The one where we conquered the mountain
Scared and dumb
I arrived late at night at the junction by Paradise Valley café. I had been walking the last 20 miles in my camp sandals and my feet were destroyed by blisters. I felt alone and very unsure of what to do next and where to camp. Earlier that day I had heard rumours about a trail angel living in the area that would host hikers. Without seeing any signs of either life or light I knocked on the first house I saw. Desperate for warmth and a bed I was let into Richards house. I was able to take a warm shower and he tended to my bruised feet. I petted his dogs and we shared stories. The next day he was gone and I never had the chance to thank him, but he definitely turned around one of the worst days on trail to the complete opposite. I keep getting so humbled every day by the kindness of strangers on this trail.
The next day after a pretty sketchy hitchhike into town with a guy who insisted on taking me to his mansion – I finally arrived to Idyllwild. I met up with my group and I was so, so happy to see them again even though it had only been two days apart. We met the mayor of the town who was a dog, ate burger and fries, cooked dinner together and drank beers on the porch of our Airbnb. It was an amazing zero and such a well needed rest.
We headed for the mountain
The day after we hitched back to the trailhead with our stomachs filled with the famous burgers from PVC. My bag felt so heavy with 6 days worth of food, micro spikes, ice axe and red wine. We slowly made it up the mountain and we ended the day by cowboy camping under the stars together.
One thing with thruhiking is that I just assumed that I would automatically become a morning person. That still hasn’t happened. I still find it so hard to get up early and start hiking even though I go to sleep on time. So after a 10am start we began ascending the mountain range. It was a hard and long day, where we had to go off trail for 2 miles to get water which took my mood down a bit. After reaching snow for the first time and walking through a burnt tree section that had once been a mighty pine forest, we finally reached our campground. It was almost dark but the sunset was beautiful over the desert beneath us.
After a cold night cowboy camping again, sleeping in all my clothes including my rain gear we did an early start. We kept hiking over the snow, the blowdowns and the burnt tree stomps. We stopped for lunch for a long time and played cards just before the real snow started. Armed with our microspikes and axes we pushed the last few miles to an incredible campsite free of ice right beneath the great summit of San Jacinto. We ended the night on top of a big rock overlooking the valley beneath us, and my heart was at peace.
Team Expedition that we named our little group consisted of Vortex, Sylvia, Guardian, Simon, Whiplash and me. Our alarms went off at 2am and exhausted but excited we got ready. We shared cold coffee mixed with electrolytes and listened to Tougher than the rest on full volume. The ascend was hard, but the snow firm which made it easy with our microspikes to get a grip. We walked under the night sky and screamed together at the sun when it rose over the horizon. We finally reached the summit. I felt invincible. And as John Muir himself said: “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth”. And that couldn’t have been more true.
When we descended the mountain the lack of sleep hit me. I almost felt drunk which made practicing self arrest even harder. But we had a lot of fun. We glizeded down the slopes of the peak. On the fine line between fun and dangerous. I learnt the basics of how to use my ice axe and cut up my fingers while sliding down the snow.
After a few hours the snow got soft and slushy by the sun and we started post holing. It was hard, maybe even the hardest thing I’ve done physically, and we fought like animals trying to get down the mountain. At 5pm we finally wobbled into Fuller ridge campground after 13 hours of hiking. Almost to exhausted to eat we were fast asleep on the little patch of snow-free ground we had found. We all slept for 12 hours straight and awoke to the puddle around our campsite to be covered in ice. I forgot to put my water filter in my sleeping bag and it was broken by frost.
Very sore and tired the next day we walked to the closest water source where we swam and ate before starting to hike again. It was so, so beautiful. And just like the snow had started it ended as abruptly. It went from everywhere to nowhere. We were so happy to finally put our microspikes away.
The day got hot and after a few hours it felt unreal that we had started our morning shivering on ice. The landscape changed so fast and drastic. We hiked for another 15 miles and passed snakes and millions of desert flowers. We reached camp by nightfall and all high fived that we had conquered the great mountain range of San Jacinto. Where many people had turned around we kept going. Even though of all the fear mongering and all the snow. The ice and the cold. We reached the summit and we came down safely.
It took us 5 days to cross the mountain range. Tomorrow we will shower the dirt and sweat off our bodies in town before hitting the trail again. Everything hurts but I feel so grateful to be out here. That my body can do it. And that I’m surrounded by such beautiful people that makes even the hardest days feel easy. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Not even a little bit.
- ◦ Night’s cowboy camping: 10
- ◦ Clif bars devoured: 36
- ◦ Blisters: 5
- ◦ Beers: 15
- ◦ Rattlesnakes: 9
- ◦ Zero days: 2
Miles: 150-200 (240-320km)
3 things I’m grateful for:
My sleeping bag for keeping me warm at night.
Clif bar with the taste of mint and chocolate.
Drinking coffee to the sunrise on the summit.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
What Do You Think?