So, some of you who have been following along may have noticed my partner Paul Cassedy who was supposed to be doing this California Conquests campaign with me has been missing. Well, he has been in Patagonia for the last month. Lucky, lucky man! He and his team, team Yoga Slackers, have been competing in The Patagonian Expedition Race. The PATAGONIAN EXPEDITION RACE® is a true expedition, taking teams of four through lands previously unknown to the human eye. Racers receive minimal assistance as they traverse through the pristine southern Patagonia by means of trekking, climbing and related rope work, kayaking, mountain biking, and backcountry navigation. They often cover hundreds of kilometers without seeing a soul. A huge congratulations to them as well for finishing in 3rd. Super stoked for Paul. Also, he gets back today which means we can start to go full steam on the California Conquests campaign.
Check out this clip to get a glimpse of what the Patagonian Expedition Race is all about.
Now, we journey back to California. San Gorgonio Mountain to put an exact destination as to where in California. The tallest peak in Southern California, San Gorgonio stands tall above the desert at 11,502 feet. In Pauls absence I have been hiking with my pops and he is an awesome hiking partner. We got to the South Fork trail head at 4:30am. Knowing we’d be doing a 20+ mile day were on the trail moving by 5am. Man was it COLD! 25 degrees, dark, and snow all over the ground. Pretty much the way any great hike starts, right?
Top: San Gorgonio from the 215 freeway, Btm left: Morning Temp, Btm Middle: The trailhead parking lot, Btm Right: The San Gorgonio Wilderness
A few snow storms earlier in the week dumped 14-18 inches of fresh pow on the ground so we came prepared with some Denali snow shoes that we rented from our local REI. Really great shoes with teeth and a heel lift bar that made hill climbing in the snow a lot easier. We lucked out this morning because the snow on the trail had be smashed down into a nice hard path. Found out later that there was a winter mountaineering class that camped at dry lake the night before. Because there was about ten of them hiking with snowshoes in a line they left us that nice snow trail. My pops and I didn’t have to use our snow shoes for the first 7 miles or so. After Dry Lake however snow shoes were a must. I started post holing to my crouch and quickly decided to throw on my Denali’s.
Left: Matt hiking down the nicely compacted snow trail, Top Right: Pow at Dry Lake, Btm Right: Thigh deep pow along the trail
After you go past Dry Lake the uphill grind starts. One, two, three as I counted 50 snow crunching steps before taking a breather in the frigid wind. One, two, three… crunch, crunch, crunch. This was the pattern for the next 2 miles as we charged onward and upward. I looked back, my pops was still chargin’ only about 10 steps behind. I was super impressed. He was only 3-4 weeks out of shoulder surgery and man handling this hike. Soon we were at the chute. I quickly found that going straight up the chute was damn near impossible. Every step up the middle would leave us waist deep in fresh powder.
Left: Me and my pops at Dry lake with the chute in the background, Right: Beginning of the Chute
Man, I should have brought a snowboard. Best snow I’ve seen all winter besides my trip out to Breckenridge to board with Brennan. So, new plan. Let’s zig zag up the loose icy scree along the sides of the chute. As we gained elevation the wind got stronger and it got much colder. The wind was about a solid 25-30 mph with gusts pushing 50 mph. I would say the temperature was close to 0 degrees with the wind chill. My 50 step process slowly dropped to 20 steps and then to 10 steps.
The icy scree was irritating my hip-flexer that I injured rock climbing about a month ago. I looked back and my pops was slowing considerably and looked like he was in pain. I stopped and waited to for him to catch up to see how he was feeling. His achilles heel in both feet were feeling pretty beat up from the icy scree as well. We decided to push on for a bit more until my pops had to call it. He achilles couldn’t handle anymore sliding around. It was pretty heart breaking turning around less than half a mile from the top but it was the right decision. It was a great day, peak or no peak, and there is always next time!
San Gorgonio’s neighbor the beautiful Jepson Peak (11,205ft).
Now that Paul is back I think we will attempt “The Nine Peak Challenge” in the next month to get Gorgonio and the rest of the surrounding peaks. Total mileage for the challenge is 26.1 miles from San Bernardino Trailhead to Vivian Creek Trailhead. The nine peaks include:
San Bernardino Peak (10,649’)
San Bernardino East Peak (10,691’)
Anderson Peak (10,864’)
Shields Peak (10,701’)
Alto Diablo (10,563’)
Little Charlton (10,676’)
San Gorgonio (11,500’)
ps. Gorgonio I am coming back for you Ole Greyback.