The “8000m Challenge” is simply an organized endurance event, for which the goal is to summit Mt San Antonio, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto Peak all in a 24h period (or less). The event is organized by product reps from Jansport, Gregory, and Eagle Creek for all of the Southern California outdoor retail stores. I participated in last years' Challenge, though the routes and mountains were different than normal due to extenuating circumstances.
This year the course was set back to its traditional route and the number of participants at an all-time high (>90). The event begins at Manker Flat on Mt Baldy (San Antonio), climbing a brutal 4.5miles/4000ft up to the summit at 10,064ft.
Participants then drive over to the Vivian Creek trailhead for San Gorgonio for a long 9miles/5500ft gain to the summit at 11,490ft.
Then comes the drive over to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, which shuttles the participants up to 8000ft for the final 5.3miles/2800ft gain to the summit of Mt San Jacinto at 10804ft.
This makes for a total of approx 39miles and 12000ft of elevation gain(distance and gains approximate from various sources).
The night of Wednesday, Sept 7th I rushed through my lab work in hopes of being able to head up to Mt Baldy at a reasonable, which would not be the case. I finally left work in San Diego around 10:05p and raced up I-15 toward Upland and Manker Flat. Even though I made great time, I did not arrive at the trailhead until 11:55pm, and did my best to get some sleep in my car before our 5am start.
4:30a rolled around and the sound of rumbling engines and the headlights of arriving vehicles woke me up 10min before my alarm. I rolled out of my car, put on my shoes and proceeded to have a quick breakfast of Poptarts and Gookinaid. Then packed up my small daypack and headed for the “start line” at the Manker Flat gate.
Approximately 90 participants showed up from stores such as REI, Sports Chalet, and Adventure 16. At 5am we were off and running, I let approximately 10 people run off ahead of me, knowing it would be a long day and maintaining pace would be the primary goal. After about a mile the dust was getting bad, so I picked up the pace, passing all but 2 people. I summited at 6:29a only 5min after the first pair, and began the run back down.
Despite the rocky uneven trail, I was able to keep a solid downhill pace, reaching the trailhead in 50min from the summit. After a quick stretch, it was time to make the long drive over to San Gorgonio.
I reached the Vivian Creek trailhead and was off up mountain #2 at 9am. Temps were already warming up, so it was nice to be hiking in the shade for the first half.
I reached Halfway camp in just over an hour, stopped for a quick snack break, then pushed on. I was feeling good heading up the first half of Gorgonio, even running some of the flatter sections.
Then all of a sudden at High Camp I hit a wall.
My energy level just plummeted and I couldn’t muster more than a 2mph pace. I still made the summit in 3.25h but wasn’t feeling great.
After a short rest and a small lunch, I headed down at 12:15p. By then I was feeling well enough to jog down almost the entire way. At this point, I was still running second, about ½ hour behind the leader.
About halfway down Gorgonio, my knee started to act up, not much I could do but ignore the pain and move on. I returned to the Vivian Creek trailhead just after 2:00pm, making for a fast 1:50 descent time, and just over 5h round trip.
By this time I was starting to feel the fatigue and lack of sleep hit me. 27 miles down, 11 to go, and only 2800ft left to climb. I set off for the final mountain, San Jacinto, which we would climb via the Palm Springs Tram route.
Thanks to Kathy(wingding) I made good time over to the tram, catching the 3:30p by only 1min. When I reached the top, I grabbed my permit and headed off for Round Valley along the mostly flat trail.
Under normal circumstances, the flat hike through Round Valley would be a great trail run, but now, my legs couldn’t muster that sort of energy. I chugged along, finally obtaining the summit at 5:40p.
I checked in at #2, about 25min behind the leader. It took me another hour and a quarter to get back to the tram station, the entire hike up San Jacinto was very taxing, solely due to exhaustion.
I returned to the tram station and waited for many of my coworkers to roll in for their bid at San J. While I made it down the Tram (at 7:10p), many summited in the dark and camped at Round Valley that evening.
In all, over 50 people completed this hike, approx a dozen made the tram back down. When all was said and done it was a very exhausting yet successful day in the mountains.