Courtney Summits Gorgonio, Finishing the Six Pack of Peaks

It was a long, but victorious slog to the summit of San Gorgonio and back with Courtney. Today she finished the Six Pack of Peaks!

After climbing San Bernardino, my daughter Courtney and I decided it was time to put San Gorgonio, the last of the six peaks, on the calendar. I got some permits but Courtney couldn’t make it on that day, so I went by myself. We tried another time, but again Courtney couldn’t make it at the last minute. I ended up going alone up San Gorgonio four times in a six-week period. Which, by the way, is a great workout. Guys all around the world want my calves, and San Gorgonio is how you get them.

I ended up going alone up San Gorgonio four times in a six-week period. Which, by the way, is a great workout. Guys all around the world want my calves, and San Gorgonio is how you get them.

The hike equals a 6,500-ft elevation gain over the course of 18.5 miles up and back. On a good day, I think my best time on San Gorgonio by myself was about eight hours, which was slightly faster than a moderate pace. My longest time was over ten hours when I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before.

San Gorgonio Mountain via Vivian Creek Quick Facts

  • Permit required

  • Allow 8-10 hours

  • Very strenuous

  • Dogs are permitted

  • 5,840′ of elevation gain

  • 18.5 miles out and back

  • San Gorgonio Mountain tops out at 11,503′

Courtney and I finally coordinated our schedules, but I just wasn’t sure she was ready to go that far or high in one day. I decided to try an overnighter instead of pushing through a whole day.

On the Friday afternoon we left, it was in the upper 90s in Riverside, but the temperature dropped to 76 once we arrived in Forest Falls. We planned on camping at the first site, which is about three and a half miles in. The beginning of the trail includes steep switchbacks before opening into a lush valley. However, the sun sets very quickly in this valley due to the high walls on either side, so it’s practically dark as you hike in.

We were using our headlamps by the time we reached the campsite. Normally this would be a time to unwind, but we were both so tired we decided on getting some sleep right away. Neither of us slept more than an hour that night — it was one of the worst night’s sleep of both our lives. It must have been a combination of not properly winding down after a hard hike, a full moon, and the altitude change.

Neither of us slept more than an hour that night — it was one of the worst night’s sleep of both our lives. It must have been a combination of not properly winding down after a hard hike, a full moon, and the altitude change. Needless to say, we were pretty shot the next morning.

Needless to say, we were pretty shot the next morning. I had Courtney carry on without a backpack to increase her chances of summiting. It’s not easy to hike when you’re fried from a lack of sleep. By the time we reached High Camp, Courtney’s energy was drained. We downed breakfast bars and a 5-Hour Energy. I figured we’d just take it as we went, and we’d turn back if we had to.

We followed steep switchbacks past High Camp to the ridge leading to the final summit push. Once on the ridge, you can expect about 90 minutes at a reasonable pace to the summit. Courtney needed another 5-Hour Energy at the ridge. Child Protective Services would probably inquire about my parenting if Courtney were any younger, what with giving her two energy drinks in a span of two hours. Luckily, it’s just what she needed.

One tough grind later, we reached the summit. What a sense of satisfaction, especially when neither of us was feeling great.

Child Protective Services would probably inquire about my parenting if Courtney were any younger, what with giving her two energy drinks in a span of two hours.

Coming down was long and hard, but I wasn’t going to give Courtney another 5-Hour Energy and risk dragging her body down the mountain after heart failure. After the long slog down the trail, we packed up camp and headed to lower altitude. The sun was blazing overhead, and a punishing 85 degrees zapped what was left of our strength. I had purchased a tee shirt for Courtney with the six peaks on it when we left for the summit, in hopes that it would give her some extra oomph to push through and make it happen.

As I think back now about doing the six peaks with Courtney, it helps me reflect on the magical experience of sharing something like that with your kids. I will always treasure when Courtney and I did those hikes, and I look forward to many more in the future.

What is the Six Pack of Peaks

The Six Pack of Peaks was popularized by Jeff Hester. It is a series of progressively harder southern California hikes. It starts with Mount Wilson, then Cucamonga Peak, Baldy, San Bernardino Peak, San Jacinto, and finally, San Gorgonio Mountain. It’s quite popular for hikers to use this circuit to get into shape for Mount Whitney or the John Muir Trail. Click here for more info on Jeff’s website.

Courtney and Bryan Finish the Six Pack of Peaks

Here are the photo finishes of Courtney and I summiting the rest of the Six Pack of Peaks…

Trail Map


Buy the Tom Harrison Map of this area on Amazon.com

San Gorgonio Mountain Elevation Profile

San Gorgonio Mountain Elevation Profile

Vivian Creek Trailhead

Getting a Permit from the Mill Creek Visitor Center

You can get a permit in person at the Mill Creek Visitor Center, or by submitting a permit application at least 5 days in advance by fax or email. You can download a permit application at the links below. Permit availability is subject to quotas. The phone number for the Visitor Center is (909) 382-2882.

Download Day Hike Permit Download an Overnight Hiking Permit

 

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