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GREAT HIKES: The Tough Gets Going:

Virtually everyday I receive a call or two asking about our Monday and Wednesday night hiking group.

Over the years, the calls have become so common- place that whoever answers the phone just yells out something like “Hiking! Line one!” and I take it from there.

Most of the calls are queries about easy trails for beginners: Can they wear tennis shoes? (boots are better) Is the coming hike an easy one? What do we do when it gets dark? (we keep going)

This past week, however, a slew of readers surprised me with questions about the tougher hikes. No fire roads for them, they were looking for the gonzo treks, the rough and ready types with no time to dawdle on mundane Kenter or paved passages like Capri. These folks were getting prepared for the serious 70-pound backpack hikes and were hoping that we’d help polish their skills.

I explained that you can only do so much in two hours, but we do have a handful of hikes in our regular repertoire that can make even the big dogs breathe a little harder — especially if you strap on a heavy pack for training.

The two trails that first came to mind were Wirebreak and Wirebreak Two. There are others right behind those, not necessarily for the heart pounding gain but for the technical challenges: The Wind Caves, Los Liones, via the mountaineering route, and The Crack.

Wirebreak is definitely a one-of-a-kind uphill challenge. As steep as you can imagine for a hands free, non-climbing, swath of rutty drudgery. A little tricky to find, in that the trailhead is shrouded under bushes in an unmarked, little-used access road off Palisades Drive in the Highlands. Once you start up you are pretty much committed to a boot camp workout.

Wirebreak Two (which we named after its bigger brother) is only a little less tricky to find. It is also an unmarked passageway, an abrupt descent off Westridge that shoots straight down to the canyon floor far below. While its namesake is wide and ragged, Wirebreak two is a narrow, single file, scree-filled, one-hump roller coaster that starts from the top. The real test, of course, is coming back.

Los Liones via the mountaineering route, the Wind Caves and The Crack are all unlikely to tax your wind, but will definitely hone your sense of agility. You’ll go slower, especially in a group, but you’ll be climbing, bending, twisting crawling and thinking more than on the brute strength trails.

I suppose it depends on what kind of training or experience you are looking for: a stroll, a fast paced stretch, a steep hill to build endurance or some more interesting challenges. All of those options and more are available right here in town, a stone’s throw from Santa Monica. Just call us up and we’ll show you what we know.Fearless readers interested in free Monday-Wednesday night hikes may contact Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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