Mt. San Jacinto II (10835')
Cactus to cloud - Attempt 2
Date: 22 Nov 2014
Difficulty: Strenuous (Made harder by the sheer distance, elevation gain, temperatures - this time specifically lower 40’s), 2 inches of snow, 45mph winds.
Elevation Gain: 10300’ and 2300’ loss
Sequel to Attempt1: can be found here
Having missed the summit by 2.4 miles last time, I was very keen on finishing it this time. In order to avoid the mistakes that we did with respect to start time, I decided to take my car to LA and cut some extra time and effort of renting a car. This time around the group of folks were - Jugal, Louis, Pavan, Jai and I. I’m also super excited to say that all of us made it to the summit and back even under difficult conditions. This hike was a success despite the cold weather, snow the previous day and gale force winds of 45mph at the summit. And as to my success in reaching the top I’d totally have to thank Jai for it - for pushing me to get to the summit despite the conditions and time.
Now back to the narrative; the four of us - Pavan, Jugal, Louis and I started our journey towards Palm Springs at 8:00pm the previous night. Although we were supposed to head out by 6pm, Chipotle followed by heavy traffic on 101 made us start only by 8pm. We all knew this was a terrible start owing to the fact that we had to start the hike by 4:00am. The drive to palm springs approximately takes about 7hrs from San Jose/Bay Area and hiking right after driving is not a very good idea. We reached Jai’s place near Valencia by 12:30am and Palm springs was a 2 hr drive from there. We all took a short nap of about an hr and pushed out to the trailhead by 3am. It was around 4:30am by the time we got to the trailhead and parked the car. Ideally for this hike, driving or flying down to Palm springs and staying there would be a good way to start.
At 4:50am, we took our first customary picture at the trailhead and paced up trying to gain as much distance and altitude possible before sunrise. It was pretty cold when we started but as much as we could help it, we did not want to be exposed to direct desert sun. By sunrise we had passed the benches and almost made our way to the 4300 stone marker. (For detailed route description, please see here). We were doing almost 2.5 miles an hr which is an extremely good start for this hike. We were at the rescue boxes followed by the written sign on the stone swiftly. We did have some issues in the beginning to find the route bit it was pretty ok. Wasn’t like last time when we were lost for about an hr. Louis was extremely fast and he went ahead way before all of us. Jugal and Pavan followed suite leaving Jai and me at the rear. We enjoyed our hike up taking pictures especially at every trail marker. By 9am or so we were more than half way up to the tram station which is at 8300 feet. It was a matter of speed, time and pursuance before getting to the station. I estimated 11:30-12:00pm to be a good time to be at the ranger station so as to refill water and start on the next leg of the hike - a round trip 11 miles with 2500’ elevation gain from 8300 to 10800 feet. The steepest section of the trail spanning a length of about 2miles started. The end of the trail to the tram station was climbing up the GrubbsNotch. This is right after crossing the potato rock which on this occasion never seemed to come close for quite some time. It always eluded the legs although was prominently visible all the time.
At 6000 feet before hitting the steep section, we encountered snow and ice. The landscape turned white and green with alpine setting. It was just very beautiful and this further instilled me to get up to the summit. The summit would be covered with snow is what I pictured. We made very good time hiking up to the station. We were at the tram station by11:30pm. Decided to fuel up - a long long break of 1 hr put us at around 1pm by the time we started our 2nd leg of the hike to the summit. The trail now was pretty much covered by ice and snow and it was slowing us down. We all had microspikes and crampons but I did not find the need to put them on right away. I used them from Wellman Divide which is an intersection about 2.5 miles from the summit. This is where Abe and I had turned back the last time.
This time too I considered the choice of turning back but Jai was insistent about the trail not being too difficult after the divide and that we could get to the top in no time. Well Jai, Pavan and I started our way towards the summit. On the way we met Louis who was coming down from the summit having waited for us for more than an hr or so. We then made our way to the ski house which is about 300 feet from the summit. There was some confusion here as to where Jugal was and if he was already at the top. It was only later that we found out he was on his way up and was behind us by about 30 mins. We took a short break at the ski house and made our way up boulders covered in snow to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. The winds were so strong that it made it very difficult for us to stand balanced at one place. We quickly took pictures, immersed ourselves into the beautiful view of the surrounding landscape and started our return journey down to the tram station.
On the way down, a little below the ski house we met up with Jugal. He started his summit attempt and we decided to get down all the way to Wellman’s Divide before dark. By 5pm we were at the divide. it was so cold and windy that waiting there for Jugal wasn’t a good idea anymore. So we decided to head back down to the tram station and wait for him there. By 7:00pm we were at the tram station. Jugal then later came in by 8:15pm. it was just right for us to take the 8:30pm tram down to Palm Springs. Only after going down to my car did I realize that driving ~8hrs and then hiking up Mt. San Jacinto without sleep - a 36hr day for me wasn’t a good idea in any circumstance.
To sum it up, it was a well deserved successful hike up Mt. San Jacinto over the weekend and also a teaser for what’s coming next - Backpacking this route? May be :D