Cone Peak Directissima: Going Sea to Sky on Big Sur’s Stone Ridge

Big Sur’s Cone Peak rises out of the ocean about as steeply as any mountain on the planet. It’s summit, at 5,155 feet, lies less than 3 miles, as the condor flies, from the beach. This delivers an average gradient of around 33%; steeper than the rise of Mt. Whitney from the floor of Owens Valley. Making the journey from the beach to the summit on foot takes only a little over 5 miles, thanks to the open slopes of Stone Ridge. And it’s one of the most spectacular walks in Big Sur. Which is saying something.

IMG_1198

The Sea to Sky journey up Stone Ridge always begins with the obligatory touch of the ocean at Limekiln Beach. Limekiln State Park has now completed an excellent trail linking the beach to the old Twitchell Flats road and making it unnecessary to do any walking on the highway. This trail, for reasons unknown, remains officially closed, but it seems to be getting a lot of traffic anyway.

DSC00203

Forging a path along the Twitchell Flats road. Needless to say, it’s been awhile since anyone drove up to Twitchell Flats.

DSC00204

Crossing the West Fork of Limekiln Creek.

DSC00210

Looking down on Twitchell Flats as the first steep section, sometimes called the “Twitchell Elevator” begins. It probably goes without saying that this is not your average five mile stroll. There is no real trail up Stone Ridge and the steep sections are really steep. Depending on your level of fitness, you may find the difficulty ranges from completely impossible, if you’re an out of shape tourist, to evening fun run, if you’re Leor Pantilat.

DSC00213

A sea of wild oats.

DSC00214

First view of Cone Peak. The route continues up the grassy ridge to the left to the summit of Twin Peak, then traverses the ridge to Cone Peak.

DSC00218

Trail marker near the top of the Twitchell Elevator.

DSC00220

Above the Twitchell Elevator the gradient eases for a bit.

DSC00221

But steep climbing begins again soon.

DSC00227

Onward and upward.

DSC00228

Blooming yucca (Yucca whipplei)

DSC00230

Cone Peak getting closer.

DSC00237

Negotiating a band of brush below the summit of Twin Peak.

DSC00240

A Dark Watcher.

DSC00242

Twin Peak summit.

DSC00244

Traversing the rocky ridge to Cone Peak.

DSC00257

A western tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio eurymedon) enjoys the blooming coyote mint (Monardella villosa) along the Twin Peak/Cone Peak ridge.

DSC00263

A rocky scramble with a view.

IMG_1200

A celebratory glass of wine on the summit.

DSC00277

Returning to the top of the Twitchell Elevator by way of the Cone Peak, Gamboa and Stone Ridge Trails adds miles, but is easier on the knees. There’s even some very welcome water along the way.

DSC00280

Looking back at where we’ve been from the top of the Elevator.

DSC00287

Returning via the old route, along the highway, means passing through the new rock shed.

DSC00289

In the shed.

IMG_1202

 

A fine day out: On the Limekiln Bridge with Cone Peak in the far background.

Advertisements

One Response to Cone Peak Directissima: Going Sea to Sky on Big Sur’s Stone Ridge

  1. gayle says:

    Thank you again for sharing your wonderful hikes. The pictures are great, some vantages not seen by many. Again, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: