warning - long post... here’s the short version: ran San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and San Antonio the other day. Good for a long run. Glad to cross it off the list. As in all longish treks everything seems like a blur but here’s a little of what I remember and feel like writing down. Also big thanks to Erin for all her support - she was out of town so I had to do something to stay out of trouble...
I’ve been wanting to do this link up for a while. The three highest peaks in southern california. Three saints in a day. Los tres Santos. Whatever you want to call it they’re close to home, close to each other, and linking the three of them is very reasonable. I had some buddies do it three or so years ago and I guess some of the employees at REI do it every year. A few months ago, AMc, GR and myself attempted hiking the three of them but due to some nagging chronic injuries and fatigue, we had to head for home after the first two (Jacinto and Gorgonio), still a respectable effort. Being spurred on by accomplishments and efforts of friends (also this, and notable solo efforts here and here... just follow their blogs for inspiration... and big up to Andy for helping me stay motivated with doing my best to solo train and be a distant SHTC member) I felt like something more than a 5 mile jog was in store, even though my training the past few weeks had been pretty dismal: ran more on Mon and Tue of this week than previous two weeks combined, last long run about a month ago...
I decided to do the same order of the peaks as our previous attempt: San Jacinto, San Gorgonio then San Antonio (Mt Baldy). I also spent a bit of time looking at the different options of getting up each one, I wanted to find routes that were the most “runnable” sacrificing a little longer distance for less elevation gain per mile. The goal was to just go out and have a long run, not trying to break any speed records but still trying to get them done in a reasonable amount of time.
The plan was to start in the evening and do Jacinto completely in the dark, I figured I was familiar with it and that I wanted to be at least up Baldy before dark because I’d yet to scout that one yet. I was so amped thinking that this was finally going to happen that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep even if I tried. I finally hit the road a little before 10pm and got to the base of Jacinto just before midnight.
San Jacinto (elev 1034) via Devil’s Slide route
There were a lot of cars in the parking lot, not really sure what was going on but I didn’t see anyone. In my head I figured Jacinto would be the toughest - just thinking about what was ahead, questioning if i really wanted to do this, alone, in the middle of the night, as always running off little sleep... But as in everyday training, the hardest step is the first.
I loaded up my new Nathan pack (not exactly new, got it at the REI gear sale for $14 but it had only been used once and when I saw it held a 3L camelback I was pretty stoked. That. pack. is. sick!) turned on my headlamp, threw in the headphones and I was off. I thought about forgoing the headphones, I like running with nothing but the natural sounds but thought they could be a good to get me moving. I just wanted to get out and get it done and move on. Right away I was glad Jason recommended treking poles (rented some telescoping BD’s, not the z-pole but they worked). It was relatively steep on and off (too steep for me to run) for the first half mile or so with largish rocks here and there. The first marker was two miles in and I felt like I was making decent time. It was nice to have markers every couple miles. I just kept moving, following the headlamp, listening to music peripherally in the background, listening to my feet and breath, thinking what I would if my headlight caught a glimpse of a hungry mountain lion... Full disclosure: I was scared a few times about mountain lions or I thought I heard peoples voices but I knew Erin and other’s were praying for me so I’d be all right.
After the first fork two miles, the trail gets a little less steep and I tried to take advantage of this as best I could.
Last time we hiked Jacinto I noted how runnable it all seemed and for the most part it this analysis was accurate. The last marker is 0.2 miles from the top and I sure was glad when I saw it, it seemed like it took too long to get there and I kept thinking I was careless and made the wrong turn. Running in the dark has a way to make things seem slow because you can only see a few feet ahead. It can also be nice becasue you can only see a few feet aheard and that’s all you worry about... The last 0.2 miles is a scramble to the top. The view on top is pretty spectacular, feels like you're on top of a real mountain. John Muir even said of it "The view is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth"... but what does he know about mountain views. It was pretty windy and I was anxious to get down so only spent a couple minutes to try and take some pics then get down as quick as I could.
