Socal Six Pack of Peaks 2018

 

Hola IEers

Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?!?

::runs off of stage, high-fives audience members::

Recently I was anointed (that’s right, anointed… there was a ceremony and everything!*) as an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge which means it’s my job to get you all signed up for this awesomeness.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself and take your hiking to the next level, the Socal Six Pack of Peaks is the way to do it. Through the challenge you will climb progressively higher peaks, starting with the one everyone loves to hate (despite what Jeff says), Mt. Wilson, and ending with the highest peak in So Cal, San Gorgonio. Here are the peaks in order:

Mt. Wilson 5710 ft. (15 miles; 4200 elevation gain)
Cucamonga Peak 8859 ft. (12 miles; 4300 elevation gain)
Mt. Baldy 10064 f t. (11.3 miles; 3900 elevation gain)
San Bernardino Peak 10649 ft. (17 miles; 4700 elevation gain)
San Jacinto 10834 ft. (11.5 miles 2500 elevation if you take the tram)
San Gorgonio 11, 503 (17.3 miles 5840 elevation gain)

All together a total of 87 miles and over 27,000 feet of elevation gain.

As you can see, I have only written up the cheater’s way for San J. (and yes, I’ve done it via Marion AND Cactus to Clouds, thankyouverymuch) because I’m very busy with my job that pays the bills, but I hope to have the Marion guide written soon. Probably not the Cactus to Clouds route, though, because I was so delusional by the end of it I have no idea how I got there.

Anyway, the Six Pack is a great challenge, and a pretty awesome training plan if you’re wanting to do something like Mt. Whitney or anything in the Sierras. Plus, if you participate in the actual challenge, you get a bunch of cool stuff, are invited to the finisher’s party, and help to raise money for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that takes city kids to the mountains.

If you’re interested in participating, go ahead and use this link to sign up today.

 

*there 100% was not a ceremony of any sort

 

 

 

San Bernardino Peak

TrailheadSan Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Length: 17 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 4700 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 9 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Dirt lot at the trailhead that fills up quickly on weekends. I was able to navigate it in my Hyundai Elantra but I also scraped up the side of my car trying to avoid a large hole which is definitely going to help the resale value.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/17 permits are no longer subjected to a quota. You don’t need to acquire a permit in advance; however, they do ask you to fill out a self permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone. Be sure to bring a pen with you or you have to use your snake bite sharpie like I did which doesn’t work well on carbon copy paper. You can also fill out the permit via PDF, email it in, and print a copy for yourself.

 

San B is probably my favorite trail of the Socal Six Pack for no other reason than the elevation gain is pretty gentle. The bummer part is that it’s 17 miles.

This was the last of the Six Pack that I needed to do this year for my three-peat and I decided to summit solo. Even though I’ve done gazillions of solo summits, this one gave me a bit of the heebies to do alone due to the length of the trek and the fact that I was beginning in the early morning which, as we all know, is prime time for murderin’.

The first mile of the hike are arguably the hardest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly as you climb switchback after switchback. These are the switchbacks you’ll hate on your way back because they seem never ending.

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After the switchbacks, you’ll curve around the west side of the mountain and then begin heading east again. Soon you will come to one of my favorite parts of the trail, the manzanita forest:

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This part of the trail is relatively flat and enjoyable. Keep heading along the trail and you’ll end up at a three way fork in the road with a sign and a random rusty wheelbarrow. Follow the middle trail towards Limber Pine:

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After this sign, you’re going to hike and hike and hike through a little valley area and then up switchbacks to Limber Pine Campground which is apparently one of the best places to camp and see a sunset IN THE WORLD. Or at least in the San Bernardino Mountains. You do still need a permit for overnight stays.

You’ll then get to the next benchmark, which is, haha, a bench. Get it? I’m very clever.

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Limber Pine Bench offers the best view on the hike, and is where I would stop and eat lunch if I’d bothered to eat lunch on my hike.

After the bench you’ll encounter a few more switchbacks until you get to a fairly flat area where you’ll come to the Washington Monument.

It took the third time on this trail for me to actually see the Washington Monument. I always thought it was the pile of rocks with a plaque on the trail. Not so! It’s actually a bigger pile of rocks that used to be a cabin about 300 feet off the trail! I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did get a picture of this view, so there’s that:

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After the Washington Monument you’re on the last leg of the trip. The trail once again begins to climb and the very last .1 miles is very steep because apparently you haven’t done enough already.

