Sunday, May 16, 2010
"Cactus to Clouds" 05/15/10
San Jacinto Peak
Palm Springs, CA
The anticipation for this hike has been building for the past couple months, mainly because it's rated as one of the most difficult hikes in the entire nation, and I was dying to see if that held true. It did.
Friday evening I met up with two other organizers (very fit and experienced hikers from our hiking group) around 11:00pm and began the four hour drive from Phoenix to Palm Springs. We rolled into town a little after 3:00am, put our gear together and were on the trail by 3:30am. This hike is completely exposed to the sun, so an early start is critical to help avoid heat related illness (it was 97 degrees Saturday). We hiked the first hour and a half with the aid of a headlamp, and then it was all sunny skies from here on out. The skyline trail begins at 481ft of elevation and climbs over 10,000ft going beyond the tram stop to the summit, topping out at 10,800ft. Most people take the tramway from the bottom, although the "crazies" (which would be us) hike all the way up, which is 10 miles and over 8,000 ft to this point and join all the others on their way to the summit.
This is where things got interesting. With 3 to 5 feet of hard packed snow cover and 5.5 miles of go, there was not a visible trail to the peak, only footprints of those before us. We were doing fine until the signage mislead us to the wrong summit. We actually climbed Jean Peak, adjacent to San Jacinto and a mere 130ft lower in elevation. By the time we reached the false summit we were low on water due to the strenuous nature of the hike and feeling a little dejected, so we decided to call it a day and head back. This was probably a wise decision with dark grey storm clouds building rather quickly. The trek back to the tram was easy compared to what we had just been through. Each of us bought a boarding pass, rode down to the bottom and caught a cab back to our car at the trailhead. This was just the type of adventure I needed to start my summer off right. I am looking forward to more excursions and to see what 2010 has in store for me...I'll keep you posted.