I drove to Southern California from Oregon for a business trip. Or was I in Southern California for hiking purposes and also went to a business seminar? In any event, after the seminar I headed to Palm Springs with a goal of climbing San Jacinto 10,804 feet. Since the days are so short at this time of the year, I decided to take the Tram to the visitor center at 8,600 feet and hike the 12 mile round trip from top of the Tram.
The first Tram up during the week is at 10:00AM so I arrived a little early, paid my $21 fee and caught the first Tram up. Ten minutes later and 6,000 feet higher I was ready for my hike. It was 30 degrees and there was 3 ft of hard snow at the top. Exit the Tram Car and descend one level to the ground floor and exit the back of the building. There is a concrete walkway that zigzags down the back of the facilities and there were patches of ice on the concrete that made the footing treacherous. I considered putting on my crampons at this point. At the bottom of the walkway, I turned to my right and walked about 200 yds to the ranger station. At the ranger station I filled out the Trip Permit and talked to the ranger. He recommended having crampons and ice axe to go to the summit. He also said there was no trail to follow in the snow past Round Valley and it was just a cross country hike to the summit.
I was alone leaving the ranger station and never saw another person until I got back to the ranger station at the end of my hike. I followed tracks in the snow that headed up the creek that comes from Round Valley. The snow here was hard and I made good time. It took me about an hour to get to Round Valley and San Jacinto was now clearly visible ahead. There was no trail heading toward the summit, but there were a few footprints that I was able to follow for a ways up the valley. It looked like I had 2 options for climbing the peak. I could head to the ridge line to the left between San Jacinto and Jean Peak or head to the ridge line to the right between San Jacinto and Cornell Peak. I chose the first option because it looked shorter.
After only climbing a few hundred feet above Round Valley the snow became softer and deeper. I stopped, put on my snow shoes and continued onward. The snow shoes worked well for the next hour or so, until the slope became steep. Now it was time for the crampons. It was colder now too, so I put on a heavier shirt, a fleece hat, a turtle neck, my crampons and knee high gaiters.
The snow was knee deep in spots and it took quite a while to reach the ridge line at about 10,400 feet. The trees and the ridge line were caked solid with several inches of rime ice on the west side of the trees only. Very pretty really. I trudged the last 1/3 of a mile to the summit. What a beautiful view. Crystal clear in every direction. I could see the ocean clearly to the west. It was cold on the summit, 14 degrees and the wind was blowing 15-20 MPH. I took a few pictures, noted that it took me 4 ½ hours to reach the summit and headed right back down. I was cold and I wanted to get back to the ranger station before dark.
I followed my own footsteps all the way back to Round Valley. I made good time descending and 2 ½ hours later I checked back in with the ranger. The Tram ride down in the dark was beautiful looking at the lights from Palm Springs.
This was a great hike and I was thankful that I prepared properly. Sunblock, Lip Balm, Glacier Glasses, Snow Shoes, Crampons, Ice Axe, GPS, and Maps were all essential. The only thing that I would do differently would be to insulate the hose from my water bladder. It froze solid when I got to the ridge and didn’t thaw out until I got to the car. Thankfully I had a bottle of Gatorade that became slushy, but didn’t freeze solid.