With the desert starting to cool off a bit, Ted, Susie, & I decided to return to peak 3339 just east of McCain Valley. In addition to this peak, we wanted to summit Al Holden as well. That peak was named in honor of the OG San Diego Peakbagger, so it seemed like something we had to do as well. We timed the drive to arrive just before sunrise, figuring we would have some amazing views to capture. As the sun slowly rose, the three of us snapped away. To our south, another gentleman was atop a boulder doing the same thing.
After grabbing our gear we began our descent. Yes, this is a canyon, or inverted hike, meaning we get to climb back up at the end. Some folks had cowboy camped right at the trailhead, but the sunrise had already awakened them before we passed.
The trail was steep for a bit, then became more gentle. Peak 3339 was a mound of boulders off to the east. Eventually, we left the trail and began our cross-country portion. We worked our way up close to the summit. Opting to approach from the south, we drew close and found a small tunnel, which guarded the register and through which we were atop 3339.
Both Susie and I agreed this was much easier than our previous summits. The day was warming up, but we felt that we could get Al Holden in. We passed back through the tunnel and retraced our route for a bit. Finally we headed north, referring to one of the few tracks to this peak. Scrambling over boulders and past the occasional juniper, we realized the mound of rocks we thought was Al Holden wasn’t. It stood one pile to the east.
With the proper peak located, we began our careful climb up. This is a “leave the poles behind and put on gloves” kind of peak. We picked our way up, with a few careful Class 3 moves, & found ourselves atop Al Holden. We had a nice break, and I found some shade as I was starting to feel the heat. There is no register, but a metal sign is cemented atop a boulder.
We worked our way back down from the summit, then over the saddle. From there we continued cross country until we rejoined the trail. The heat was taking a toll on me. I may have grown up in Bakersfield, but I don’t have the same tolerance anymore. The temps were in the mid-80s, but without the breeze, it felt worse. Now we had the ascent back to the car. My pace dropped considerably and I had to rest in the shade a few times. Ted shared some ice water, which helped. I cracked out my emergency Coke for some sugar and caffeine. That bottle of Gatorade I left in the fridge would have been helpful.
Slowly but steadily I plodded my fat ass up the trail, with Ted and Susie watching over me. I tried to keep moving while not going too fast and overheating further. Finally, the end came into view and this effort was done. The cold water back at the car felt wonderful, as did the AC. Once I cooled off again I felt fine. I’m going to have to be more cautious next week when I am out at Joshua Tree NP. Again, thanks to Ted and Susie for their support in this one!
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.