Old Woman Mtn:
Our last peak of the week. We saved a short one so we could drive all the way back to the Bay Area the same day. It seems the northern approach to Old Woman has been pushed back, making the harder drive for the southern approach more worthwhile. As mentioned on the Old Woman trailhead page, the roads out here don't have very good signs. Drive during the day, drive with a GPS, or hope your odometer matches the guy who wrote the DPS guide. Ours didn't.
Once you're in the Carbonate Gulch wash, it's a real 4WD road - slow going, some risk of cutting a tire, etc. The drive is worth it, however, when you see the excellent campsite just inside the slot canyon that starts the route. It's a narrow steep canyon with a flat sandy bottom. We thought it would be very sheltered, but when the wind came up the during our climb, we found it can really whip down this canyon. The campsite featured a fire ring, complete with a stack of firewood. Nothing like a full moon and a campfire in a slot canyon!
There are two routes up the south side of the mountain, both branches of the same canyon where we camped. We went up the west branch (green line on the map) and came down the east branch (red line on the map). We liked the east branch better. Maybe there's a pattern that we like the descent canyon better, but I think the footing, the plants, and the rocks were all better in the east branch. The DPS Guide says there's an "easy 3rd class waterfall", but it's easily bypassed on class 2 ledges.
No surprises on this climb, unless you count Cat's Claw Acacia. We were on the summit at 8am, 2100' of gain in under two hours. We stayed only half hour on top - it was getting cold and windy, much more so than on previous days!! You can climb this peak in the morning and almost be home for dinner the same day.
PS: Try not to trip over the dilapidated radio tower junk on top. There is a stack of broken/replaced solar panels, some sheared-off aluminum braces, the door won't go shut (much less stay shut), the guy lines are all loose, and the shack is tilted so badly I wonder when the rows of batteries inside will start leaking.
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