Sawmill Mountain (via West Tumamait)

After a decent night’s sleep in my tent, we made a lovely breakfast of real scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee before heading out. The plan today was to drive over to the West Tumamait trailhead and approach Sawmill from the west. When we arrived at the trailhead, three other cars were parked alongside the road. We found a spot, grabbed our gear, and began our trek.

Our route started with a steep 1/2 mile descent along a ridge. I think we would lose about 500 feet of elevation, which would taint us on our return. Off to the east stood Grouse Mountain. We reached Puerta del Suelo and now it was time to start regaining the elevation we lost and more. I could feel the altitude and where my recovery was and I was feeling all of it as I plodded upward. I told Dave and two of his sons to go on ahead and met them at the junction with the trail to Grouse. While they were fine having me set the pace, I felt too guilty about my slow pace. 

We regrouped at the junction, and I took a short break. For the most part, I kept plodding along, never stopping for more than a breath or two. We continued climbing, passing the turn-off to Sheep Camp. I gave them the directions to look for the turnoff to Sawmill. As I approached it, they were not there. Another hiker was just coming from the other direction and I asked if he saw three hikers, he replied that he just saw them. So with a strong shout, I yelled and got Dave and the boys to return. Where there had usually been an X made of tree limbs to mark the trail, it wasn’t there and they walked past it. Now back together, we strolled up to the monument. After snapping some photos, we enjoyed a well-earned lunch. However, the final climb back to the trailhead weighed heavily on my mind.

Dave, unfortunately, developed a blister that we had first addressed back at the Grouse junction stop. It was still bothering him, so he applied some duct tape to the area. Once that was (hopefully) resolved, we set off and began to retrace our route. Along the way, I crossed paths with a pair of hikers I met while making the climb to the Grouse Junction. They were doing the whole traverse from Mt. Pinos to Cerro Noroeste. Turns out one of them was also doing the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, so we chatted some before parting ways. We again regrouped at Grouse Junction. Neither of the boys felt adventurous enough to make the climb to it, so we continued on. I ate an energy chew just to give me a little more juice before the big climb. At the saddle, a hiker who had been with us on Sawmill was enjoying a snack after hitting Grouse and then going cross-country to his usual turn-around point. I said goodbye and began to climb.

My goal was to try to be mindful of my heart rate and pace myself. Some afternoon clouds had formed and gave me some shade which I welcomed, as a modest portion was exposed. Soon I spotted the trailhead and pushed on. That route was certainly a harder option than the traditional route from the east. All told the hike covered 5.8 miles with 1,485 feet of gain. 

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, Central Coast, 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. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *