Cactus to Clouds, 9 Peak Traverse, and Baldy for the SoCal Triple Crown

Cactus to Clouds, 9 Peak Traverse, and Baldy for the SoCal Triple Crown

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 4, 2011
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

Thinking Big

This past Independence Day weekend I once again celebrated the crown- the SoCal Triple Crown. See my photos of the weekend here. This time I set my sight on the last couple of big hiking routes I wanted to do in the SoCal mountains: Cactus to Clouds on San J and the 9 peak traverse in the San Bernardinos. Seeing as only Baldy was absent for the SoCal Triple Crown (Baldy, San G and San J are the SoCal range highpoints) I decided to add it and go for the royalty. I’d previously completed the Triple crown in summer and also snowboarded the Triple Crown in winter but this time I upped the effort to be able to summit them all in a long weekend, and in non-standard ways.

Day 1 (Saturday July 2): San Gorgonio via 9 peak traverse

The route was the San Bernardino range 9-peak traverse with Daniel and Sante. This is actually the most incredible hiking route in SoCal that I’ve done (save a 22-hour mid-winter ascent of San J’s Snow Creek couloir with Skye), beautiful and highly recommended. It’s 9 named peaks, but mostly they are moderate-sized bumps on a beautiful flat 10-mile ridge that only once dips below 10,000′. So in actuality it’s like climbing San G via its West Ridge. We had hoped to run most of it, but much is off-trail and even the on-trail is often pretty rugged and the trail is more of a concept. Ultimately we ran about 40%. Pushing, but not exhausted, it was the perfect level of effort. 4:30am start to avoid the heat, ~10 hours, ~26 miles, ~8500′ elevation gain.

Day 2 (Sunday July 3): Baldy for Sunset

Kayaking in Mission Bay in the morning, I realized I felt good after Saturday’s perfect trip, and given my Monday plans for San J, maybe I could tag all 3 of SoCal’s finest this holiday weekend. Decided last minute to drive to Baldy with Matt; we summited for sunset with 5 minutes to spare. One of the best sunsets I’ve seen. Perfect timing-Matt set the ideal pace on the way up on the ski hut trail. Descending in the dark, it still felt like an easy jaunt. The real issue is that it was past midnight by the time we got to Palm Springs, so robbed us of any real sleep we might have had before the early wakeup. 1h:50min up, 3h:40min r/t; 9 miles, 4000′ elevation gain.

Day 3 (Monday July 4, Independence Day): San Jacinto via Cactus to Clouds

The Cactus to Clouds route is justifiably famous, rising more thank 10,000′ from the city of Palm Springs. But I didn’t think too hard about it being July though at the end of the day it just meant drinking more liquid. Matt and I tried to sleep for 2 hours in Palm Springs at the Cactus to Clouds trailhead. That day it had hit 110 degrees in Palm Springs; the temperature at midnight was 90; it dropped to 88 by 3am. So hot it was impossible to sleep, it was also somehow humid and full of biting mosquitoes (I blame the golf course next door). Given that it was too uncomfortable to sleep and I was getting a dehydration headache even lying down, Matt and I decided to start up the route at 3am, being sure all our water was full. There were 2 other hikers already on the route.
The first couple hours were miserable as essentially no sleep and the hot temperatures, rather than the route, were the difficulties. The low point of the weekend for sure, I felt sick (maybe my subway sandwich was already fermenting in the heat) and was sweating profusely. But the cloudy night that kept the heat in worked to our advantage during the day as it often blocked the sun’s direct frying. Once we got to about 4000′ the winds and cooler temps at elevation meant it was very enjoyable hiking, with magnificent views. It was really neat to see the landscape change from desert plants to shrubs to evergreens as we went up. We arrived at the tram at 9am. We waited at the tram about 90 or so minutes for my girl to get there from San Diego (which allowed Matt a power nap). The three of us headed up the final 6 miles to summit. The triple crown in a weekend complete! We headed back to the tram for a leisurely 12h:30min total (including the big break in the middle) and an Independence Day total of 23 miles and 10,500′ elevation gain.


The weekend totals were ~ 60 miles, ~23,000′ elevation gain, and ~26 hours on the trail. Plus a couple hours in the kayak. While this seems like a lot, for perspective those numbers are all only about 60% of Hardrock 100 numbers- and the cutoff there is 48 hours… I still need to push harder! But I’ve pretty much exhausted such difficult hiking challenges in SoCal so it’s time to get back to some technical climbing and return again to the Sierra...


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darinchadwick - Jul 8, 2011 2:47 am - Voted 10/10


Excellent. Makes me miss SoCal, and I love the understated TR.

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San GorgonioTrip Reports
Jepson PeakTrip Reports
Anderson PeakTrip Reports
San Jacinto PeakTrip Reports
Charlton PeakTrip Reports