Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mount San Jacinto from Snow Creek via the PCT


Mount San Jacinto is my favorite mountain. It rises above the desert in a massive 10,000 foot escarpment. In the winter months it is covered with snow and in summer it offers a welcome escape from the summer inferno of the desert below. I've climbed it numerous times from all directions including the mountaineering route up the Snow Creek couloir. There's only one route I'd never taken to get the its summit, the PCT from Snow Creek Village, and today that's what I did.

I start out at 5:30 a.m. because I couldn't wake up any earlier. I wanted to start at 5 but I move slow in the morning.

I really hate No Trespassing signs at the beginning of my hikes but I know it's OK for hikers so I ignore it.

I hike about a mile up a paved road and hit the trail. There's a water fountain placed here for hikers by the water district and it's a good thing. There won't be any water for over twenty miles. I have five quarts of Gatorade so I'll be OK, though.

The sun is starting to come up so I can put my headlamp into my pack where it will stay until the very end of the hike.

The sun touches the top of San Gorgonio Mountain but I will remain in the shade for quite a while because of the high walls of Snow Creek Canyon.

For some reason the mountain seems to be getting farther away the higher I get.

The trail continues up through the boulder filled hillside and heads up toward these rocks.

The trail itself is in fairly good shape but it is overgrown. This is typical of the type of vegetation along its path. I don't know what they're called but shin slicers would be an appropriate name.

While the hillside is filled with rocks the trail is not, thankfully. Although the trail is a constant uphill tack the miles go by quickly and I gain elevation rapidly.

But even as I get higher and higher up the mountain my goal seems to be getting further and further away.

Then I see my first living pine tree and it makes me feel that I am finally in the mountains. Before this I was merely climbing up a mountain.

I cross the Black Mountain Road and totally leave the desert behind. From here on out I'll be totally and completely in the mountains.

I get to the State Park boundary and see something that tells me I am in a completely different environment than the one I left: snow.

It covers the trail in long sections and while its never treacherous or a big problem it does slow me down because it's hard to get a good pace without good footing.

It's surprising to see so much snow in places because I don't remember a storm coming through.

After hiking a good deal in the snow, it is welcome to find any dry patch along the way.

This is the first water on the trail that I've come to since the drinking fountain down at the bottom, over twenty miles ago. I have to be careful crossing here because I've already slipped on ice twice.

Little Round Valley is a campground below San Jacinto Peak and it makes me feel like I'm almost home. It's 1.6 miles to San Jacinto Peak and 7 miles from the Tram but for some reason it makes me feel like I'm close.

Climbing up to the Peak I am able to look west and see the golden shimmer of the Pacific Ocean.

Heading up to the summit I pass the CCC cabin. I am tempted to stop inside but might not want to leave so I bypass it.

It is a welcome relief to get to the top. I try to grin but only manage a grimace. I'm pretty tired at this point but it's all downhill from here.

There are a couple of shortcuts coming down from the top of San Jacinto but I go down the tried and true route through Wellman's Divide. I didn't want to try any other route because I did not want to tromp through any more snow.

I get to the Long Valley Ranger Station almost exactly twelve hours from when I left Snow Creek, drop off my copy of my permit and head straight for the Tramway Bar.

I didn't just hike thirty miles for nothing.


Florian said...

I've never once returned my permit to that mailbox. I usually take notes on the back of the permit so i keep it.

darlene said...

you are a ROCK STAR!!
that is an incredibly long, uphill hike!!

darlene said...

you should do a top 20 list at the end of this endevour. anyone else out there agree??

Sam Page said...

Nice outing. That hike had not even occurred to me. I'm tired from just contemplating it. I think I deserve that victory beer now!

Till said...

Darlene is right - definitely need at least a top 10 list for the holidays, Hal. The grimace is classic; glad you made it.

zach Moulton said...

I am going to do the same feat on black friday the day after thanksgiving. I'm going to complete the same day. Do you have any pointers?

Hal Summers said...

Probably start a little earlier than I did. I brought five quarts of Gatorade and it seemed like enough. Don't count on any water on the way. Be careful on the snowy sections. They are probably icy.

Have fun.

Zach Moulton Google it said...

So, I did the Snow Creek trail to the Palm Springs Areial Tramway in 13 hours 20 minutes and I find it very hard to belive that you did it in 12 hours. That works out to be 2.5 miles an hour and 25 miles of that 30 miles was all up hill. Not to mention the snow you had to hike through. From 1000ft to 10800ft, over 30 in distance, in 12 hours really? This must be a joke. Unless you are Lance Armstrong with the lung compacity of Micheal Phelps then I could believe it. So on that note, I would like to challege you to a race kind sir Snow creek trailhead to the PS tramway.

Hal Summers said...


I've done Skyline in 3:40, I've gone from the Tram to the Peak in 1:10.

I was disappointed I didn't do it faster.

Of course, I was enjoying the scenery and taking pictures and I am old now.

I'll do it again but I'm not interested in racing. That's not why I hike.

Zach Moulton said...

Hal, with the speeds that you are able to maintain for such long distances it would not be race for you, as you would fly right past me with absolute ease. The challenge that I extended your way would be a walk in the park, another notch on the belt, a good laugh at the end of the day.

I as well do not hike for the racing factor, but I hike for the natural energy that I'm able to harness, making me feel connected to the wilderness and wild life around me. Having many monumental feats in the wilderness myself I have no need to boast about them and, or exploit the places that I've been as that would take away from the pristine nature of the places that graciously hosted my many wilderness treks.

I'm student of Forestry and a Sierra Hotshot prospect. I'm not a visitor of the wilderness I belong there, like pine needles on a pine tree. I protect, preserve and challenge all facets of the wood realm with compassion and intrigue.

Lets go for a hike some time Hal, you can lead?

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog. Wonderful! Four of us did this walk a few years ago. We left our car at the tram parking area and took a cab to the PCT at Snow Creek Village. We pushed off around 9pm, walked all night, had a great meal, and took the tram down for a second great meal in Palm Springs. Thanks for sharing it...and the great photos!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog... it provides enough information to motivate one without making him/her feel like he/she did the trip already. Anyway I did the hike yesterday but it took me 16 hours to your 12... I'm impressed! It was the toughest 1-day hike I've ever done.

You did mention that the trail wanders in every direction but you didn't mention is that the trail goes DOWN a lot... I felt like a climbed San Jacinto 3 times over distance-wise and 1.5 times elevation-wise.

Thanks also for the comment on "shin slicers" - wear long pants, no matter how hot it is!

By the way in June there are A LOT of flowers at the middle elevations - but watch out for the bees! I'm amazed I didn't get stung pushing through "their" territory repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Doubting Thomas who 'belongs like Pine Needles' could take his Forest Service clippers along on his next trip and clip away some of those 'shin-slicers', so the next folks have an easier time passing through the brush.