September 19, 2017 at 5:09 pm #394562
Note: Jeff did his mileage estimate from the trail start. I did mine from the parking lot and was at 9.2 with what Jeff (today when I called him about this and for tips to safely summit) said was roughly a mile to go. At that point it was 3pm, and we made the difficult decision to call the hike and to turn around due to time/safety plus running low on water and electrolytes and not having a good idea how steep the trail was. Plus elevation was close to 11K and crushing at that point for us, though we’ve done 5 of the 6 peaks and I did Baldy via Ski Hut up Backbone down 5 days prior.
This is a long trail and is a combination of the little rocks of Baldy and Icehouse with a bit of the dirt and pine needles of Bernardino. The switchbacks are a lot of the loose rock, as are the upper reaches, which will slow down your pace. I was conservative as I did not want to risk a bad slip; person in my group did slip a little and rolled ankle but was ok. I trail run, and we had to run down Bernardino because of storms, but I would not run the rocky part of Gorgonio personally no matter what. Even the dirt part is loose in parts, with rocks sticking out. So you have to keep your eyes on the trail not to trip, which we still did at times. But look up every once in awhile as the scenery is spectacular!
The trail is long enough and high enough you need to prepare to take as long as 8 or 9 hours to summit if the altitude really affects you. For us, we were going several paces then having to break in the upper reaches, so we knew it could be an hour or more at that turtle over 11K pace to summit, which would put us descending switchbacks in the dark with headlamps. We each had a 2 hr drive home, and were utterly wiped when done, so we decided to call it and motored back down in 3.5 – 3.75 hrs incl 15 min water refill. But we were racing to beat the sunset. It ended up being an invaluable recon hike.
What I learned:
– You HAVE to leave early, 6 am latest if you are fast, to finish this hike in daylight. 4 or 5 am ideal honestly unless you are really adept in very high altitudes.
– You need to have ample electrolytes and a good water filter. And make sure you have ample water for the peak. Also complex carbs as you will need those to burn. This is a high calorie burning hike, more so than any of the 5 6 Pack ones I have done so far.
– We made the mistake of NOT filling up at High Creek ascending, planning to keep load light and refill on the way down. We ended up having about 1/2L each water and minimal electrolytes at turn around, which contributed to our decision as well as time and just not knowing how far was left, as we were already well beyond mileage on my map and Jeff’s report. It was amazing how thirsty I was at the higher elevations.
– Fill up with a good amount for you at High Creek to do another about 5 mi up and down, then top off if needed for descent on your way back. Use a high capacity filter to save time.
– Even if you hike in daylight, bring a headlamp cause you never know. CA 38 driving there and mountain are pitch black before sunrise and seemed to be after sunset as we left at twilight.
– This hike is high enough plus you’ll be tired enough when you get to upper 10s/11K it will play with your brain unless you are extremely well-acclimated. At the slightest sign of breathlessness, heart rate pounding, or lactic acid buildup, we took deep breathing breaks until symptoms subsided. These got very frequent in the higher 10s and were much more so than San B even though that is 10.8K. This was a big reason for safety we turned around to descend in light and stick together.
I hope in a few days to get back there with what I learned and bag this peak. But my recon hike, as this ended up being, was invaluable and the hardest hike I have ever done, but the most beautiful and rewarding!September 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm #394567
Btw we got off to a late start around 7:15. Did about a 1.5 mph pace up the lower reaches but slowly ground to sub 1 as the elevation grew. It was not strength but altitude that slowed us down. So it took us 7 hrs 45 min to go 9.2 of around 10-10.2 mi and again sub 4 hrs descent but we were pushing it.September 19, 2017 at 10:55 pm #394586mml712001Participant
I am so sorry you didn’t get to summit. You were so close! Are you going to try again?September 20, 2017 at 5:56 am #394605
Yes definitely! Thx for reply and I messaged you.September 27, 2017 at 11:14 am #396370
I hiked Vivian again a week later, 9/23/17, and bagged the peak! Here is what I did differently:
– Brought only 1 3L CamelBak instead of 2 to reduce weight, and brought my high-capacity filter.
– Left an hour earlier though that was still an hour later than planned. My hike buddy had gotten lost, so at that point I started out solo cause of time, knowing she was a fast hiker and would catch up. So I started a little before 6:30 am, around first light.
– Did a quick carb and water load before the first switchbacks for energy.
– Went absolutely as fast as I could. No photo breaks, only sipped water to save it.
– Topped off both water and made fresh batch of electrolytes at High Creek going up, and topped off water coming back.
My pace did suffer on the high switchbacks all the way to the peak, but I still made decent time and got the peak by around 1 pm. And that included a lengthy stop at High Creek, where I met up with my hike partner.
I spent more time than I would have liked on the peak (but it was amazing and I felt great! Plus there were the nicest, coolest people up there).
Going down, it is a long way back to the car, and the switchbacks are loose, slippery rock that eats up time. I went as fast as I could and motored through the flatter sections.
I got down before sunset and hung out for a little so I would not be in rush hour. Got home with minimal traffic. All in all, a very long day, but so, so glad I finally completed Gorgonio! And with perfect weather, too!
Lastly, we were still over a mile away when we turned back. And that last part just ate up time, even though I went much faster and was feeing great on the 23rd. It ABSOLUTELY confirmed our decision a week before was the right one. And having done all those miles helped me so much – both for altitude xp and just knowing what to expect and how to pace – when I went back for the second time.
Ty SO SO MUCH for everyone’s support!
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