I put in about 12 miles the first day, but it was hot, and the entire 12 miles was decimated by fire. It was a little bit disappointing. I finally got to my camp in the late afternoon, and just as I put my tent up, it started hailing. I couldn’t see the lightning strikes, but the thunder was impressive. Fortunately, it passed in about 90 minutes. Had a good dinner and slept well, despite the worries that a dead tree might fall and kill me in the middle of the night…
Every year I try to take an adventure that gets me outside of my comfort zone. It has to challenge me to push my physical limits and force me to face things that make me afraid. This ritual has been key to my personal growth and it pushes me to train in ways that I would otherwise not have the discipline to train. This year, mountaineering in Ecuador was that trip and Cotopaxi was the prize.
We got up at 3:30am the next morning to catch the 4am shuttle to the trailhead. We started our descent with headlamps. It was a cool 40 degrees and the hiking was easy. First light came at 4:30am and by 5:30am we turned our headlamps off and were enjoying the amazing views of the canyon below.
I remember checking out of my hotel room and just spontaneously leaving a $200 tip for the maid. I had never done that before. I had experienced some kind of transcendence that I could not describe and I couldn’t help but overflow in generosity – to a person I had not even met.
With an elevation gain of 10,300′, the Cactus to Clouds Trail has one of the greatest elevation increases among day-hike routes in the United States. It is 16 miles from the trailhead to the summit (+5.5 more miles back to the tram station), making it one of the steeper trails of its length in the world. For local hikers, Cactus to Clouds (C2C for short) is not just a trail, it is a hiking rite of passage. For those who have done it, it never gets any easier when you do it again. It is the definition of a “sufferfest.”
While Iron Mountain, also known as Big Iron, is far lower in elevation than other Southern California summits, it is the most difficult mountain to climb in the entire region. The trail follows a series of high mountain ridges to the summit, gaining 7,300′ of elevation – 3.500′ in the last two miles alone.
San Bernardino Peak is one of my favorite local hikes. It’s never crowded like many of the other trails, and the scenery is beautiful. Today, there was four to five feet of snow on the upper elevations, with snow starting a mile into the trail. Being on the summit, in the snow, in perfect weather, was pretty magical.
One of the hidden gems of Death Valley, the Swaney Loop is a route I did with some friends from the San Jacinto Hiking Club. The route starts just outside Stove Pipe Wells and follows a network of slot canyons for about 3,000 feet of elevation gain before looping back down some off-trail slopes to the trailhead.
On Saturday, Wes, Liz, and I did the Mount Baldy Bowl in the snow. It was the first time I’d done it, and it was an absolute blast. A lot of the snow had melted from last week’s storm, but there was still enough to play in the bowl. I had hopes of climbing something a little more aggressive – a feature on the left side of the bowl affectionately called the “Death Shoot.”
The Yucaipa Ridge is clearly visible from the 10 freeway as you pass Redlands east bound. The ridge of four small peaks is dwarfed by San Gorgonio Mountain behind it – so much so that you never give it a second look. Yet behind these little mountains lies one of the best hikes in Southern California.