I have been hiking in the mountains around the Inland Empire for years, repeatedly bagging Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga, Ontario, San Gorgonio, and San Jac. For variety I hiked the 3 T's, Baden-Powell, and Islip. I have probably 100 ascents of Baldy. I had never heard of HPS or their list. Ah, those were the days of no obsessions; hiking simply for the beauty and the exercise, oblivious to such magnificent peaks as Ranger and Cleghorn, and safe from the punishment of Rabbit #1.
Angie (the little woman) had constantly badgered me about the stupidity and danger of hiking alone. None of my friends hiked with me more than once, quickly concluding that I was crazy. To stop what I considered nagging, I decided to join the Sierra Club to find hiking companions. I was already sympathetic with what I perceived to be their mission.
I began receiving the San Gorgonio chapter schedule, which led me to many slow easy hikes, plus the same hikes I had been doing all along. Boooooring! Then I learned that there is such a thing as Angeles chapter, with a much larger schedule.
I went on my first Angeles-led hike; 2 gentlemen named Coles and Knapke were going from Idyllwild to Cornell Peak on Sept 10, 1994. I duly showed up at 7 a.m. to find that I was their sole follower. A wonderful hike; fast paced and long enough. (I confess I did not go up the summit block - I vow to do it next time). I did not know the significance of the "HPS" in the schedule announcement of that hike.
After some time, I read the schedule a bit more carefully and realized what HPS was. Hallelujah! I went on more HPS hikes, subscribed to 'The Lookout', bought a peak guide, and even went to a meeting (got lost trying to find Crystal Springs RS in the dark). In short, I was hooked. On came the obsession.
I was hiking every weekend. I bought the obligatory 4WD SUV. The yard and house show increasing neglect. Angie started whining about my first love being mountains (now, she is hooked, too). I developed a host of new friends and heroes. And, hey!; these people are as crazy as I am. I went to my first HPS banquet and I did not want to be among the first to sit down during the awards ceremonies.
I ran into a little snag. I tried (and failed) to follow two famous leaders up the (wrong) route to the Five Fingers summit block. Not realizing that we were tackling a class 4 (5.11?) chute, I developed some trepidation at the mere mention of class 3. This I have mostly overcome after tasting true class 3.
My 100th peak was Eagle Crag (July 12, 1997). At the time I knew nothing of the quasi-tradition of supplying a taste of champagne, etc., as a celebration. My apologies to Diane D. and the others on that trip. But 100 was no longer so important. I was after The List. I began in earnest. The first step was to shuck my job. Soon I found myself hiking with other retirees on weekdays. Byron and Rosemary and I bagged many mutually-needed peaks together. Frank Goodykoontz demonstrated to me to the concept of hiking by flashlight. Tom Hill introduced to me the principle of the "100% pure pathfinder" while leading me on some bizarre routes. On August 16, 1998, I summitted my 200th, Sunday Peak.
I was now well-placed to finish the list save for 2 dusters of mountains commonly called "The Big 4" and "The Big 3". These had to wait until Spring. Polishing off orphans, I elected to save Mt Gleason for last. The Big 4 required 2 tries after a snow-out. Mars Bonfire and Rosemary Campbell kindly agreed to escort me to the Big 3, where Santa Cruz (by moonlight) became my penultimate peak.
This has been a fantastic experience, culminating in a Monday evening celebration on June 7 atop Gleason together with Angie and some 22 friends and fellow hikers. I find that the final throes of completing the list is rather an anticlimax. Does this mean that I should stop hiking? No way. Is the obsessiveness over? No, it's ingrained in my character now. Onward to complete other lists? Possibly the DPS list given good health and sufficient time (I have only 9 of 98). The SPS list seems just too overwhelming to this senior citizen. The LPC list? I care less. Agua Tibia was enough. I am actively working on HPS lists #2 and #3 and pathfinder emblem. I hope to attain "I" and maybe "M" rating and eventually lead the HPS list. My current top priority is to assist Angie, and whomever else needs help, in attaining their HPS goals.
This experience has been remarkably free of incidents; no major injuries to any participants, and but a single lost hiker. My internal database regarding the highways and byways of So. Cal is vasty expanded. Most importantly, I have discovered many fine folks whose company I greatly enjoy, especially as we share in excursions to the various summits.
Closing with a less romantic clause, I estimate that 85% of the current 33,000+ miles on my 4WD SUV were accumulated in driving to trail heads. My non-hiking friends frequently ask what I get out of all this peak-bagging. My standard answer is, "A $10,000 prize. But I can't collect until the HPS audit committee verifies my signature in all the register cans."