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1143. Cone Peak Sea-to-Sky (08/04/18)

Hikers (14): Adrien, Alan B, Brad, Chinyet, Dan L, Giulia, Karl, Mihail, Milon, Pal, Peggy, Peter, Sophie, Yipeng
Distance: 16 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Limekiln State Park south of Big Sur

Write-up by Peter -- Pictures by Giulia, Karl, and Yipeng

This hike was a special request from Mihail. Note to self: No more special requests!

The route -- looks so innocent, doesn't it?

We set off dark and early for the long ride down to Big Sur. I was thinking we should have started even earlier because it was going to be a warm day and we had a long tough climb ahead of us. Oh well, it's all part of the torture ...

We received the usual grumpy greeting from the unfriendly Limekiln State Park staff. After they barked some parking instructions at us -- ill-tempered attitude appropriate for Cone Peak -- we set off a little after 8:30.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

Sea to Sky starts at ... The Sea!

All happy at the start, but Mr. Twitchell would wipe the smiles off our faces soon

Just like last time, we took a couple of wrong turns right off the bat and wasted about half an hour milling about until we found the right trail to head up the hill. It didn't help that the instructions I had printed out were for a different trailhead. D'oh!!!! Yeah, I needed an extra mile and few hundred feet elevation gain because Cone Peak by itself is not enough. Another note to self: Fix the trail notes. And yet another note to self: Take up a collection to buy some damn trail signs for the park. There would be many "notes to self" on this day. Probably the key one would be: Don't come back!

We took a few wrong turns, but the trails were pretty ...

... and we got to see the namesake lime kilns!

First overlook, with nice view of the Pacific and the PCH

Enough fun -- Mr. Twitchell is waiting, and the elevator is out of service as usual
(just like the first time the Pig Fence comes into view, this is an "Oh shit!" moment)

As expected, I soon fell behind the pack. I wasn't in a big rush -- Cone Peak wasn't going anywhere -- and I was still nursing a couple of bad knees. Karl was nursing a strained calf, so we kept each other company most of the day.

Bringing up the rear ...

It was definitely a lot warmer than the last time we did this hike and the hills had turned from green to brown.

Not my imagination -- it was hot! I hauled 6 liters up the hill but it wasn't enough.

But the reward was beautiful views of the Pacific coast

We slogged our way up the Twitchell Elevator, desperately trying to get up the hill before it got hotter. But there was no mercy. It was steep and getting steeper. The hill was brutal. We passed the 4-way intersection and kept going ... Vasquez Trail revisited, except no Ranger John rescue possible. Welcome to The Cone suckers!

More uphill ...

The Cone is finally in sight -- can you feel the joy?

The only good news was that the trail for last mile below Twin Peak was much better defined than before -- someone had gone through and cleared out all the brush. Thank you, whoever you are -- I will buy you beer!!! The bad news is that the new trail is steeper -- a lot more vertical instead of the endless switchbacks. But I will still buy you beer.

Peggy showing excellent form on the approach to Twin Peak

I finally made it to the top and looked for a place to collapse. Ouch, ouch, ouch!!! My hamstrings cramped up as I tried to sit down. Son of a bitch!!! Ugh .... I stood back up again and did a few squats (slowly) to try to loosen up my corpse-like legs. OK, let's try this again ... I was finally able to sit on a semi-sharp rock digging in my butt cheek while feeling my legs twitch about -- it doesn't get any better than this. I am told there was a nice view of the Pacific, but I was not witness to it. I was looking at a patch of dirt and trying to shove a soggy sandwich down my throat before I passed out. Good times. Thanks Mihail!!

Karl made a strong surge to the top -- finish strong, baby!! It wasn't his best day, but I know there's no quit in Karl. Even with his injured calf, the K-Man is a warrior. He told me he was going to go all the way -- I had no doubt; I would have bet a million dollars on it.

We headed across the saddle, getting stabbed by the spiky plants and slipping and sliding around. I had so many cuts and scratches, I wasn't counting any more. I was just a walking zombie. I had a few precarious moments hanging off the edge of boulders while my hamstrings were on fire, but I managed to make it through. Yipeng would later tell me this was her favorite part of the hike, but she's insane.

Milon crossing the saddle -- a fun challenge!

K-Man and I finally made it to the real trail and grinded our way up to the top. That's the longest quarter-mile in the world! Whew!!!!! That sucked, that REALLY sucked!!!

The crew was waiting for us at the peak, with Mihail ready to do the 151 shots (after all, he had carried the bottle all the way to the peak) -- another insane person; we seem to get a lot of them. We celebrated Chinyet's 151st while enjoying our leg cramps. Mihail made it in just over 4 hours -- it took me more more than six. 6 miles in 6 hours -- as Forrest Gump would say, "That's all I have to say about that".

Bodies all over place!

Happy 151st Chinyet!
(thanks to Mihail for carrying the bottle up the mountain)

After a heart-pounding slog up the mountain, nothing hits the spot like some liquid fire in your chest

View of Twin Peak and the saddle from Cone Peak

The route down was much easier, but endless ...... I had already drank 6 liters and had to stop at Trail Camp to get more. This was a test of mental toughness, down the long trails, more uphills, sun beating down in the late afternoon, bugs buzzing in our ears, poison oak, more poison oak, slipping and falling on the damn Twitchell Elevator, but we finally made it ...... Karl and I finally stumbled back into the trailhead 11 hours after we had started. OMG, I can finally stop walking!!! Mihail -- don't ask me for anything else!

Almost back -- look at that beautiful water!

Replace "enough time to forget the pain" with "enough beer to forget the pain"

Chinyet's 151st leaf (and shot)
Giulia's 120th leaf
Yipeng's 140th leaf

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