Nine years ago, Joan and I were planning a big adventure. We wanted to thru-hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) over three weeks. We knew it would be a challenge. Not only would it require careful research and planning, but we would have to train our bodies and mind to prepare for the rigors of backpacking an average of 12 miles a day in the Sierra Nevada mountains. In the spring of 2010, we hiked the first Six-Pack of Peaks. I organized each hike and opened invited up to 12 other SoCal hikers to join us. It was challenging, but it helped harden our bodies for the JMT.
Since then, thousands of hikers from around the country have taken the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. For some, completing the six peaks in a season is challenge enough. Others are training for even bigger adventures. All have created lasting memories.
2018 marks the fourth year of the challenge, and since we’re entering shoulder season, I wanted to share a recap of this year’s challenge.
The SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge By-the-Numbers
2018 was a challenging year due to the wildfires closing access to trails. At one point, half of the original peaks were closed to hiking. Being a resilient bunch, we shifted gears and expanded the options from six to twelve peaks in total, allowing challengers to create their own personalized six-pack of peaks.
Naturally, we had a few people – three to be precise – who hiked all twelve peaks. There are others who are very close, but as of 10/22/18, Santiago Peak remains closed. Kudos to Philip Yoko, Anthony Lopez and Meredith Crane.
We also had six “multi-challenge” finishers. These are folks who not only completed the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, but also one of our other regional challenges. Janet Herrera and Sarah Wright completed both the SoCal and NorCal challenges. Stephanie Mondabon, Jeff Cobb and Allen Harvey completed both the SoCal and New England challenges. And Jae Bundang completed both the SoCal and Central Oregon challenges.
And this year we have a new category of finisher. Seven challengers became Legacy Finishers by completing the challenge in four consecutive years.
Special congratulations to: Jason Fitzpatrick, Jason Sudo, Jae Bundang, Kathleen Miller, Harvey Fiji, Tony Ramos, Kristin Seiler (not pictured) and Kathleen Miller.
All Legacy Finishers get free registration for the next year and every year that they complete the challenge – something to aspire to for those who now have three consecutive finishes under their belts.
Big City Mountaineers
Once again, we created a fundraising team for Big City Mountaineers, raising $10,655 to help give underserved youth the opportunity to experience life-changing wilderness mentoring expeditions. Read more about our partnership with BCM on SocialHiker.
This year at the SoCal Finishers Party we had 400 challengers, friends and family gather to celebrate an awesome year of adventure. After following along with everyone’s adventures throughout the year via the hike logs, it’s a great opportunity to meet face to face, strengthen those connections made online, and forge new friendships.
One of my favorite activities is something we call Your Next Adventure. We ask everyone to share their adventure goals for the coming year on an colorful index card, then pin it to our “prayer flag”. The responses are inspiring.
And this year, we also asked challengers to bring a photo print of their big 2018 adventure to share. I thought that maybe a few people would respond, but WOW! You shared a ton of great adventure photos.
We all have stories to share about our adventures hiking the challenge. In the forums, I asked for folks to share their unique challenge story, and we recognized two of them at the party.
Challenger Christy Massas wrote:
Charles R. Swindoll said, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brillantly disguised as impossible situations.” The Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge has been life-changing opportunity for my husband and I.
In February, my young, 44 yr-old husband, David was in a wheelchair facing spine surgery for back problems. He was ready to give up on things ever getting better. Unsure of how successful his surgery would be, I decided to take a big chance and tell my him about this challenge. I then proceeded to give him the pep talk of his life and explained to him that we were going to do this together, this year and probably get started around May.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, something to the effect of… you’re young, you’re going to get through this and then you’re going to be better than you ever were before. Don’t give up! Fight for the life you want and the one you know you deserve. It worked!
In March, after his surgery, he was out of the wheelchair and using a walker. In April, only a cane. Then in May, we finished our first hike in the series. With each hike, he just became more and more motivated and so did I. What an awesome experience it has been. In September, we finished our sixth hike and believe it or not he was telling me to hurry up on the last stretch.
Thank you for the wonderful opportunity. We thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
And Challenger Aiden Wiedenman wrote:
Hi, I am Aiden and am 10 years old. I finished the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge for the second time this year. This year I convinced a group of friends to do it with me! We are the Adventure Rebels and include Aiden Wiedenman, Landen Minick, Henry Valdivia, Rich Cunningham, and Gavin Thompson, all age 10!
As Henry said (in his post in the forum) we had some great adventures along the way and usually celebrated with ginger beer in the peak.
These are just two of the many inspiring stories I’ve heard from this year’s challenge, and one of the reasons I meeting you and hearing your tales from the trails.
We held our gear giveaway drawing at the party with two big winners! Challenger Ivan Marcos Trejo won our Day Hiker Package, which included an Osprey Skarab 24L Hydration Pack, a Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle, Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, 1L Nalgene bottle (with SoCalHiker sticker), a first-aid kit and a Six-Pack of Peaks “buff” – a package worth $200.
Challenger Skaria Roy took home the Grand Prize. Valued at over $1000, it included everything he needed to start backpacking: Osprey Exos 58 Backpack, REI Quarter Dome 1p Tent, REI Radiant 19d Down Sleeping Bag, Big Agnes AXL Sleeping Pad, Jetboil Flash Cooking System, Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle, First Aid Kit, 1L Nalgene Bottle (with SoCalHiker sticker) and of course, a Six-Pack of Peaks “buff.”
This year, we have some fresh swag to commemorate your challenge or honor someone special, including Finisher T-Shirts with the names of all finishers printed on the back, a Finishers List poster available in three sizes, and new cap designs and colors, including white, pink, black and brown. Of course, we also have beautiful replica benchmarks and patches for each summit. These are actual size and make a beautiful memento or gift.
More to Come
The challenge is not yet officially over! Registration for 2018 is closed, but you can still log your hikes all the way through the end of 2018. We will be updating our Finisher List, as well as the Finishers t-shirts and posters at the end of each month, so you can still make the list. You might be our next three-peat or even Legacy Challenger!
Early-bird registration for the 5th Annual Southern California Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge begins December 1, 2018, and you can start hiking and logging those hikes on January 1, 2019 (weather and conditions permitting, of course).
In an effort to continually improve the challenge, we will be bringing back all twelve peaks next year. This lets you do the “original six” (for the purists out there) or mix-and-match any of the 12 peaks to create your own six-peak combination. They all count!
I hope to see you again next year, and look forward to hearing how your adventures on the trail are inspiring others!
Also check out…
- The latest 2018 SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge Finishers List
- Update on our 2018 fundraising for Big City Mountaineers
- Take a look at our SoCal finishers 2019 Adventure Goals
- View our SoCal Finishers Party photo album and photo booth gallery