The Thimble

Today’s adventures were about moving forward to finishing the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list again. Both Susie Kara and I are embarking on this effort. While most peaks are still unclimbable due to the desert temps, we do have a few that we can tackle. Our first summit of the day was The Thimble out near Ranchita. 

Ted Markus tagged along for the adventure as well. The two of us had done it back in October of 2020. Since I had multiple summits of this peak, I took the lead once we reached the saddle. I guided us up its steep slopes with no real issues. I checked my previous track only near the top and was happy to find I was spot on.

We slipped through the brush tunnel and made our final scramble to the summit. Susie could not believe the difference between this approach and her first one back in 2017. We signed the register and took in the views. The skies were hazy, so it was a bit disappointing. To our north loomed San Ysidro. We had hoped to also summit it today as well. We began our descent, mostly following our earlier route, but we kept looking to see if we would find a path that would allow us not to lose more elevation. Try as we might, nothing opened up. Finally, we threw in the towel and descended to the wash at the base of the peak. We took a nice break and discussed our options. The day had warmed up some, so we became a bit less motivated to make the San Ysidro climb. Plus, our friend Gina Norte had wanted to climb San Ysidro but could not come on this attempt. So we decided to come back when she could join us.

A happy Susie Kara after the summit!

For those who are curious about this hike’s profile, here is our track displayed in CalTopo. Note the average slope on The Thimble is between 40% and 50% for most of the climb.

Otay Mountain

With the 4th of July weekend upon us, the thought of fighting holiday traffic and crowds on any of the Six-Pack of Peaks I still needed to do did not seem appealing. Since I was still on vacation, I opted to go ahead and summit Otay Mountain and Tecate Peak. These are drivable summits, and I really don’t have any desire to hike them. Ted Markus was also free, so he hopped into the passenger seat and we set off.

Looking back at Otay Mountain Truck Trail

The road was in really good shape. I was hoping being early and on a Friday we would not encounter anyone on the road, as it can it narrow at times. It was not almost until Doghouse Junction that we pass our first car. Thankfully we were at a nice wide spot so there were no issues. Since it was warm, rather than parking at Doghouse Junction, we drove to the turn off to the summit and parked there.

We hiked the 1/2 mile to the summit and took in the views. A new rescue station was in place for any migrant that finds themselves here and in trouble.

We poked around the summit for a bit then headed back to the car to continue on to the second peak of the day, Tecate!

San Gorgonio

Peak Name: Mt. San Gorgonio
Distance: 19.5 miles
Date: September 1, 2019
Summit: 11,503 feet

San Gorgonio, “Old Greyback”, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet. That was our goal for the day. Ted Markus and I reached the Vivian Creek trailhead at 4 am. Donning our headlamps, we set off along the service road next to Mill Creek. After about a half-mile, we crossed the dry creek and onto the trail. The next mile or so was a steep climb. Thankfully in the darkness, we could only see right in front of us. Later during our return, we realized the steepness of the section. I had read the trail guides, and they weren’t kidding.

The trail followed Vivian Creek for a spell. So far we were both feeling good. The sun began to finally rise over the mountains, revealing the beauty of the area. A warm glow shone on Mt. Baldy to the west. We encountered a few other hikers along the trail.

As we approached the switchbacks, the elevation was starting to get to me some, but we kept pushing upward. After about 7 miles and at 10,000 feet, I was really starting to question if I could summit. With Ted’s encouragement, I continued on.

Once we broke the tree line, I found my second wind. Also, the summit was also in view. The traverse went fairly smooth and soon we were atop San Gorgonio!!

Unlike San Jacinto, the summit sign was still there. Ted and I recreated “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“ pose since we had just completed the A16 3 Peak Challenge!! I would say about 40 or so others were also there on the summit, include several other 3-Peakers. In fact, there was one hiker who was attempting the 1-day version of the challenge!

Looking northward
Looking south, San Jacinto stand across the divide
Looking southwest

After a break and photos, we began our descent. A sense of accomplishment filled me as we began our 9.5 miles back to the car. I knew the summit took a bit longer than planned, but I did it! Now the question was, will Ted hurt himself on the descent? On Mt. Baldy he hurt his wrist. On San Jacinto, he twisted his ankle. Sure enough, he slightly twisted his ankle again. Not as bad as last time, but enough. That was ok, as my knee began to ache. We kept cruising carefully down the mountain. The day was warming up, but we had plenty of fluids. I did opt to filter some water at the first crossing of Vivian Creek, in part since it was nice and cool. It also served as a nice break to let my knee and feet have a rest.

A Search and Rescue helicopter flew overhead. We were unable to understand what they were broadcasting. It appears the heat did get to someone. We never found out what actually happened.

