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|Cumulative climbing:||1950 feet|
Sunol Regional Wilderness, August 10, 2019 - Our primary goal for the day was to traverse the approximately one-mile segment of the W-Tree Rock Scramble between Jacobs Valley on Camp Ohlone Road and McCorkle Trail.
We started from the main trailhead of this East Bay Regional Park off Geary Road, then started on the Canyon View Trail that quickly climbed a few hundred feet above the canyon, offering a nice view of the canyon. Along this trail we encountered several parties of hikers.
After cresting a ridge the Canyon View Trail descended gradually to Camp Ohlone Road, losing little elevation as it headed southeast. Eventually we came out onto the road and continued a short distance before encountering the aptly-named W-Tree, marking the start of our scramble.
At first a well-worn use trail started up the west bank of the seasonal creek bed, now dry. But, a short distance from the W-Tree the trail disappeared into the creek bed, and our scramble began.
The scramble was like a dry creek-walk. Most of the way was Class 2. At a few spots one required some care to avoid poison oak, and at a few other spots we paused to consider the easiest way over or around a taller obstacle. In a few places some Class 3 moves were required.
Where a large leap was required there was usually a way around that allowed for smaller steps. Since this was our first scramble of the year our bodies were not accustomed to the muscle workout required to pull us up over boulders and past chock-stones. So we usually sought the easiest path past an obstacle rather than the most challenging. None of us wished to tire quickly and weaken to the point where we might not be able to continue.
Progress was slow, but we enjoyed the route-finding puzzle and the adventure of finding a new problem to solve around the next bend of the creek-bed. Temperatures were warm but somewhat humid, making some of the more extreme moves uncomfortable because our pants were sticking to our legs.
About half-way up we encountered cow-patties in the dry creek-bed, and I noticed a cattle trail heading up the east bank. I made a mental note of this, should we be forced to retreat. We could probably exit the creek-bed at this point and make our way cross-country to the nearest parallel trail, the Backpack Road about 0.4km to the east, saving ourselves the time and trouble of scrambling all the way down to Camp Ohlone Road.
All was going pleasantly until we got about 3/4 of the way up the scramble only to encounter a 20-foot high dry waterfall. At first there appeared to be no easy way past this wall.
While I was busy examining the water course for possible hand and foot holds, Stella found a way up one of the boulders that got her most of the way up the east side of the waterfall. The west side was a high cliff that looked impossible.
Frank followed her up the boulder to search for a route around the waterfall. Two or three routes looked possible. The first of these squeezed through an opening beneath a small chockstone. It would require removing our packs. But according to Frank the opening was tight. The second involved climbing atop a pointed boulder behind the lower one Frank and Stella had climbed from the bottom of the waterfall. Frank was unsure he could down-climb this second boulder should we find the way blocked further up stream, so he didn't attempt the maneuver. The third involved climbing smaller steps over some penstemon plants that were growing on a narrow flake next to the waterfall itself. This last route appeared to be the easiest technically, but a slip could send one tumbling down the face of the waterfall.
We decided not to risk either of these on this trip as we were all getting weary. So, we retreated to the spot I had seen the cow-patties, then climbed out of the canyon, following a cattle trail over a ridge just north of a volcanic pinnacle (that might itself make for an interesting climb on a future trip) and down to the Backpack Road.
We hiked up Backpack Road to McCorkle Trail and then paused for a late lunch where the trail crossed the W-Tree Rock Scramble creek bed. After lunch we decided to explore the upper end of the scramble below McCorkle Trail that we had missed.
We started down the scramble, encountering a few Class 3 problems, but nothing too challenging. It wasn't long before we arrived at the top of the waterfall. From this upper vantage point I could see that the "tunnel" route under the chockstone Frank proposed earlier was indeed quite a squeeze. I imagined myself getting stuck in the narrow opening. The chockstone looked small enough to be removed to enlarge the opening. But, that sort of "route gardening" is frowned-upon in wilderness areas. The climb up the backside of the pointy boulder did not appear to have good hand/foot holds, but the climb up the flake next to the waterfall looked do-able if scary. The hardest part of that route appeared to be mental: ignoring the sheer drop to one's left while climbing.
Our lunch break had given us some energy but not more time. We also felt that our muscles had enough to carry us back up the scramble to our lunch spot but not enough to try any of the extreme moves necessary to get us past the crux of this route either up or down, so we decided to save traversing it for another visit when we were fresher and in better shape for scrambling.
We were satisfied we had now seen the entire lower segment of the scramble, and we knew that the waterfall was The Crux of this route, there being no other major obstacles along the route.
We returned up the creek bed and soon found ourselves at our lunch spot. We turned left on McCorkle Trail and continued as far as Cerro Este Road onto which we turned right.
I hadn't studied the route profile in detail before our hike. Perhaps if I had not confused "Cerro" with "Caballo" I might have expected a relentless climb instead of the frequent passing of four-footed beasts.
When we arrived at Cerro Este Overlook, I was happy to find a commodious bench. We all sat there for several minutes to enjoy the view and the cool breeze. At this point due to weariness and the late hour we decided to return to the start via the shortest route rather than to continue our full planned route out to Vista Grande and Flag Hill.
We continued on Cave Rocks Road to Indian Joe Creek Trail that we descended as far as the trail that cuts over to Hayfield Road. We finished our descent on Hayfield Road that deposited us a near the trailhead.
That evening and the next day I reacquainted myself with Ibuprofen.
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