Monday, June 15, 2009

Mt. San Jacinto: Be Persistent and You Will Win...Old Chinese Fortune Cookie Saying

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Thoreau.

This weekend my buddy, Ricardo, and I tackled Mt. San Jacinto again, needing what we call in the business a "corrective emotional experience". I have been to the summit solo but it seems every time Ricardo and I hit the mountain together some snafu happens.

Try #1. Ricardo and I planned to climb up San Gorgonio, at 11,499' the highest mountain in southern California. Poor planning, when we stopped at the San Gorgonio ranger station all the permits had been issued. We went across the valley to San Jacinto, a little shorter at 10,834', but only had time to get up to Round Valley at 9,100' before we had to turn around due to darkness coming on.

Try #2. Ricardo, another Mt. Whitney climbing buddy Jonathan, and I set out to bag the San Jacinto peak but made a wrong turn into Long Valley. By the time we located ourselves we were too far up to backtrack so we climbed up the fairly strenuous section of the Pacific Crest trail to try for the top. We got as far as Wellman's Divide at 9,600', ran out of water, and had to descend.

Try #3. Ricardo and I set off on what seemed to be a nice clear day. We were both wearing shorts, I had a thin, sleeveless blouse, neither of us had rain gear. By the time we hit Round Valley, the ranger said there was a storm coming on the other side of the mountain. Idiots that we were, we decided to keep moving up the mountain so the ranger gave us a couple plastic trash bags for protection. Short of the summit by not much the rain started. We huddled with some other hikers in an overhang debating our options and, reluctantly, began to descend. What is the saying - "all hell broke loose"? Thunder, lightning, stinging hail the size of large marbles, water rushing down the mountain up to our ankles, and those trash bags didn't help much. Cold, hypothermic, I was involuntarily shivering, Ricardo was saying he wanted to lie down and go to sleep... somehow we made it back down two and a half hours later.

Try #4. OK, we're going to bag this sucker because I'm training for a bigger mountain. I've packed a full size pack stuffed with whatever I could pull out of the closet and a couple dumbbells to boot. The weather was good. Ricardo and I got that summit and headed down in plenty of time. It was June, a heavy snow year, and we lost the trail crossing a snow patch. I had my compass but forgot the topo map. We wandered up and down ridges, argued about whether to follow a creek, watched the sun get lower. About 4:30 I pitched those dumbbells. At 7:30 and darkness we settled down to wait for daylight. It grew cold but we had some extra clothing from that pack -- thank god for that. We ruminated how long before someone noticed we were missing. Tuesday, I thought. That was three more days. At daybreak we set off again and in about four hours found our way out. A search party was there, ready to set out looking for us.

This last weekend was #5. A beautiful day in spite of a miserable forecast. We were anxious but fully prepared with extra clothes, rain gear, map, water filter, and a full measure of determination. Bring it on, baby, we were ready.

On top of the southern California world...and back to the bottom without incident. It doesn't get much better.


Pat said...

Barbells? Are you out of your mind? At least an iron skillet can be used to fry itty bitty fishies for lunch!

Katharine said...

Oops, those were dumbbells. Corrected that, thanks. I remember that skillet and the fishy things. Whatever works when you're hungry, I say.