San Gorgonio Nine Peak Traverse in a Day:I look so forward to coming to work on Monday morning’s, opening my e-mail and seeing exactly how my buddy, Mark Flood, has one-upped me with his weekend activities. I hike - he backpacks. I climb a mountain - he climbs two in a hailstorm, barefoot. I nail four small peaks in a day and he has to go climb Devil’s Tower. Well for ONE weekend I was the king of the suffering contest/good time! Nanny-nanny boo-boo Mark Flood!!
Like the hike and ascent the previous weekend, I decided to do a training hike for the Mt. Whitney trip planned for the next weekend. After again pouring over maps (I have a thing for maps if you hadn’t noticed) I decided on doing the nine peak - San Bernardino to San Gorgonio traverse. It is a little jaunt that covers 27+ miles and has over 7,900’ in net elevation gain. I wanted to do it with Brauning as we are going to be on Mt. Whitney together, but he had to go off and frolic on the beach in Bora-Bora and Australia for a couple of weeks. So I enlisted my regular cycling partner, Ron, to come along. Ron is an animal on a bike - centuries, double century, 500 mile races and he almost qualified for the RAAM (Race Across America) before his support team accidentally ran over him. He has the stamina of a lion. Ron has hiked extensively in the Sierra high country and I knew he would be fine. Did I mention that Ron is a grandfather and at the time of our hike was six months away from being 60? That’s right he was a grizzly bear! I hope I am in half the shape that he is in when I am 40…
We stared out at 4:25am on a Saturday after spending the night at the Angeles Oaks Trailhead. We hiked the first two thirds of the first peak with headlamps and found ourselves in a high meadow as dawn broke. The sunrise in the mountains was awesome. There was mist covering the valley behind us and we could see the shadows of the mountains reflected in blue light on the mist.
The first peak was bagged at 8:30 after an initial 4,500’ of gain and we hauled ass from there – summiting the ninth peak (San Gorgonio 11,501’) at 4:17pm. All nine summits were above 10,000 feet and none were given up easy. Every one, but the first and last, were off the trail a good bit and we had to pull off some third-class scrambling to get to the top of three of them. Our time table for the ascents is below:
Angeles Oaks Trailhead – 4:25am
San Bernardino Peak – 8:30am
San Bernardino Peak East – 9:25am
Anderson Peak – 10:28am
Shield’s Peak – 11:12am
Alto Diablo – 12:02pm
Charlton Peak – 1:37pm
Little Charlton Peak – 2:17pm
Jepson Peak – 3:25pm
Mount San Gorgonio – 4:17pm
On the trail down we found a woman (50ish, 200lbs, out of shape) wondering around lost, at dusk, without food, a jacket, or a head lamp. She was ascending San Gorgonio as a day hike (sixteen miles) and her friends had left her because she was slow. It was around 7:00pm when we found her and she hadn’t eaten since lunch. I asked about water and she had run out on the way up to the mountain. It always amazes me when people take any mountain, especially one that is above 10,000 feet, so lightly. We caught up to her “friends” about four miles from the trailhead and they helped somewhat after that. After getting some sugar and water in her, we took her the rest of the way down, supporting her and shinning a light at her feet for the last three miles of switchbacks. Her friends were idiots and she would have either walked off a ledge or switchback during the night or gotten lost/hypothermic/eaten before rescuers would have found her. They told us they were training for a trip to Kilimanjaro. Sadly, that is a trap that a lot of people fall into. They get a bug to climb mountains and instead of putting in the work on local peaks, learning from small mistakes, dealing with problems on a home mountain, getting to know their pace and limits, and gaining knowledge from others on the trail – they buy their way to a big mountain and suffer the whole time, injuring themselves or others and often completely fail to summit. Kili is a serious mountain and people die on it’s slopes every year. This was their first training outing and I can only hope that their failure to bring everyone safely back down will make them want to seek more training and experience.