I was finally able to find time to go hiking with our Associate Rabbi, Matthew Earne. I had been trying to keep Whale Peak as an option for us to summit together, as it is not too difficult, but still provides some challenge and adventure to the outing. The first winter storm was coming to San Diego, but the forecast still looked ok to head out and do it. I did remind him to make sure to toss a rain jacket into his pack.
Once we got to the trailhead, we geared up and began the first climb of the ascent. We began working our way up the steep wash to the first of several mini-plateaus along the route. The trail was easy to spot as we cruised toward the next slope. Cairns would also mark the way. As Scott Turner wrote in Modern Hiker, “Whale Peak trail has a reputation for getting even seasoned and experienced hikers lost.” Since I was the guide for this ascent, I tried to keep my bearings about me as we hiked on. The last time I did this peak, Derek Loranger led the way.
In addition to the route, I was also keeping a watchful eye on the skies for any unexpected weather changes. We could see the rain coming down off to the west on those mountains, but nothing seemed to be approaching us. The winds were light and the temperatures pleasant.
After making our way up the next set of slopes, we soon came to the final steep push to the summit. I told Matt that once it got steep, we would be close to the summit.
We picked our way up the rocks until I spotted the familiar rocks that denote the summit. With the risk of weather looming over us, we did not linger. Tucked well under a rocky nook was the register, which we happily signed, took a few photos, and grabbed a quick snack.
I pointed out various landmarks from our vantage point; Granite, Pinyon, Blair Valley, etc. A few sprinkles were starting to fall, so we donned our jackets and set out to descend. I must have gotten turned around at the summit and accidentally headed east. After about 10 minutes, I stopped to check my location, as I was spotting neither a trail nor any cairns. Remember what Scott said, Whale Peak had gotten me too. We turned around, and climbed back up to the summit, with me apologizing to Matt several times. Back on the summit and oriented correctly, we cruised back down the peak.
The rain never materialized, so we both removed our jackets. We could see some evidence of rain that had fallen elsewhere on the peak; some granite rocks had some small puddles of water, and the soil was slightly damp. What was nice was, that the desert air was now filled with so many joyful odors. You just wanted to stop and breathe it in.
We made our way back down the steep wash and to the car. I had hoped we might be able to also go summit Ghost Mountain, but between the later than planned start and what was sure to be a slower drive home in the rain, we skipped it. This was peak #89 of my #100PeakChallenge.
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.
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