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The peak itself is much less impressive than you’ll see at Limber Pine bench, but it’s got an ammo box, so you know, cool. And there’s a sign which was donated by @sdhiker which, if you’re solo hiking like I was, makes it super fun to try to take a picture with.

 

After you’ve rested, go ahead and head back from whence you came.

I’m going to be honest with you in saying that this is a long trek back. Like, WAY long. The last mile especially. It’s switchback after switchback. And if you hike it solo, you’ll be looking for ways to entertain yourself. Like I did when I composed this little ditty:

This is the trail that doesn’t end
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because
This is the trail that doesn’t end…

I ended up getting back to my car at about 1:30, p.m., making my summit just over 7 hours. However when I hike solo I take breaks for no more than 30 seconds and spent just over 10 minutes at the peak trying to take a selfie with the sign.  I’m not joking. It took me 10 minutes to take a selfie with the sign. So if you do plan to hike this one, I suggest you plan for 9 hours or more.

Additionally, with the end of the permit quota, this trail is going to be very busy on weekends. When I spoke with the ranger, he said that both San B and San G parking lots are full by 7:00 a.m., so either get there early, or even better, go on a weekday. I only saw three people on the trail the entire time I was there.

‘Cause when you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to see people, amiright? How dare others be out there hiking in nature? That’s MY thing!

 

San Jacinto Via Tram

Trailhead: Palm Springs Tram
Length: 11.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2500 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Nope
Parking: Free, but $25 for the tram

Want to try your first peak but still need to work up to true peak bagging? Then San Jacinto is a great first trek for you.

The first tram ascends at 8:00 a.m. but you can arrive at 7:30 to purchase tickets. I’ve heard that the line is crazy, so you may want to get there even earlier to avoid the crowds. Please also note that this tram rotates your view as you go up, so if you’re afraid of heights this might not be your favorite thing ever.

Once you get to the top, you’ll head down a never ending, windy, paved road that is super fun to come back up when you’re tired. Head toward the right to the ranger station where you’ll fill out a permit to enter the San Jacinto wilderness. Keep the permit with you and you’ll return it in a mailbox on your way back.

The trail to the peak will be on your right. It’s fairly well marked except when you come to round valley and you come to a juncture with no sights that say “Peak this way, bro.” Stick to the right, and you’ll get there.

The trail meanders along with a relatively easy elevation gain. There are some spots where it does climb fairly quickly, but take heart, traveler, as it will calm back down again.

About 3 miles in you will reach Wellman Divide which has a preview of the sights you’ll have at the top.

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After Wellman Divide, you will enter the switchback section of the trail, which, again gains elevation fairly gently and offers great views of the valley below.

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The switchbacks on this section are quite long, but there are only two of them. It was at this time we also heard a search and rescue helicopter overhead that was blasting its siren above us. I later found out it was one of our friends from Instagram, who didn’t even offer us a ride. THANKS A LOT, ERIC.

Once you finish the switchback section, you’ll go to the right and meet up with Marion Trail, and you’ll only be .3 miles from the top. When you reach the end of this trail you’ll see a big rock heap that you get to climb for the rest of your summit. Once at the top, head to the left and you’ll see the San Jacinto sign, where if it’s like when Boo and I went, people decide to sit right by or walk through because they like to ruin your pictures.

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One of the best places to take in views is at the far side of the rock mound, which is a bit harder to get to which means you’ll have fewer people.

There are a lot of haters out there for people who do San J via the tram, including one at the top who got all judgy with me and Boo for not climbing Marion. I informed him that I’ve actually done the Marion trail four times, and climbed San J via Cactus to Clouds (one of the hardest day hikes in the US), so I’ve suffered quite enough on that mountain, and he can just mind his own business.

Also, it’s a 11 mile trek so it’s still a workout and a great option for people who are new to peaks as a first try.

Also, who asked you for your opinion, Mr. High and Mighty?

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And for more aggression, on the way back down, Boo and I ended up running into THE Marion for whom the trail was named. I mean, we assume it was her because when we passed her she passive aggressively threw up her arms and sighed in annoyance for reasons we didn’t quite understand. We figured that she must own the trail and our presence there must have annoyed her so I apologized, letting her know we didn’t realize she owned the trail.

Hopefully you won’t run into so many haughty people on your climb.

