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#35388 - 03/23/14 11:07 PM Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 64
Loc: Denver, CO
I day hiked Mt Whitney a few years ago. That night, I swore Id never do it again. About two days later, I needed to back hiking again. A year later, I was ready for another go, but lifes just too busy. I moved my family from Sacramento down to Orange County just after this past Thanksgiving, and wanted to find some good hikes down here. I stumbled across Cactus to Clouds, and we decided to make a go of it. 2 vertical miles and 23 miles of hiking. Sounded like a good challenge! With three little ones, its hard to properly train, but we did what we could. Mostly our typical family hikes, 4-5 miles, throughout the Santa Anas. We knew we could have been better prepared (we always can, right?), but we had one weekend to get babysitters in the next 6 months, so we set the date in stone.

We arrived in Palm Springs on Friday, 3/21 around 3pm. We checked in at the Motel 6 on East Palm Canyon, grabbed a bite to eat at Giussepes down the road, and were bed sleeping by 5:30pm. We got up about 12:15 to wake up, stretch and gather our things for the hike.

We parked on W Tahquitz Canyon Way, just in front of the Palm Mountain Resort and Spa. Since we were getting a really early start, I wanted the car somewhere closer to people, and not in the secluded corner in/by the museum. It was maybe mile from the car to the trailhead. There was a police cruiser making a round through the lot as we walked through, so its patrolled, but I felt more comfortable with a little more public.

We hit the trailhead at 1:30am, as Im a fairly slow hiker, and wanted to make sure we had as much of the day as possible to take our time. Long hikes are strenuous enough mentally to be up against the clock, too. The first few miles we breezed along up the mountain. Temperature was low-60s, and I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts. We visited about a month ago to get an idea of the trail, and hiked with our young children to the picnic tables. In the daylight that day, I recall the trail being somewhat challenging to find at some points, and it was equally challenging at points in the dark. Even with headlamps and the moon, we definitely got off a few times. Thankfully, its easy to get back on. Once past the painted rocks, its pretty easy to maintain course for the rest of the hike. It was a fairly quiet hike through the dark portion. We saw a toad and some bugs, and kept our eyes on what appeared to be a mountain lion off to our right, keeping its distance, yet a watchful eye on us. My wife was especially glad to see the sun rise and stopped shuddering every time we heard a rustle in the bushes.

It was really cool seeing the sun rise over Palm Springs, and also amazing how quickly it warmed up! Our pace slowed a little as the sun rose, and we approached the 6k foot mark. From there, things definitely slowed as we continued up the hill. The uphill climb was relentless. The temperature was too cool in the shade for short sleeves comfortably, and too hot in the sun for long sleeves. I had both, and made the switch every now and then. We had brought micro spikes in case we needed them for the traverse, but we didnt even need poles through that section. There were only a couple of steps with ice/snow, so nothing at all bad.

We arrived at Long Valley at 11:30am. 10 hours. We had stopped every hour to eat a little food, and given that Im generally slower at hiking, I felt good with our 10 hours. We met two ladies at Grubbs Notch who seemed less-than-impressed at our time, but we were proud of the accomplishment. They were the first people wed seen all day. I figured in 10 hours of hiking, wed see someone, but not a soul. We stopped for a bit in the valley to eat lunch, sit down on a bench instead of a rock and fill out our permit. There were three park service workers prepping for a memorial service. We chatted briefly about our hike to that point. They didnt seem to have much feeling about the hike one way or another. Ive heard they generally shy away from encouraging the hike, so we werent too surprised.

We headed toward the summit around 1pm. We passed a couple of volunteers who said there was one patch of snow, but the rest was dirt. We later realized she must have only been referring to the trail to Round Valley, and not beyond. To Round Valley, the trail was mostly dirt, with a long patch of snow. It was slushy in the early afternoon warmth. We were full-time long sleeves and pants from here out, as it was definitely cool, especially in the shade. We were passed by many hikers just doing the upper loop, as were moving slowly. I had an ever-so-slight case of AMS. Symptoms were mild headache, loss of breath and I was definitely losing my appetite to eat. We plugged on, and stopped briefly at Round Valley to eat, apply sunscreen and refill water. Wed each carried a 100 oz Camelbak bladder, and a 22 oz water bottle. The bladders had water and Vitalyte. I had carried a backup 100 oz Platypus, and so at Round Valley, we split that between the two bladders. It ended up being the perfect amount of water for the day. We sipped throughout to avoid dehydration and to keep AMS risk low.

