Leaders: George Wysup, Maggie Wilson
I am quite fond of hiking the cool, granite summits of the San Jacinto area and I thought it would be a challenging outing to do a bunch of them in one day. Such a trip has been done many times in the past, but not recently.
I needed a co-leader and some followers. What better co-leader than Maggie Wilson - pleasant, competent, strong. Since she "needed" these peaks, she readily consented. Followers? If we build it, the unsuspecting might come.
The goal would be to climb Jean, Marion, Drury, Folly, San Jacinto, and Cornell. Maggie and I agreed on a route that would do that in an estimated 15 miles, 5100' elevation gain from the Palm Springs tram. Catch the first tram at 8 am, and make it back before the last tram at 9:45 pm.
17 hardy hikers signed in at 7:30 in the tram parking lot. The ticket price has soared to $20.80 this year. Why not $20.99 or $20? Anyhow, $2 off for seniors (55+) and $1.90 off for AAA members. I can but wonder at the scientific marketing strategies that result in this pricing structure. Ticket sellers check names and ages closely on ID. We all made the first tram and secured our day hike permits (self serve at the ranger station). We were ready to start.
I set a rather fast pace toward Round Valley, and the entire group was right on my heels. I must not be walking fast enough, I told myself, perhaps it's the altitude. So I picked up the pace a bit, huffing. They're still with me. Break time near Round Valley brought some comments that the pace could really be a bit slower and they wouldn't mind. Praise be to the gods! It appears that this was a case of macho syndrome in action; no one wanted to appear the trip weakling.
Have you noticed that, as every village has its idiot, every hike has its slug? This trip didn't. Some were stronger than others, naturally, but the true slowpokes must have all been hiking somewhere with Byron, "smelling the flowers." We too pondered the vegetation at some length. I pointed out a white-flowered weed growing in the meadow, calling it yarrow. I usually get away with this if I sound confident enough. But, no; a damsel wondered if I was certain that it wasn't "ranger buttons". Of course she was correct. At least she was tactful about it and I could claim that my eyes aren't what they used to be now that I have turned 65. At least I know my chinquapin, and that is the brush that I wanted to avoid.
The participants were a diverse bunch, several of whom I had not met before. Some are peak baggers diligently working the list, others are training to day hike Whitney, a few just wanted a long hike in a gorgeous setting. In no particular order they were Kevin Dixon (speaker at next January's HPS banquet), Zobeida Molina, Patricia Brea, John Meehan, Laura Joseph, Paul McKenna, Tom Connery, Chris Davis, Robinette Lloyd, Dee Dee Miller, Alex Gonzalez, Dave Harvey, Mikki Siegel, Rick Gordon, and Margaret Ou.
From Round Valley we stayed on trail to Wellman Divide, turned north, and skirted Jean Peak for 3/4 mile to a cove (near "21" on the topo) where Jean's slope is on the northeast side, hence is free of brush. It didn't take us long to cover the 600' elevation to the pleasant summit (10,670'), keeping to the left of the ridge to avoid most class 2 stuff. We reveled around the register for some time, identifying the sights and replenishing energy. On toward Marion. The easiest path is a rather straight line, modified as necessary to stay to the right of the ridge that includes bump 10388.
Marion (10,320') was a crowd pleaser. The first thing we spied was a tall can of Bud, left by Byron and Carleton's trip three days earlier, ostensibly as a birthday present to me. The group exulted in climbing the class 3 chute to the actual summit. Some decided (on their own) to take a trickier approach. Atop the summit block were two cans. One was the register can, the second was another tall Bud; a dead Bud as it turned out. Back below the summit block we dined and shared the (live) Bud, warm though it were. After too long a break we headed for the next destination.
I took Carleton Shay's route, which goes pretty much directly from Marion to the saddle just east of the mound called Newton Drury Peak (10, 160'+; there is no name on the 7.5' topo map). Drury is about 1 mile directly north of Marion. The hiking time between the two is a bit over 1/2 hour. The group was proving to be a gluttonous gaggle; most everyone had pigged out on every summit so far. I personally encourage, and sympathize with, this behavior. On to Folly.
Folly Peak (10,480', on the ridge northwest of San Jacinto) is about 3/4 mile due north of Drury. We went back down to the saddle below Drury, then walked past Little Round Valley campground on its east side, intersecting the main trail. We headed up the trail for a few switch backs, to about the 10,000' contour, to find an area not terribly infested with brush. We headed slightly west of due north, zigging here, zagging there to minimize brush, then tip-toed over a few boulders to the register. The view was indeed impressive. Yep; everyone pigged out again. Well, on to San Jac, and I'm becoming concerned about the time because Cornell seems the peak that many wanted especially to visit.
We did an eastward traverse to join the trail, then followed the trail to San Jacinto Peak (10,804') summit, passing a multitude of hikers, most of whom have no idea about the other peaks in the area. I hurried the group down to the hut to sign in and we scurried off, Cornell bound.
Opting not to include Miller Peak because of the lateness of the hour, we completed the trail loop back to the red 212 (on the map - it doesn't exist on the terrain) then a few yards to where the topo shows a (no longer existing) trail. We don' need no steenkin' trail. We made an easy descent to the base of Cornell (9750') just above Tamarack Valley campground, arriving at about 6:15 pm. One person opted out, but was willing to wait. We GPSed her location and hurried toward the summit. I spontaneously developed an uncontrollable urge to get Cornell from the northeast side. This, as I faintly recalled, is the way Charlie and Alan took me about 5 years ago on my very first HPS hike. The south side is familiar to me. We went around to the northeast side, spying a few ducks, and headed up a rather obvious-looking class 2.9 route. One lady set aside her poles, which felt more like albatrosses than poles at that point, figuring to recover them later. After several minutes of scrambling we got within 20 feet of the summit - to be met by a stretch of class 4, with no way around. The obvious route ceased to be. Somewhere, I had goofed. Alex, Kevin, and Rick climbed the thing (against my official advice) and found that they were within a few feet of the tip top, with no register can in sight. With this info I knew that we were actually at least as high as the register can, so I declared that everyone had bagged the peak. The declaration was readily accepted. Scrambling back down, we followed a route that became unfamiliar. We had found a better way down! The only problem was the parked poles. A few minutes of searching did no good. Oh, well, they aren't my poles, and it's going to be dark soon. We're outta here!
We retrieved the waiting person at the bottom of Cornell and the group, still 17 strong, hastened back to the tram. I heard muffled grumbles of "hiker abuse" from rearward. We needed flashlights for only the last 15 minutes. Kevin switched on his headlamp, which emitted an intense greenish light. He had modified the light to use 7 LEDs (light-emitting diodes) in place of the incandescent bulb (what is a "candescent" bulb?). It operates for many dozens of hours using lithium cells. Kevin used green, rather than white, LEDs because the green have about twice the efficiency. In my opinion his LED lamp was the brightest of all the lamps used by the group. Another advantage: the lithium cells have excellent low temperature performance. I want one.
We reached the tram about 9 pm, in plenty of time to visit the facilities and take the 9:30 tram down. During summer months trams run once per hour in late evening, except for a final run at 9:45. The restaurant had long since closed, but there was no time for food anyway. Maggie's Avocet altimeter registered 5440' cumulative elevation gain, and the time from start to finish was about 12.5 hours.
The ride down in the tram was rather spectacular in the night lit by both stars and the Coachella Valley lights. Nighttime animal sightings consisted of a toad and a raccoon.