I've been climbing OFTEN, just ask my wife! Last weekend I took time away from the rocks to return to some good old fashion backpacking. The objective was two off trail mountain peaks, both over 10,000'.
This was a Sierra Club sponsored trip, an organization that is near and dear to my heart. Not only am I member of the Sierra Club, but I am also an instructor and leader in the Angeles Chapter here in California. If you live in Southern California, here is a link to all the outings one could join, there are tons! http://angeles.sierraclub.org/activities Maybe you don't live in California, maybe you don't even live in the United States, never fear! The Sierra Club is an international organization designed to Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the environment, check out their website for more information on joining this non-profit endeavor. http://www.sierraclub.org/
Now back to your regular adventure logging, we entered the San Jacinto state park wilderness via the Palm Springs Aerial tramway. This was my first time taking the cable car. It takes 11 minutes and brings you about 2,000' up the mountain, An easy way to shave off some considerable hard work (and drop $23). I've reached the summit of Mt. San Jacinto twice prior to this trip, but only from the Deer Springs Trail in Idyllwild, that is a very challenging trip, very straight forward and all on trail, our objective on this trip was quite different.
We set off to work on cross country navigation skills. Many peaks cannot be accessed by simply following a man-made trail. Our goal was to summit Jean Peak (10,670') and Marion Mountain Peak (10,362'). After setting out base camp up in the Monkey Flower campground, we headed up trail to a gully that could provide for optimal entry to the back country direction of Jean Peak.
Upon arrival we made a last minute decision to continue on trail and visit the summit of Mt. San Jacino, the second tallest peak in Southern California. Many of the group had been here before, but not all. It was a zoo of tourists because by using the tram it narrows the hike down to about 10 miles round trip and and maybe 2,500' gain. Totally doable for the average enthusiast. The previous two times I hit the summit it was empty and I came from a different angle of the mountain, so it was interesting to see the "common" experience people have here.
Above is just a small portion of the people at the peak, but you can see the density of crowd to nature ratio. The first time I hiked San Jacinto was with my wife, we actually got engaged at the summit. Nobody was there, just us and the view, but that's a whole other story. PRO TIP: The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has a week of annual maintenance and it closes down, this is the perfect time to hike the Deer Springs Trail to the top and avoid 99% of the crowds.
We squeezed by and took a quick summit photo, here is just a couple people in our party. You can obtain a permit for up to 15 people. We had about a dozen, it was hard to get everyone in the frame.
After signing the registry near the stone built emergency shelter, we headed to the trail junction for a quick lunch then abandon the trail for our true mission.
There are direct proportions, whenever you head deeper into the woods, farther off trail, and work harder to separate from the masses, the scenery gets better and better.
We saw some deer prancing above and below a meadow. The weather was really lucky, it was overcast with a tease that it would shower. Probably in the 70's at the high altitude, the floor of Palm Springs was said to be over 100 degrees, yikes.
Getting to Jean Peak wasn't too difficult and didn't take too long. You head almost due South from the summit of San Jacinto, descending a ridge, passing a large saddle and up a gradual ridge to 10,670' Jean Peak. I was taking some pretty detailed trip notes about times and sequencing, perhaps to lead some others on this trip in September. Thanks Word Notebooks!
Did the deed of signing in the books. Here's Perla signing the register, apparently she thought it was appropriate for her and her fiancé Kendall to bring their gun show in the mountains. Don't mess with the muscle!
From Jean Peak we headed South West, skirting an unnamed 10,388' peak and over a very long saddle. The sun was coming out and the sky and clouds made a cameo. Was lovely looking at the scattered granite mixed with the greenery.
One solid hour of off-trail travel lead us to the 10,382' peak of Mount Marion. Unfortunately the registry was missing, but this summit held excellent 360 degree views and had some large boulders that were fun to hop around on.
Now the sky turned from blue back to gloomy, time to head off the high ground and get back to base camp. We now had 3 peaks, all over 10,000' under out belt for the day. We headed East down a gully to catch back up with the trail. This portion of the navigation involved some heavy bushwhacking. There was no real route finding that could avoid it. Not exactly fun, but makes for a good adventure.
Rounding off 14 miles? 16 miles? with ??? much elevation gain and lose we got back to our base camp. We started out hike around 8:30am and got back to camp around 6-6:30pm, not a bad day of peak bagging!
The camp was quiet and serene. We made some dinner, had some laughs, babbled about our next planned trips and all fell asleep before 10pm.
We all got up early on Sunday, packed up camp and set our next goal on getting to a diner for some real food! French toast, milk shakes, burgers, fries, anything and everything. The faster we back up and get off the mountain the sooner we eat!
We took the short hike back to the Aerial Tramway and caught an early cable car down the mountain. The views were spectacular.
The trip was a great success! Nobody got lost, nobody got hurt! I saw San Jacinto from a different angle and checked off two new-to-me summits. Thanks to my friend Tiffani and Homer for organizing the adventure and thanks to the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club for always providing such awesome company. Not back to my regular climbing schedule, ha!