 

 

 

Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flats

Trailhead: Santa Anita Canyon Rd, Sierra Madre, CA 91025
Length: 15
Elevation Gain: 4200 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 7.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lot at trailhead, Adventure Pass needed, which you can buy at any sporting goods store. Also, get there at 6:00 a.m., otherwise you’ll have to either pay $20 for the “valet” camp parking or park on the road somewhere in Outer Mongolia and hike to the trail head.

 

Oh, Mt. Wilson. The most hated of all the Six Pack of Peaks. In fact, so hated, I created merchandise so that we all may express our hatred of this mountain.

What makes Mt. Wilson so bad?

So, so many things. There are the flies and mosquitoes. The switchbacks. The canopy all around that blocks any breeze from entering. The steady elevation gain towards the end of the summit. The hill you have to climb at the end of the descent. All of it. All of it is terrible.

Yet, for some reason only known to Jeff (SoCal Hiker), he makes us trudge up this thing every year for the Six Pack of Peaks.

The best time of year to do it is in winter or early spring, before the bugs take over the place. There aren’t words to express how many flies you’ll encounter on this trail in the summer. Which makes me super glad that I waited until July to do it this year.

Bring a mosquito net.

Or take a friend like Mike who the mosquitoes are super attracted to. Eight bug bites to my one! Decoy friends are the best!

Anyway, the trail starts by descending about 400 feet. Soon after you finish this hill, you will come to a junction by a set of restrooms where you can go to the left to continue up to Mt. Wilson, OR you can go to the right and visit Sturtevant Falls.

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From a previous trip

If you do take the Sturtevant Falls route, you will either have to backtrack to get to a main trail (the trail is by the giant tree that’s embedded in the rock… you’ll know what I mean when you see it)  or you’ll have to climb up a big hill to the left of the falls that I’m not sure is actually a trail. If you do choose to visit the falls, you’ll end up on a different trail than the one we took.

For the trip I took last week (yes, I’ve hiked this dumb peak numerous times), we skipped the falls and continued onward.

Follow this trail along for awhile and you’ll cross over the stream several times, and you may come across creatures, like salamanders. If you’re weird like Mike, you’ll pick one up.

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Eventually you will come to another juncture. You’ll want to make a sharp right to continue up to Mt. Wilson. Remember this juncture on the way back.

After this sharp right is where the pain begins with a steady, brutal, humidity-laced climb. It was at this juncture that I started cursing Mike for “letting me talk him into this.”

Once you get through the grueling switchbacks, you’ll come to a fire road. Keep to the right until you get to another fire road. Very quickly after this, you’ll see a trail off to the right. Follow that for about 20 minutes and you’ll end up at a parking lot.

Oh, yes, that’s right…

YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE TOP.

You don’t actually HAVE to climb to see this peak. You can drive there. Like a regular person who doesn’t like self torture.

The one saving grace of this mountain is the fact that there is a cafe at the top where you can get coffee, Gatorade, and various food items, including chili cheese Fritos. If you’re David, the head of Lazy Ass Hiking, you’ll think is a good idea to eat that just before you have to hike 7 miles back down.

Also note that the Cosmic Cafe does not open until 10 a.m. and is closed during the winter. When Mike and I went we got there too early and were devastated by the news.

While at the top I also suggest you roam around to look at the exhibits. There’s a big giant telescope that is cool. Plus, on the far side from the cafe you’ll get better views at the lookout there.

After you’ve had your fill of goods and sight seeing, head back down the way you came.

Here’s a pro tip: if you want to avoid climbing the 400 feet at the very end of the trek, you can take the higher road back. Remember the junction before the death march switchbacks started? Go to the right instead of to the left where you ascended. The right will still have a pretty steady hill going up for quite some ways, but at least it’s not at the end of 14 miles. And BONUS: fewer flies

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Parts of this road are exposed, but there are some nice shaded areas. You’ll also see the parking lot fairly early on this trail; however keep your enthusiasm bottled down because it’s going to take you longer to get there than you think.

The trail will let you off at a paved road. Continue down the road and you’ll see the sweet, precious camp on your left where you can get in your car, turn on the AC and swear you’ll never hike that stupid peak again, until next year when you talk yourself into doing the Six Pack all over again.

Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

Trailhead: Big Falls Picnic, Forest Falls, CA, 92339
Length: 18.5 miles? I dunno, I keep getting conflicting mileages. Just know that it’s long.
Elevation Gain: 5840 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 1.5 days backpacking; 10 hours as a day trip
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure pass required. You can get them at any sporting goods store. There is a lot that says “no fee behind this sign” except that there is a ranger that stops you at a kiosk before you enter to ensure you have a pass, so riddle me that Batman.
Permit Required: Check out the Mill Creek Ranger Station for info. They run out of permits QUICK so get on that. 

 

For some dumb reason I thought it would be a good idea to backpack San Gorgonio, the longest and highest of the #SocalSixPack. I’d never backpacked before and hate camping, so, you know, why not do it on the longest of the peaks?

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There are three campsites for San Gorgonio on the Vivian Creek trail: Halfway, High Creek, and Summit Camp. High Creek is the most popular and probably the prettiest. Summit Camp is, you know, at the Summit which means you have to carry your stuff the entire time. And Halfway is about four miles up and not actually half way, it’s way less than half way, so thanks a lot, liars.

Because High Creek was full, we ended up at Halfway camp because there was no way I was lugging a tent 18 miles RT. It actually ended up being a great choice because carrying your house on your back is the pits.

@kylojenhikes, @sdhiker, @matthikes777, @denise5323, and I started out at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.  The very first part of the trail from the parking lot is fairly easy. You walk down a dirt road and cross over a dry stream bed to get to the actual trail.

It is at the trail when the pain starts. You gain about 1,000 feet relatively quickly through a set of steep switchbacks that suck all willingness to live from your being. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the trail and you will praise Jesus when you see the “San Gorgornio Wilderness” sign that indicates that this stretch of the trail is over.

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After this stretch, the trail mellows out and goes through a wooded, streamy area. In this section, we ran into a ranger who informed us that there was no water at our camp and that we better make sure we got it back at the stream we passed. The ladies and I held our place while we made the boys go back and get us water because that’s how society works. During this time, we also ran into @broloelcordero who had summited the mountain earlier that day.

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Eventually we made our way to the camp and found it was fairly full. We had to wander around to find a spot to host us all. After our tents were set up we faced the cold hard fact that camping without a fire is BORING AS ALL GET OUT. No heat. No light. No s’mores. NOTHING.

I ended up crawling into my sleeping bag around 9:00 because it was COLD AND BORING AND CAMPING SUCKS.

We shuffled around in the morning and left for the summit around 7:15 a.m. Most of the trail maintains the same gradual incline as before, although there is one section about a mile and a half after high creek that climbs pretty steadily. It is at the top of this section that the altitude will start to get to you, making the relatively easy incline harder than it should be. Additionally disheartening is that you will not see the actual peak until you’re right on it, as it’s blocked by two false peaks. It does seem like you’ll never get there.

Once I was at the top I was repeatedly accosted by some seriously jerk-faced chipmunks that kept trying to steal my food.

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Look, Chipmunks… you have plenty to eat up here. It’s where you live.

I don’t live here.

I don’t have a fridge where I can replenish, so stop trying to steal my low carb tortilla—IT’S ALL I HAVE YOU FAT JERK!

After fending off the little furry devils, we took our obligatory pictures with the sign and made our way back down the mountain to camp. While it was a nice break from the walking, breaking down camp on tired legs is pretty crappy.

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So overall, what did I think?

Although it was hot at the beginning, the road was strenuous at times, I got almost no sleep, the bag was heavy, and camping sucks, I did a lot better than I thought I would. As it turns out, all of those conditioning hikes up Potato Mountain with the Lazy Asses have paid off. I’ve done this hike both as a day trip and overnight, and I definitely prefer it as a day trip, even though it makes for a long hike.

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@kylojenhikes was sick during this trip (she only went because I guilt tripped her into it), and was a trooper. Recognition also should go to @sdhiker who was the only one who had any sort of backpacking experience and had to deal with our inexperience and whining. He also did his best to keep Jen from dying from hypothermia since she didn’t bring a sleeping bag.  That’s my Boo for you.

 

Gear I Used:

Sleeping Bag: Teton Tracker 5+
Although it is not the lightest bag in the world, it was fairly inexpensive (less than $70) and kept me warm. So very, very warm.  It also fit in the monster pack that @sdhiker let me borrow

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Sol Mattress
Someone told me this would be good to get. Apparently it helps shield you from the cold ground. It also helps shield you from any sort of comfort. I’d say I got a good 5 to 6 seconds of sleep using this thing.

