miles. I decided to continue to Monte Arido and save Old Man for the way back. Monte Arido was now visible.

I continued to observe tons of poodle dog bush on the way to Monte Arido, including some that didn’t look dead.

As I neared the summit, I saw the largest bear poop I had ever seen in the middle of the road. I was on alert for bears the rest of the hike, but I didn’t see any.

I reached the top at 11:06am at 12.1 miles! I located the register which had been placed in 2018. The previous entry was from October 31. I found one marker on the summit.

The views were pretty good despite some cloud cover. I could see Hines Peak, which I had just climbed the day before, to the east:

I could see Sandstone Peak to the southeast, with Catalina Island in the background to the right:

I could see Santa Cruz Island to the south. El Montanon is the peak on the left side of the island.

I could see Big Pine Mountain (left) and Madulce Peak (right) to the west. I climbed both on a 2 day backpacking trip in late October.

Mount Pinos was hidden behind clouds to the north.

I began heading back after a 15 minute break. I noticed some small snow patches on the north facing slopes.

As I approached Old Man Mountain again, I had a good view of its twin summits. The right one is higher.

At 14.1 miles I left the road to climb Old Man via a narrow use trail. It was a 500 foot climb from the road in 0.5 mile.

There was some poodle dog bush to avoid on the lower part of the trail. It was easy going once I reached the ridge east of the summit.

I reached the summit at 12:27pm at 14.6 miles! I signed the register which had just been placed on December 12. I was the first entry since then. There was an older book as well which was completely full. The person who left the register commented that they were planning to head to Monte Arido but turned around due to the poodle dog bush. I thought this was odd since they would have passed through the worst sections to get here. This is looking north back at Monte Arido:

I decided to climb the east summit of Old Man (5495 feet), which was less than a half mile away.

I reached a minor saddle and then climbed about 200 feet to the summit. There were some large slabs on top.

I reached the summit at 12:51pm at 14.9 miles. I signed the register which had been placed in 1999. The most recent entry was from June 10, and unsurprisingly, there were very few entries in between. Despite not being an HPS listed peak, I decided this was the nicest peak of the day due to the rocky summit and the unobstructed views. This is looking back at Old Man and Monte Arido:

Rather than go up and over Old Man and return to the road the way I came, I decided to descend directly to the south. The descent was steep and loose, but I reached the road again at 15.1 miles. This shortcut undoubtably saved me a few miles.

From there I retraced my steps back to the trailhead. It was a long 9 miles to go but I made good time. I reached the car at 4:18pm.

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