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 San Jacinto mountain climbing
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

San Jacinto mountain climbing Posted: Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:05 pm 

This doesn't have much to do with running, but since I haven't been doing much of that lately, I'll talk about my other forms of exercise. This weekend I met up with a friend and did some hiking in the mountains near Palm Springs. Now you might be wondering what kind of mountains are near a city that's practically below sea level, but there are two ranges nearby that both reach beyond 10,000 feet. It's an impressive sight to see from the desert floor.

Originally we had hoped to climb 10834 ft Mount San Jacinto, the tallest peak in the area with commanding 360 degree views. Unfortunately with all the rain and snow in southern California this year, the upper elevations were buried under 5 to 10 feet of snow. The park service advised me that the trail would be impassable probably until August.

My friend and I took the Palm Springs aerial tramway up to about 8500 feet, which is an amazing experience all by itself. We went from a blasting hot desert to a snowy alpine forest in just minutes. Being reckless young men, we elected to ignore the deep snows and park service warnings, and hike out toward the San Jacinto summit anyway. It was a warm, sunny day, and we decided we'd just go as far as the conditions permitted.

At first the going wasn't too bad. There were enough footprints on the trail for us to be able to follow it easily, and the snow was the perfect compromise between too icy and too soft. With boots and gaiters, we picked our way along. Most of the time we would only sink in an inch or two with each step, but every now and then we would break through the crust and be thigh-deep in snow.

It was exhausting work, struggling through the snow at high elevations. My friend is a pretty fit guy, but the altitude really tired him out, and we had to stop fairly often to rest. I didn't feel quite as affected as he did, but it was still very hard going.

After about 3 miles hiking and 1000 feet of elevation gain, the footprints we'd been following sort of faded away, and we realized we had no idea where the trail was anymore. Luckily the deep snow had completely covered all the rocks and underbrush, so the terrain was mostly a wide-open snowfield broken by occasional tall trees. Like 18th century adventurers, we chose our own path, reckoning by the map, GPS, and lines of sight to choose the route that looked best to us. Trails be damned!

We hiked up some absurdly steep slopes. From later review of my GPS data, I was able to measure that we hiked 0.25 miles up one slope at a 37% grade, and a later slope of equal length was about a 39% grade. That last one really knocked us out, as we were above 10,000 feet with thinning air, and we could only manage to go maybe 10-20 steps at a time before stopping to rest.

After four hours of hiking, totally exhausted, we hauled over the last crest and reached the summit. The wind at the top was fierce and intense, and deep snow was everywhere. The view was just amazing in all directions. What a feeling to have made it up! We ran into one other group of people who had reached the summit on skis, so we had someone to take our picture.

Len climbing
Rickshaw at the summit
10,834 feet

In contrast to the grueling hike up, the way down couldn't have been easier. We "skied" on our boots for much of the steeper parts, and easily managed huge long strides most of the way down. In all we took about 4:00 to hike up, but only 1:45 to get down again. On the way back down the tram, we again overheard a park ranger telling a family that the route to the summit would be impassable until August. Heh heh. Impassable for sane people maybe, but not for crazies like us. :-)


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: San Jacinto mountain climbing Posted: Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:38 pm 

Awesome views, Rickshaw! Man, whatta hike - I think I'll coerce the wife into an August trek up those bad boys. Yes, I said "August". Call me a wimp.

One thing running has introduced to me is the appreciation of experiencing nature in all forms: Trail runs, mountain climbing, adventure hikes, x country skiing, etc. I guess we're lucky to live in a part of the country with such a variety of environments to experience.


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: San Jacinto mountain climbing Posted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 7:12 pm 

Wow, I'm jealous. Now that's what I call cross-training.

It must be great to experience such drastic climate changes in one place. It would be cool to go back in August and take another picture of the elevation sign and mount it side by side with the one of it nearly covered by snow.

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