On the way down I collapsed the poles and didn’t use them, not sure if you’re supposed to, but that felt the most comfortable to me (need to get the pack modification so I don’t have to hold them but it wasn’t terrible having them in my hands.) I fell into even more of trance with the headlight on the way down. It’s rather hypnotizing even though you’re moving quick and dodging rocks and twigs and tight turns it still seems methodical and easy to stop paying full attention for a little while. Anyhow, I ended up falling three times. No major injuries, just shook off, got up and kept going. The last two miles seemed like they took forever, in my head I think I’m moving a lot faster because it’s downhill and I don’t give adequate respect for the terrain and low light conditions.
Got back to the car around 4am and it felt good to be back. 3:56.56 (2:19 up, 1:31 down), 15.3 miles, 4500 ft of climbing. I didn’t waste much time and just started driving to Gorgonio, tallest mountain in southern California...
San Gorgonio (elev 11502) via Vivian Creek
I had about a two hour drive ahead of me and I was already fighting tiredness that even coke zero couldn’t cure. After an hour of driving on a windy mountain road I decided I should pull off for a minute and sleep - easy to justify considering I’d been up for 24 hours at that time and still had a pretty full day ahead of me. I was able to halfway sleep for about thirty min and feeling a little more refreshed was on my way again.
There was a different route up Gorgonio that i wanted to try, the Fish Creek trail. It’s about a mile longer one way than the Vivian Creek trail we did previously, but it has over 1000 less feet of vertical climb. Also on the reconnaissance hike I considered the Vivian Creek trail to be less runnable than Jacinto even though it had less elevation gain per mile. When I got to where I thought the Fish Creek trail was supposed to start I consulted the map again and realized I still had at least 20 more min on the road and then 7 miles on dirt road “not suitable for low slung vehicles”. Having driven on such roads before and knowing how long that takes I decided to just go for Vivian Creek again, I only lost about an hour... and maybe it was more runnable than I previously thought if the elevation gain per mile was a good indication.
I got off and running about 8am. It was sunny but a touch chilly so I decided to stay with the tights and long sleeve top, which worked out fine until the very end. It felt so good just to be in the sun and be able to see, it was a whole new day. The first half mile is just slightly uphill, then you cross the dry creek bed and head up steep switch backs for a mile, too steep to run. After that the trail was very runnable besides the last two and half miles, which turned out to be more brutal than I thought they would be. Last time AMc and I made it up the last bit in 75min or so and that was at dusk and through some snow, we were pushing it pretty steady but I figured I could go at least that fast. Not sure what my split was but maybe I was just anxious to get to the top. About a half mile from the summit the trail splits and I happened to take the wrong turn. I was eager to get to the top and the trail was slightly downhill in the beginning so I started moving again, but in the wrong direction. When the trail didn’t head to where I thought it should go I realized my error and started looking around. I saw another hiker and he seemed to have made the same mistake. We started looking around and made our own trail to what we thought was the summit. There were two heaps of rocks roughly equidistant from us and we couldn’t tell which was higher. At this point I was a bit demoralized and a little frustrated I made the wrong turn, I really didn’t want to hike to the wrong point and find out I was wrong again. Luckily my friend’s hiking buddy emerged from the true summit and after confirming with each other that we really did see a person we made our way over. I spent about thirty minutes on top, enjoying the view, chatting, then started heading down. One of the guys was from Australia originally, now living in Pasedena he asked me what me “call-sign” was or something like that, I didn’t understand him and he said “No, your hiking name. What do you go by.” “I just go by Warren.”
The trip down was essentially uneventful. Fun to run down. The first two miles was pretty loose fist shaped rock so hard to move too fast on but I just kept moving. Maybe it was the daylight but the terrain seemed to go by a lot faster. No falls this time. Ok, just one about a mile from the end. Gotta be more vigilant next time...
