I had hoped to go hiking with Susie Kara again, but two multi-car pileups on the 5 near Gorman, delayed her return, so it was just me and the mountain. My initial plan was to summit the peak via the southern route. I turned off S-2 onto the Mason Valley Truck Trail and began heading toward the trailhead. However, I reached the Vallecito Wash crossing and deemed it too risky to cross. I might have turned north too soon and been on the wrong road. Nevertheless, I was able to turn around and opted for plan B, the east approach.
I had my route stored for my GPS and my topo maps ready to be swapped out. I quickly geared up and headed up the wash, after chatting with a couple that had camped there the night before.
The first part of the route is a lot of fun, with a sandy wash and dry waterfalls to scramble over or around. The desert was fragrant from all the blooming flowers, and I soon found myself ready to leave the warm-up behind and start really climbing.
The actual summit would appear and disappear behind several peaks along the way. The route was mostly straightforward, following the basic ridge line ever upward. Cairns would appear throughout the route, along with a faint trail.
About halfway up, after cresting the first major bump, a serious climb stood before me. It took some digging deep to push through this effort. This is where solo hiking is different. Only you can push yourself past the challenges on the trail.
Once I reached its high point, I took a well-earned break. I knew this was going to be a long one, but I still wanted to make sure I took breaks to regain my energy. I had some trouble weaving my way through one section but eventually found my way past the jumble of rocks.
Soon, the true summit was within reach! I pushed on to the top and was rewarded with some incredible views. I found the three benchmarks and signed the register. I took a nice rest upon the summit block. The blades of a helicopter cut through the air. I finally spotted it cruising below me along Oriflamme Canyon.
The route and cairns were more visible during my descent, but I still needed to make sure I did not drop down the wrong canyon. Along the way, I met another hiker making his way up. We chatted a bit, and I showed him the route I used to navigate the middle section. I hope he was able to summit as well.
The rest of the descent was uneventful, sans a few loose rocks that kept me watchful. I enjoyed the flowers as I worked my way down.
Soon, I found myself back at the car, covering 7 miles of hiking with 3,070 feet of elevation gain. I held about a mile-an-hour pace, which is just fine for an open desert hike. I now have 7 more summits to complete the 100 Peak Challenge!
Footnote: After stopping at the store at the RV park, I saw a PCT hiker looking for a ride. So I decided to be a trail angel and give him a lift to Julian. This was his second attempt at the PCT. I dropped him off and wished him luck.
I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.