Backpack: Osprey Atmos 65
This bag was lent to me by @sdhiker and it’s definitely:
A) too big for a day trip
B) a dude’s bag

Although in many ways I have the physique of a 12-year-old boy, I am still a female and this bag was not made for me. No matter how I adjusted the bag, It seemed to either put too much strain on my hips or too much strain on my back. Oddly enough, it felt much more comfortable when there was more weight in it. So it was fine for the day, but you’d have to ask someone who has extensive experience with it to get a more accurate account.

Tent:  Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
I’ve put up exactly one tent in my life prior to this, and I’ve come to discover that I am not a technical person. I don’t just “get” how things work.  This tent is probably pretty easy to put up… or seemed to be as I watched someone else do it. It’s also technically a two-person tent, but it would be kinda squishy in there if I had to share it. In the end, it kept me warm and was a fine tent for the evening.

Register Ridge

All pictures by Tony Tellez

 

Trailhead: Manker Campground, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA
Length:
 9 miles, depending on your route
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft.
Difficulty: Very strenuous
Total time: 6-7 hours
Dogs: Not a good idea
Parking: Parking is $5 at the ski lifts. If you out to park at Manker Flats, you’ll need an Adventure Pass which you can find at any sporting goods store or ranger station.

Spend any amount of time with @lazyasshiking and one of the first questions you’ll be asked is “So, have you done Register Ridge yet? When are you doing Register Ridge?”

Register Ridge is a death march up Mt. Baldy where you climb 2750 feet in less than two miles. It is grueling, and it sucks and I don’t know why these people like it so much. Tony, the organizer, posts it every six weeks or so on Lazy Ass Hiking.

After a year of peer pressure and canceling three times, I finally climbed it, and now I never have to do it again, ever.

In order to do Register Ridge you need to be in outstanding physical shape. Or at least the physical shape I’m in, which is that I hike three to four times a week. And like, legitimate hikes, guys. Not strolls up Mt. Rubidoux (sorry, Roobs, you’re just not that difficult). I’m talking like, real womanly hikes that make you pump your fist in the air kind and shout “Suck it, mountain.”

And at least one hike a week up peaks at elevation. I spent the last 5 weeks doing peak climbing before I felt good at attempting this.  Actually, “good” is too strong of a word. I just felt like I was less likely to die.

So what I’m saying is, if you’re not doing those kind of hikes, don’t do Register Ridge, mkay?

The hike goes like this:

You start up the fire road by the port-o-potties, say hey to the cute little waterfall, and then connect to the Ski Hut Trail which is further up, on the left hand side. You’ll recognize it by the fact that the sign for the trail is broken in half. Way to go, jerk that broke it.Go up Ski Hut, and not far up, you will see a metal register box on your right. About 25 yards up from that, you’ll see a water run off on the right. Except that’s not a water run off, that’s the Register Ridge Trail. And that’s where the pain begins.

You will spend the next 2 to 2.5 hours Spider Man-ing your way up this trail. It is like scaling a building and it never levels off. I must say, that while it is extremely steep, I never felt worried I would roll off a cliff, just that I might collapse and die.

When you are about .25 miles from the top of the trail, you will begin to see the best sight EVER: heads bobbing along the Devil’s Backbone and you know you have arrived.

From here, you can either connect to the backbone to make your way up to Baldy, OR head up Harwood trail off to the right for extra credit, which I agreed to for some dumb reason.

After sumitting Harwood, we made our own trail back down to the backbone and summitted Baldy which was just the icing on this terrible cake. The some of the group then went to West Baldy- I opted to roll my eyes at them and plop down at the wind shelter.

While technically you can go back the way you came, that would be dumb. I suggest heading your way back down the Devil’s Backbone and stopping off at the Notch. You can then either take the ski lift down from the lodge or walk the 3 miles back down to Manker Flats, like I did, again, due to peer pressure.

 

 

Some other notes:

Weather:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but this is an extremely strenuous hike. Don’t do it when it’s hot. The group has done it in the snow, as well, but if you do, be careful on the backbone on the way back

Wildlife
Because this is less trafficked than other trails, I am told that this is the best trail if you want to see big horn sheep, which I still haven’t seen, so thanks for nothing, Register Ridge.

I’d suggest parking in the lot at the ski lifts and walking down to the trailhead because you’ll be tired by the end. I didn’t do that and made my friend drive me two tenths of a mile to my car because I was over it #lazyasshiker.