At the car about 6 hours after I started. 20.3 miles, 5:34 running time (exluding 30 min on top; 3:33 up, 2h down), 5422’ gain. It was warm at the car and I got those tights off as quick as I could. I also had some new blisters that I only had a plastic fork to relieve pressure with but it got the job done. I was a little surprised the lady in the car next to me commented on my feet as I was tending to them, I wouldn’t even want to look at them.
San Antonio (elev 1068’) via service road to Devil’s Backbone
Back in the car and driving by around 2pm. I felt like the timing was pretty decent and the easiest peak was saved for last. This was the only mountain that was unknown though. I thought the route I had decided on would be pretty easy to locate, again looking for the most “runnable.” As I got close to the parking spot I saw a couple on the side of the road and asked them about my route on the map, they helped a little. I then stopped at a shop where “adventure passes” were sold - I hadn’t purchased the 5 dollar pass all day and figured I could do so now and get some beta for my route as well. Well the lady said don’t bother with the pass because the rangers were gone and she wasn’t much help on the route. I thought the route would be pretty well known because the one I wanted to do was the one they have a race on every year. Finally I found the spot I thought was right, asked another group of people coming down - again they had no clue. I switched into shorts and a t-shirt considering it was 80 degrees and even though it would prob be dark on the way down I figured I’d be just fine.
I got my stuff packed and ready and started heading up the fire road. It was 5pm and I figured I had about 2 hours till sunset, I was hoping to summit by then. The road was runnable but definitely uphill. About a mile in a single track breaks off and some people were coming down. I again asked about my intended route. The guy said the single-track route they were decending was the “route everyone takes”. I remember reading about it and it didn’t seem very runnable, which the man confirmed. So I just kept heading up, hoping the map was right. I had some hesitations and almost turned back because the route I was doing was a bit more miles... maybe it would be better/faster to take the steeper shorter one and summit quicker. Oh well, at least I’ll get a run in. It was nice to be able to just run on the dirt service road and not worry about dodging rocks and what not. I also enjoy the dodging and hopping but it’s good to mix it up. Two miles up you get to the ski lift lodge where they have a restaurant and then the trail meets up with the “devil’s spine trail.” Again I saw some people coming down. Again I asked them about my route. Again they were nice but didn’t know. There was some chalk on the ground that looked like it may have been from the race so I headed that way. The sunset was quite nice and took a few minutes to get some shots. Antonio had some nice views but it was a little bit of a mixed bag for me just because all the signs of human activity and all the trees that had obviously been cleared for the ski resort made the mountain look rather bare. I really like running up the Devils Spine Trail. It was pretty windy and the exposure on both sides was exciting (for lack of a better word).
As I was heading up the spine it looked like the top was right in front of me. But I was wrong. The trail dipped back down and across over to the true summit. It was now getting dark and there was a series of poorly marked switch backs, it looked more like a free for all the last half mile, without any path. I threw on the headlamp and managed to find some sort of trail through the washed out gray. It was pretty windy and my running shorts really don’t offer too much protection. I took some quick photos on top, enjoyed the panoramic view and headed down, needing to get down about a mile or so to get out of the wind. Once in some protected area I was glad I was in shorts. I made my way back down the fire trail and fell into a little bit of a rhythm. Felt nice. I tried to not get too casual... no falls on this one. Made it back to the car about 8:30pm. 13.6 miles, 3:35 (2:14 up, 1:20 down), 3800’ gain.
Now all that was left was the drive home...
+/- 49.2 mi running
+/- 13700' gain
13.32 cumulative time (including all time at top of peaks)
308+ miles of driving
11 gu packs
Vialyte for running hydration, drank just about all 3L for Jacinto and Gorgonio, 2L on Baldy
Plenty of snacks in the car but didn’t eat more than a few handfuls of trail mix
shoes by Mizuno, waverunner13 (on sale!)
rented BD treking poles
pack by Nathan, 3L camelback bladder
3 changes of socks
Video is in the process of being made. i need to find a song - i'd like to use a little wait what juicy xoxo mashup but it's been used... check back. photos of feet s/p run available upon request.