From Round Valley, the trail to the summit was primarily snow covered. We had the micro spikes, but I didnt pull them out because it was slushy. We did use the poles, and they helped a lot. We made slow but steady time. We summited around 4pm. The summit was completely snow covered with foot prints leading everywhere. Thankfully its easy to find the top; just keep going up! We stayed for a short while, took some pictures then signed the register and headed down. We knew there was a good chance wed finish in the dark, so we wanted to get moving.

Finding the trail to get back down was a real challenge. There were three other groups on the summit with us. We all left at the same time, all went a different way to get to the trail, and all had to cut through bushes and down snow to get back to the trail. We all made it, but more slowly that wed hoped. With the sun setting, we were in shade the whole trip down. It was quite cold. The snow had also started to refreeze, so we were walking on ice the full trip down. We put on the micro spikes, and were still about to breeze pretty quickly. We got back to Long Valley at 7:30pm. 18 hours on the mountain. The last walk up the concrete incline was a slap in the face after the long day wed had! We got our one-ways, and headed down on the next tram. They called for a cab for us there, and within 10 minutes we were on our way back to the car. Quick showers and collapsed in bed very quickly. As I write this the next day, theres only a little soreness in the knees, but otherwise well feel great!

Things I was glad of on the hike:

That we left as early as we did; we still finished the last 30 minutes in the dark with headlamps, but if wed left later in the morning, closer to the 4am I was originally thinking, we wouldnt have summited.

That wed stopped every hour to power down some food. We brought fresh fruit, homemade energy bars and homemade trail mix. While we still couldnt compete with total calories burned on the day, it kept us from totally bonking, and forced us to stop every now and then and enjoy the view.

That wed brought plenty of fluid. I hate trying to ration water, so bringing extra, though extra weight, is a lifesaver sometimes literally.

That we had trekking poles and micro spikes. It was really icy and slippery. People were up there in tennis shoes slipping, sliding and falling all over the place. I ate it once just before putting the spikes on, and it hurts falling on the ice after a long day! I grew up in the Midwest, used to ice and snow, and we lived in the Northern Sierras for a few years, so Im used to walking in it, but even still; best to be prepared!

All said and done, we feel very proud of the accomplishment. I dont know that itll be the radar again any time soon, but I said that right after I hiked Whitney, and Im ready for another round there, too smile

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#35394 - 03/24/14 09:16 AM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Chris B]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6787
Loc: Fresno, CA
Congratulations, Chris B, to you and your wife! That is really a giant hike.

You wrote the 22 miles ...is that round trip? I wasn't sure how the taxi ride came in.

Any pictures you can share?

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#35422 - 03/24/14 03:08 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Chris B]
63ChevyII.com Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 670
Loc: Colton, California
Congrats Chris B!


Glad to hear the snow/ice is gone from the Traverse. I am heading up Skyline Saturday to do some 'fact checking' on the map I've been working on and introduce some friends to one of my favorite trails. I have a friend that really wants to hike C2C in April. I am definitely in for Skyline, but not sure about taking on another C2C!
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#35424 - 03/24/14 03:32 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Steve C]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 64
Loc: Denver, CO
Steve - Thanks! The hike from Palm Springs -> Summit -> back down to Tram is 23 miles (PS -> summit is about 17.5 miles, the last 5.5 is the return trip to the tram). Tonight I'll upload some pictures. It is really cool to see the landscape change from low desert to alpine.

63ChevyII - I saw your TR last night when I was putting this on the boards. Great work doing it multiple times!! Skyline is definitely in great shape right now. The summit trail is dry until the creek crossing, where the first patch is. After Round Valley, it's almost all snow the rest of the way.

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#35425 - 03/24/14 03:54 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Chris B]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 569
Loc: Manchester, NH
Chris B - I enjoyed reading your trip report. I've done this hike a few times, and have been fortunate in terms of getting a ride from the tram station back to the Museum (or thereabouts). While you're waiting in line at the top, look for other hikers - a glance at the dust layers on the shoes/boots if necessary - and then ask them how they're getting back to the museum. At the least, I've always been able to split the cab fare and a time or two someone had left a vehicle at the station and they gave me a lift. And of course sometimes they've simply ridden the tram up, hiked to the summit and back, and are now returning.

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#35430 - 03/24/14 05:31 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: KevinR]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 64
Loc: Denver, CO
So true, Kevin! I was hoping we'd have that luck, but everyone at the tram station when we got there were diners. I don't believe anyone in the bunch hiked at all that day. We got a lot of odd looks carrying packs.

Some pics from the day...

