San Jacinto (10850’) CA, C2C with Snow

pics by Harlan W.S
Nov 5, 2011


(This intro is partly cribbed from my message on the San Jacinto Forum)

Saturday 11-05-11 was my first c2c, in fact my 1st time on San J at all. C2C means “Cactus to Clouds” – a trip up the Skyline Trail, starting in Palm Springs at ~500’ above sea level, with several ups and downs, to the top of Mt San Jacinto, for an accumulated gain of about 10500’ over close to 20 miles (with hike back to tram). It is hard to find the right time of year for this hike—either it is too hot on the lower reaches, or too cold on the upper.  We had cool weather, with quite a bit of snow.


This was another wonderful trip organized by Kathy Wing and the SoCal Peakbagger’s Group.  I Started with Mike T @4:48 with Kathy Wing's / Gerry F's group. We hit snow on ground at 5700'. I hit the Ranger station (~8400’) at 10:45, to find no one I recognized. Waited for a while to see if anyone else would show up, then struck out, completely clueless about how long Long Valley was (it was another 5 mile to the summit!).

Then I encountered a confusion of trail signs, including one sign that seemed to suggest going almost backwards for San J. The place names were unfamiliar to me, so I headed off on what seemed to be the right tack... going downhill. After a while I glanced at the GPS and confirmed I had made a boo-boo. The smart thing would have been to back-track, but instead I headed off cross-country to intersect the trail. Boy was that dumb (though I did surprise some deer). I went over several ridges, crossed some streams, inexplicably descended some snow-covered class 3, and a mere 0.65 miles later, was back on track, but suddenly tired.

I met Mike T somewhere near 10k', and was glad to let him pass. I started chatting with another group who had come from the Art museum as well. I asked if they planned to take the tram down -- in retrospect, a very dumb question-- and they looked at me strangely, which I utterly deserved.

I got to the summit shortly after Mike, saw Tina (at last someone else whom I knew!). As we descended, very near the top, Mike started talking to Ellen. It took me a while to realize this was THE Ellen, who had told me a year ago, via e-mail, that someday we would meet on the trail!

Mike and I quickly descended via the winter route-- I actually got hot, even though the snow was starting to squeak with cold.

It was a great day, and I "met" so many friendly people. I bathed in the rosy glow of the experience for two days, and the interpersonal experience was definitely a pleasant part of the trip. I've never done a mondo hike with so many other people; usually I see no one else, or just a few after the summit. This was certainly not the hardest hike I have done, but it was very enjoyable, and felt like an accomplishment.  The fact that I cheated and took the tram down from 8500’ helped! (Hey, the sun was setting an hour or so after we hit the tram.)

I sure did bring a lot of crap that I never used, but hey, better safe than sorry. After reading Ellen's story from a few years back, I've taken to carrying a 14oz (3 layer) blizzard survival bag. I'll be happiest if I never use that item.

Here are GPS tracks in gpx format.  DO NOT try to open these in the web browser by directly clicking on them; right-click (or do the Mac equivalent) and choose a "save as" option. The up track was slightly modified to edit out my cross-country. Here is the full gpx divided into up and down tracks; while this file has the up track broken into three segments, reduced to <500 points each (upload ALL THREE tracks to your gps). Save the files with a gpx extension; some brain-dead browsers will try to change the extension to xml; don't let them. Use these gpx files AT YOUR OWN RISK; no guarantees are made about accuracy.



This is the GPS trace.


There was a better view of the city lights

in back, but I was in such a hurry, I forgot

to turn off the flash.






View W as the morning light hits the ridge;

the summit is quite a ways W, out of sight.



Jacob points out the tram station.


Random view S.





These rescue boxes contain emergency

water and other supplies.


View N to San Gorgonio.


Looks like a bit of snow up there.





View Back SE, about 6500’.


Near 7400’; the north0facing slopes

had quite a bit of snow. About here,

I donned Kahtoola microspikes.






I’m up in Long Valley, perhaps 8800’.

There were a few groups with full

overnight packs.  By now I was wearing

neoprene socks; my boots had wet through

from sweat on the way up! Ironic, but I

would have done better with lighter boots

and thicker neoprene socks.


Snow was fairly deep, but enough people

had broken the trail to ease the travel


At Wellman’s Divide (9700’), I was

greeted with 1) an unusually clear day, and

 2) beautiful clouds, BELOW the peak!






So I struck along the painfully low-angle

trail; here about 9850’


I met Mike, and was happy to let him pass

(about 10400’).





Tina on top!


Me on top! It was windy and icy,

so I didn’t do the pose.







Still on top, view NNW; Gorgonio

in back on R.







Finally leaving, this is a view NE of

some random hiker whom we soon passed.


Mike and Tina’s group, view S ~10100’