"Palms to Pines", "Desert to tram", "Skyline". Whatever its called, the hike up from the Palms Springs floor all the way up to the upper station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is no joke.
With 8,000+ ft elevation gain over 9-10 miles, it is essentially the equivalent energy of a marathon. Except you are in the desert, need to carry all your water & gear with you, and you can't just stop in the middle of it. It is only for the experienced hiker who understands the preparation needed. Many have suffered fatal injuries from the wrath of the mountain.
That being said, if you are prepared, it is an extraordinary adventure. And one which some people wanted to do twice in one day! Not an easy task, but one that is feasible for those who were experienced with the trail.
The first goal was to hike up once and reach the tram station just before 8am, when the first tram goes down. We wanted to catch the first one so that we could start the 2nd hike as early as possible to avoid the severe heat.
Everyone started at different times, from 1 to 3am, to pace themselves to make it up in a comfortable time. Lee, Steve, and I left just before 3am. The moonlight aided my sight and I didn't even use my headlamp. The temperatures were okay and felt even better when we got about halfway up.
I wanted to keep a pace that would get us up there just before 8. Since we would have to wait anyways, might as well conserve energy for the next trip. But Steve was feeling good so we followed him at a bit faster rate all the way up to Flat Rock. Of course I was giving him shit for the pace, but I stayed in front past Flat Rock and slowed us down a little bit. Early on we had met up with Rick and Mike, and then met up with all the others along the way near the end.
We will made it up at like 7:15 for a 4:20 time. Too fast! Oh well, I felt fine. Others arrived shortly after and we hung out in the tram station for the first car down.
At the bottom, Tina's family and cameraman were there to offer some food and a ride back to the museum parking lot. Their help was much appreciated and we couldn't have done this trek without them.
We got back to the parking lot and everyone starting preparing for the 2nd trek - filling up on water, changing, eating, etc... Most people starting leaving at one point and I was still getting ready, so I started hurrying up and left just before 9 am.
Heading up the lower part, I felt really good actually. Although I knew it wasn't going to last, I started to push myself pretty good. I wanted to see if I could get a 4 hr 2nd ascent. The 1st hour or so I was alone. A couple of times I got off trail and scrambled up some steep stuff which didn't slow me down but definitely taxed the legs. After the 1st hr I had climbed 2400 ft!
I heard Steve whistling from behind and gratefully slowed down a bit while he caught up. At this point, my legs were jello. Just zapped. I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but Steve and I kept pushing. Taking turns in front and just going hard, non-stop. We appreciated the flat parts a lot more than normally!
My legs were jello and killing me (and I'm sure Steve too) but I could push through it and keep going. Never having done this sort of ultraexertion, I didn't know how my body would respond. Would I hit a bigger wall if I tried to push through the pain? I guess not. It seems I could keep going as long as I could tolerate the pain.
So we kept going through the undulating middle section of the hike, until we got to Flat Rock. I filled up on water, and looked at the time and thought I still had a chance to catch 4 hrs, but it would be close. So we stopped our short break, and on we went once again!
Again I was pushing hard - too hard. We gained the next 1000 ft in about 23 min. At that point I slowed down a bit as it was simply too much! We traversed across toward Coffman's Crag and at this point my legs were toast and I was just going to be happy finishing!
Up the final 700 ft, I took a steady pace, not too hard. My legs felt like they could have the potential too cramp, or give out, but they didn't. I kept looking up hoping I could see the top but then had to tell myself to stop doing that!
Finally, we reached the top, in just at 4hrs. It was quite simply the most painful 4 hrs of exercise I have ever experienced.
I laid around at Grubb's Notch for an hour or so talking to people, then on inside for a beer.
For everyone who did one, two, or three, congratulations. What a great group of people. I met a lot of people yesterday and it was nice to meet everyone. Who would have thought hiking would have turned into this!!!
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