PCT day 5 – Climbing Mt. San Jacinto


Idyllwild to off-trail camp

7.8 miles (+ 2.5 miles on devils side trail)

I woke up and packed my stuff. The hiker shuttle was supposed to leave at 8am to take us up to Humber Park. I didn’t look forward to climbing up on the 2.5 miles long Devils Slide Trail and I was especially unsure if I could hike up San Jacinto the same day. In total that would be an elevation gain of about 1300 meters!

We cramped together in the car. Five hikers and the lovely guy from town who gave us a ride. Arriving at Humber Park I started to make my way up the mountain. I was hiking by myself trying to listen to the rhythm of my body. Was there anything wrong with my left knee? I wore my knee brace on the right side. Should I switch it?

Slowly I made my way up the countless switchbacks. The grade was gentle and after less than one and a half hours I surprisingly reached Saddle Junction. A few hikers were already there, taking a break before heading up the mountain. I started again by myself and hiked on until I caught up to three other hikers. Salsa and Tables had camped with me on my first night at Cedar Springs. The girl was new. Marlin from Germany.

We were already quite high and the three of them were putting on micro spikes. I joined in on the log and got on my spikes. From here to the summit of San Jacinto the trail was supposed to be all covered in snow. We attempted the last 400 meters of elevation gain as a group of four. It wasn’t too bad at all. The snow was slushy but with the Spikes we had good grip. Essential for me was that the run out of all traverses we made was not too steep. I got comfortable hiking on the snow and enjoyed the views down into Coachella Valley. I tried to find the spot from where I could see my friends house in Desert Hot Springs.

We made good progress… until I postholed. My right leg just slipped and sank into the snow up to my thigh. My left knee had to bend to a maximum and it didn’t feel good. More carefully I went on. Thank God I could! Nothing forced me to stop immediately. I concentrated more on picking the right steps and tried to avoid postholing as good as possible.

The last bit of our ascent was quite steep. The boys had selected a route directly up the mountain. Uff! I was breathing hard because of the elevation and the physical excersise. I was ready for the summit! Eventually we reached the shelter at the top. A big group of hikers already gathered around it. Mt. San Jacinto was crowded! From the shelter a few more meters of climbing brought us to the summit. 10800 ft (roughly 3200 meters) and again lots of hikers. Anyway, I had made it to the summit!!

We went around to take in all the views and take the mandatory summit photo. Afterwards we all sat down on the rocks to enjoy some most needed food for lunch. I had a tuna tortilla roll washed down with a handful of peanut m&ms.

After hanging out on the summit for quite a while – it wasn’t too cold at all – we started our descend in a group of 10+ hikers. I was already concerned about the availability of campsites. After a while the group broke apart and when we took off our microspikes, the four of us were alone again. We made plans for camping before Fuller Ridge. When we made our way down the first campsite was already occupied by other hikers and we had to go on. I already thought we would have to hike across Fuller Ridge with tired legs, when Salsa spotted some flat spots down the mountain in the middle of some big rocks.

That’s were we all four camp tonight. Tables sleeps out in the cold doing some cowboy camping. Salsa is Cabrio camping but I put on my tentfly. The temperature is supposed to drop down to zero degrees Celsius so it will be another cozy night with all my electronics and the water filter in my sleeping bag.

Tomorrow we gonna tackle Fullers Ridge and then it’s down, down, down into the desert again.

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