Mt Baldy, San-Gorgonio and San Jacinto all in a day3 Saints in a day the “easy” way; 5-12-07
Mt San Antonio (Baldy; 10,064’); 4:30 am
Mt San Gorgonio (11,502’); 11:20 am
Mt San Jacinto (10,834’); 6:15 pm
3 Saints involves hiking up the highest points in LA, San Bernardino, and Riverside County in a day. This is also known as the 8000M challenge that JanSports, REI, etc. employees participate in each Sept.
Mt Baldy (Saint #1)
I left Irvine at 1:15 am and drove up to Manker Flats and starting hiking by 2:30 am with the headlamp aglow and no moonlight. Strange but in all my years I’ve never hiked up Baldy in the dark; an interesting first for me. The dim headlight provided just enough light to spot the trail but not enough for me to see the optimum foot placements. Since I was anxious about hiking fast enough to keep up with the long and demanding 3 Saints time table, I was hiking too fast for the amount of light provided by the little headlamp and was tripping, slipping and cussing the whole way up. All that slipping cause my legs to actually get fatigued by the time I got to the top of Saint #1 (Baldy) at 4:30am and caused me some real concern that I may have blown-up my legs out for the rest of the day. To make matters worse, all the swinging of the headlamp beam back and forth to spot the trail was making me sea-sick, Dang! (note to self; get a more powerful headlamp and do Baldy on a full moon). The ol’legs still felt pretty stiff and fatigued on the way down. Double Dang! I started to wonder if I was going to make it thru the day?
There were 2 other guys that had hiked up Baldy before me and were trying to stay warm and waiting for the sunrise. After telling them of my plans, they told me that they had check with the Mill Creek rangers and there were no Vivian Creek day permits available for 5/12; DANG another thing to worry about. On the hustle back down, I finally got to take off the dreaded headlamp and got back to the car by 6am. Car-to-car ~9 miles and 3.5 hours (2 hrs up and 1.5 down).
Mt San Gorgonio (Saint #2)
Drove over to the Mill Creek ranger station for a Vivian Creek permit at 7:00am (they don’t open until 8am). The guys on Baldy were right, NO permits available for Vivian Creek, DANG. So I got a permit for the neighboring Momyer Trail and figured if I ran into a ranger on Vivian I’d plead ignorance and try out my poor acting skills.
Got started from the Vivian Creek trail head at 7:30am and set a measured pace because I was still concerned about my legs cracking. On the hike up I could hear other hikers further up the trail and each time I was worried that it might be a ranger chatting with the hikers and checking permits; luckily no rangers all day. I passed a bunch of hikers and found that most of them enjoyed having their pictures taken. The further I got up San Gorgonio the better my legs felt and got less concerned about encountering a ranger.
Got to the top of Saint #2 at 11:20 am with just a light breeze and comfy temp in the high 50s. After a quick snack and some photos, I hustled back by jogging most of the way down the Vivian Creek trail. Got back down in 2.5 hrs to the car at 2pm. I’ve always been confused by the official distance of Vivian to Gorgonio (8.6mi), because 8.6 miles/2.5 hours = 3.44 mph. I know that I was averaging much better than 3.4 mph on the way back down. I think Vivian is longer than 8.6 miles, oh well. Car-to-car ~17miles and ~6.5 hours (3:50 up and 2:30 down).
I stopped off at the Mill Creek ranger station to ask them about the Vivian Creek permits and daily quota. They said they issue 14 day permits each day for all San Gorgonio trails (11 pre-issued and 3 available at 8am each morning). Each permit can have up to 12 people, so maximum total of 14 permits x 12 people per permit = 168 people per trail. The problem (IMHO) with this policy is that if 14 solo hikers had gotten all the Vivian Creek permits for a particular day, would that mean that only 14 people would have official access to Vivian Creek. I think the permit quota should be based on the number of people and not on the number of permits. They said that the San Gorgonio Wilderness area has a daily quota to offer a “better wilderness experience” to those that get permits. Seems unnecessarily bureaucratic and ridiculous, as there are no quotas in the San Gabriel or in the San Jacinto areas that I’m aware of.
After leaving the Mill Creek ranger station, I got lost trying to take the Yucaipa cut-across and seemed like I drove all the way back to Redlands before hitting the 10 Freeway. DANG, looks like I need to get a GPS for the car.
Mt San Jacinto (Saint #3)
Got over to the Palm Springs tram station (~94 F) just before 4pm and starting hiking from the Long Valley ranger station with another wilderness permit in hand at 4:15. The ol’ legs were feeling much better by now and I was able to motor up at a pretty good pace and got to the top of Saint #3 at 6:15pm with no one else on top. Beautiful views from the top of San Jac in all directions. There is almost no snow down in the Snow Creek drainage. After another quick snack, I headed down and got back to the tram station at 8:00pm. Saw a herd of deer cross the trail just above the Round Valley area (the only critters I saw all day). Tram-to-tram ~11 miles and ~4 hours (around 2:15hrs up and 1.5 down). Although I was wearing my Coppertone Ultraguard50 sunscreen cologne, I’m pretty sure that I was the stinkiest person in the tram. Finally got home a little after 10pm, whew that was one long day!
Total 3 Saints hiking ~37 miles, ~15 hours
Total home-to-home time 1am to 10pm = 21hrs and total driving ~290 miles
Gear; trail runners, 2-liter Camelback hydration pack, headlamp, camera, sun hat, sun glasses, sun screen, shorts, poly t-shirt, gloves and a water & windproof anorak.
Food & drink: Lots of water, about 10 Vanilla Bean GUs, 2 Snickers, 2 sandwiches and about 4 Cokes.
The car stops between each hike allows you to carry the minimum amount of supplies for each hike, and get refreshed, recovered, and refueled between each hike.
The 3 Saints hike requires a pretty strict time table. With so many different hikes and transitions, 15-30 mins here or there can start adding up to hours before you know it. The last tram down is at 9:45pm and the guy at the tram station said they lock the doors and that people have missed the last tram and had to bivy until the next morning, No Fun.
So what about a tram-free 3 Saints in a day, or 3 Saints in a day the "hard way" ? One option to avoid using the tram would be to hike the Devil Slide trail up to San Jac. At the end of a long day this would really add to the suffering and about another 6 miles, 2K of gain/loss and 3 hours to the totals above, Ooooo ouch! But it’s the good type of suffering.
Another great day on all 3 SoCal Saints
Here are some photos
3 Saint Photos