Summitting Gorgonio 3 Times in a Single Day via 3 Trailheads
Sometimes it's interesting to wonder what can be accomplished in a day. Last year for me was the year of multiples: Baldy 5x, Whitney 2x, Skyline 3x as well as some other noteable hikes (San Gabriel 25 peaks, R2R2R, etc.) To finish things off I had one last idea: a Gorgonio triple. Unfortunately time ran out and the window of opportunity closed before I could get to it.
Last week Jeff Scofield had reminded me of this idea in an email. Friday was my day off so I began contemplating whether this would be the time to give it a go. It took a little while but by Wednesday night I had more or less committed myself to the attempt. There wasn't much time left but I let a few people including Jeff know.
After only a few hours sleep at the Vivian Creek trailhead I was up at 12:45am. My route was creative. Mentally there's no way I could do Vivian Creek three times so I came up with the idea of hiking from one trailhead to another going over the summit each time. The three trailheads were Vivian Creek, Fish Creek, and the South Fork. This would involve considerable distance but would be much more interesting. Not knowing water conditions I figured South Fork Meadows was my only definite refill spot so I started with a little over 2 liters.
I departed the trailhead shortly before 1:30am. The night was calm and the temperature comfortable. Hiking up the Vivian Creek trail in the dark was uneventful except for promptly getting lost on the silly bypass trail in the boulders (due to trail maintenance). Not surprisingly I encountered no one else on the trail. Knowing it would be a long day I paced myself and stopped frequently. I reached the summit for the first time at 5:10am. It was still quite dark and a little chilly on top.
I signed in and rested for a few minutes before making my way to the NE ridge. Although I am familiar with the area (having summitted Gorgonio various times from many different trails) I had never been on the NE ridge. I figured this would provide a more direct route to Mineshaft saddle and would help get the mileage down from about 60 miles to less than 50. The ridge was marginally helpful (shorter yes but steeper and rockier than I expected). From Mineshaft saddle I hiked out to the Fish Creek trailhead arriving there at 7:29am. Not a single vehicle was parked in the lot.
After another break I left the Fish Creek trailhead at 7:44am. It took about 2 hours to get back to Mineshaft saddle. Compared to Vivian Creek and the South Fork the Fish Creek trail is far more gentle. I had now gone about 20 miles and was beginning to feel a bit stiff. I dreaded having to climb the 1500 feet up the ridge but to my surprise the stretching of the muscles was actually rather refreshing. I summitted for the second time just before 11am.
At this point I felt pretty good and pondered whether this day would be easier than I thought. There was still much to do however. One more time down the NE ridge and I was soon on my way down to Dry Lake. As I descended it began to warm up. There was plenty of water at South Fork Meadows and I drank my share and took what I thought would be just enough to get me to the South Fork trailhead and back.
The hike down the South Fork seemed long. I was supposed to meet Jeff there at 2pm but with this kind of hike I could easily be off by an hour or more. It was really heating up now and some of the lower section of the trail lacks shade. My earlier optimism about this being an easier day soon evaporated.
I reached the South Fork trailhead where Jeff was waiting at 2:02pm. Wow. I was suprised how precisely on schedule I was. Originally Jeff was going to do a double but decided in the morning to just join me for the final leg from South Fork to the summit and down to Vivian Creek. That by itself is a worthy hike. Since I was almost out of water I was immensely grateful that Jeff had gatorade and snacks waiting.
After a half hour break Jeff and I departed the South Fork trailhead at 2:37pm for the final 18 miles. Umm. Yeah. 18 more miles! I had just completed 30 miles. This final leg wasn't going to be easy. It was great to have a companion on the final leg and helped me keep the pace up where I might have slacked off. It was still quite warm but eventually we were back in some shade and before I knew it we were at the trail junction between Dry Lake and Dollar Lake.
Originally I had planned on hiking up the South Fork then up to Mineshaft saddle via Dry Lake and up the NE ridge one last time. I had an alternate plan though. Knowing that going up the NE ridge after having done perhaps 40 miles would not be pleasant I opted instead to hike up via Dollar Lake saddle. This would increase the mileage but would be more interesting because it would put me on virtually all routes to the summit.
The haul up to Dollar Lake saddle was probably the hardest part of the day. To my surprise however we made much better time to the saddle than I imagined would be possible. Here we met Ranger Rex and took a short break before the final push to the summit.
The final slog seemed to drag on and I was definitely starting to slow by this point. Even so, we reached the summit at 6:51pm (4 hrs 14 mins from the South Fork trailhead). I was quite pleased. I had expected to summit this final time after dark. After signing in for the last time we started down.
The hike down the Vivian Creek trail was rougher than I remembered. I sure didn't notice all the rocks on the trail on my way up. I seemed to trip on every last one on the way down. I was definitely ready for this to be over. This part was definitely not fun but after several hours we finally reached the end arriving at the Vivian Creek trailhead at 10:32pm. For me it had been a dayhike of just a few minutes past 21 hours. Total distance was 48 miles. Elevation gain was about 14,000 feet.
I think Jeff and I were a bit too tired for much celebrating but we were both glad to be down. At 21 hours it wasn't a short day. Compared to the Gorgonio 17 Peak
hike I did a few years ago this one felt a bit harder. Of all the hikes I've done this year (including Mount Rainier) I'm sure this will be one I won't soon forget.
Distance: 48 miles
Elevation Gain: 14,000 feet
Vivian Creek trailhead to summit: 3 hrs 42 mins
Fish Creek trailhead to summit: 3 hrs 12 mins
South Fork trailhead to summit: 4 hrs 14 mins
Total time: 21 hrs 4 mins