Soon, we were closing in on the end of the journey, and we slowly made our way down that steep section. Back at the car, we peeled off our boots and changed in something less disgusting. We swung by the University of Redlands to drop off a few things for my daughter. Then some food and nice flight from Hanger24 before the drive home. Now back to the 100 Peak Challenge!

Mount San Jacinto (via the tram)

Peak Name: Mt. San Jacinto
Distance: 10.5 miles
Date: July 14, 2019
Summit: 10,863 feet

So we set out to summit San Jacinto today for our second peak of the A16’s 3-Peak Challenge. We opted to take the ‘easier’ route from the Palm Springs tram station to the summit. The first tram up was at 8 am and was completely full of hikers ready to hit the various trails.

After the short ride to the upper tram station, we headed down the cement switchbacks to the Ranger Station to get our permits. From there we began the 5 or so miles and just about 3,000 feet of elevation gain toward the summit. It was nice hiking under pines trees and along a running creek, something that is a rarity in San Diego. The trail is very well marked, so no issues with navigation. Just past Round Valley, we started to get a glimpse of the summit.

Ted and I kept pushing higher and higher toward the summit, first toward Wellman’s Divide. After a short break there and some nice views, we set out again. The trail began climbing across the east flank of Jean Peak, pausing briefly at a flat cleft at 10,000 feet before continuing north on the east side of San Jacinto. There are few trees along this section, so remember your sun protection. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were hiking a bit higher than the mountains of San Diego as we made our way up. At the junction with the Marion Mountain trail (my route the first time), we grabbed another quick break in the shade, since there almost none at the summit.

Soon the rescue hut came into view and the final boulder scramble to the summit. Several other 3-Peak challengers soon joined us also. The views were incredible, but sadly the wooden sign was gone. San G loomed to the northwest, our final peak of the A16 3-Peak Challenge.

After a snack and rest, we began working our way back down the mountain. Unfortunately, about a mile down the trail, Ted rolled his ankle. He was able to put weight on it and we carefully continued down. Those hiking poles paid off.

We found ourselves back at the Ranger Station and returned our permit copies. Then came those concrete switchbacks back to the tram station. This might have been the toughest section of the whole hike 😉

We grabbed a bite to eat and then took the tram back down to the desert floor. Thankfully, Ted just sprained his ankle and his wife will still let me have ‘play-dates’ with him 😉 Now, I am taking next weekend off and going to see historic spacecraft and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in Neil Armstrong’s home town!

Mt. Baldy (San Antonio)

Peak Name: Mt. Baldy
Distance: 10.5 miles
Date: June 23, 2019
Summit: 10,064 feet

What an incredible summit today! Ted Markus and I drove back up to Mt. Baldy for the Climb For Heroes Comeback Tour event. The weather had canceled the first attempt in May. This was to be about an 11-mile round trip hike with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain topping out at 10,064 feet.

Along the way, we meet and chatted with wounded vets, and watched them climb the summit as well. Our route took us across the Devil’s Backbone, so we had quite the traverse.

It was a tough one. The final push to the summit was hard and took a lot of mental energy to ascend the last mile.

The views were incredible and the entire crew supporting this event was awesome.

This peak was the first of our A16 3 Peak Challenge. Thanks to all the sponsors for this event including Eddie Bauer.

Mt. San Jacinto (via Marion Mountain trail)

Peak Name: Mt. San Jacinto
Distance: 12.1 miles
Date: August 13, 2017
Summit: 10,834 feet

So I decided to take a break from the 100 Peak Challenge and go for a big peak. San Jacinto was the closest of the Six-Pack of Peaks (another challenge I am considering for 2018). I opted to start at the Marion Mountain trailhead near Idyllwild. This route a steep, relentlessly climbing over 4,600 feet in just 5.7 miles.

I trekked along, climbing ever steadily. The trail was mostly empty. I encounter just a few hikers along the way. A helicopter passed overhead. I watch, hoping that no one needed its assistance. After a few minutes, it flew off. I took a short breather at Little Round Valley.

Soon I had reached the emergency hut. I could almost start to smell the summit. After a brief boulder scramble, I had reached the top!

I rested a bit, taking in the view. Took the obligatory sign selfie as well. Some of the other hikers milling around were interns from JPL. We chatted a bit about their experiences. Some knew my friends who work there. But I knew I had a long trek back down and said goodbye.

As began down the trail, my hips began to feel the effects of the steepness. My pace began to slow, as I descended. It was then I released truly how steep this trail was. I finally made it back to the car, and once the phone charged up some, I checked in with my wife who was starting to worry.