Sunrise looking back at Palm Springs (only brought the cheap camera because of weight, but couldn't get a clean shot with it at sunrise)


Somewhere around 5k feet (more vegetation than in the valley, but no pine trees yet):


Somewhere around 7k feet (thin but noticeable pine trees at this point):



First real snow of the trail, just after the creek crossing on the peak trail. Slush on the hike up, ice on the way down:




Summit looking south:



Summit looking Southeast:



Summit looking north:


Success!


Unfortunately, it was just a bit too cloudy to get shots looking west. When the clouds broke occasionally, we could see Lake Elsinore in the distance, but not much further. With the sun setting on that side, it was tough to get a picture without washout anyway. On a clear day, I hear you can see the coast. We'll have to make it back sometime!

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#35431 - 03/24/14 05:38 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Chris B]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 450
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: Chris B
On a clear day, I hear you can see the coast. We'll have to make it back sometime!


You most definitely can:

http://oi61.tinypic.com/2h878tu.jpg


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#35478 - 03/26/14 10:42 AM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 393
Loc: Saugus, CA
Stahp...

2600fromatari that is insane!!! Great capture.

Heck, it doesn't even look "clear" in terms of haze, there is just less glare with the clouds blocking the majority of visible light.

That is so cool.
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#35481 - 03/26/14 12:43 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Snacking Bear]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 450
Loc: San Diego
Snacking Bear, I was also surprised judging from the haze and cloud cover I saw as I was heading up. Pictures don't do it justice though. One of the most beautiful summits I've had on San Jacinto, made all the more worthwhile after a long, hard trip and some bushwhacking.

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#35482 - 03/26/14 01:29 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 393
Loc: Saugus, CA
Snow Creek? Or off-trail up one of the North/East ridges?
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#35484 - 03/26/14 04:12 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Snacking Bear]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 450
Loc: San Diego
The very beautiful and scenic North/Leatherneck Ridge. Some more pictures if you're interested.










Chris,
I hope this isn't threadjacking. My apologies if it is. Just didn't think it was necessary to make a new thread for this, and since it's San Jacinto, it's semi-related.

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#35485 - 03/26/14 04:24 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 64
Loc: Denver, CO
I don't mind in the least! I was going to ask about your route anyway. Great pictures. Beautiful terrain.

I was worried when we first were thinking of moving to SoCal, as I loved being in the Northern Sierras, and figured I'd be leaving good mountain hiking behind. It's different down here, but still some excellent hiking opportunities. I'm excited to explore more!

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#35531 - 03/28/14 08:18 AM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 393
Loc: Saugus, CA
What was the elevation gain on that ridge?
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@jjoshuagregory (Twitter & Instagram) for landscape and mountain photo spamming...

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#35539 - 03/28/14 11:27 AM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Snacking Bear]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 450
Loc: San Diego
That depends on where you start. If you take the shortcut from the lower parking lot of the tram like in the links, it's over 6,600 ft of gain to the tram.

http://mountaineeringreview.blogspot.com/2011/02/leatherneck-ridge-mt-san-jacinto.html
http://peaksforfreaks.blogspot.com/2013/03/harvard-peak-san-jacinto-peak-via.html

If you start from Highway 111, I've never tracked it, but it is conservatively 9,000 ft, but I'm guessing more towards 10,000 just to Shangri-La, the plateau at around the same elevation as the tram. There are a ton of ups-and-downs starting from the highway. Starting there is also significantly harder than the shortcut.



Edited by 2600fromatari (03/28/14 09:32 PM)

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#35556 - 03/28/14 09:52 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: Chris B]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 450
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: Chris B
I was worried when we first were thinking of moving to SoCal, as I loved being in the Northern Sierras, and figured I'd be leaving good mountain hiking behind. It's different down here, but still some excellent hiking opportunities. I'm excited to explore more!


There are a lot of excellent hiking opportunities all over SoCal. Make sure you visit Baldy and San Gorgonio. Lots of different trails and routes over there as well. SJ just happens to be my favorite. Wait until we get a good snow year again and you'll feel like you're back in the Sierra. My pictures from Spring of 2011.





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#35560 - 03/29/14 12:01 AM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6787
Loc: Fresno, CA
Wow! Love those pictures!

thanks

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#35624 - 04/01/14 01:35 PM Re: Cactus to Clouds Trip Report, 3/22/14 [Re: 2600fromatari]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 64
Loc: Denver, CO
Beautiful! Perhaps next year we'll have more snow and there will be a chance to bust out the snowshoes!

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