|Trailhead||Vivian up and back|
After 2 permits I had to give away cause of family stuff that came up, 1 time I woke up super sick after driving to Redlands for a 4 am start, a week before my peak bag doing 90% of the hike but having to turn back cause of time and all 3 of us were having altitude problems, I finally, finally bagged Gorgonio!
Weather: PERFECT! Cool, crystal clear, light winds at the summit. I could see PV and the Long Beach skyline, 100+ mi away, hiking up, and the view from the top just defies words – could probably see again 100 mi in every direction! Just a few cirrus clouds to make it absolutely epic!
Trail: The switchbacks at the start were tough (hint: bit of carbo and water load before helps), but the ones a mile or so before the peak were far worse for me because at that point you are around 10K going up to 11K where there is only 60% or less oxygen than at sea level (and I live at like 10 ft!). I had to take a lot of mini breaks to reset, and even though I only stopped when I absolutely HAD to, it really slowed me down. This was my last peak, but I have never been over 10.8K ever in my life or hiked as far as I did that day.
The trail was a mix of dirt and rock and was well maintained. No sketchy areas, and the trail was easy to follow. The middle section was a much lower grade of elevation so could be traversed quickly both up and down.
How I Felt: This was the longest, highest hike I have ever done, and I definitely worked for it, but I felt really good at the peak and managed the altitude gain with zero sign of AMS. Fatigue mini breaks and slower pace up on the highest switchbacks and above 10.5 and 11K, yes, but no altitude sickness, as I took those mini breaks as needed. The summit was nothing like I had seen or imagined and was just incredible, and the coolest, nicest people were up there!
Hints for Success:
– Ideally leave as early as possible. If you are dealing with shorter days and want to get back before sunset, take absolutely minimum breaks. Fully expect your pace to slow once you get above 10K so pace the lower part accordingly. It is PITCH BLACK but with gorgeous stars there (parking lot too). Make sure you have a good headlamp with backup batteries.
– Poles helped me move faster and helped with some of the slippery rock downhill and to just lug myself up those final switchbacks.
– Do a quick nutrition/water break before the first switchbacks, and do your best to power through them. The trail is much flatter for quite a ways after that.
– There are some poison oak bushes along the trail as you are in the forested section. Just be mindful of them; they are not as red now but are the only ones with 3 leaf clusters.
– After that, there are some narrow trail sections with thorny bushes. Long pants/leggings help, and make sure you don’t have any cords or such that can snag. I held my poles close together in front of me, as they can catch, too.
– Be SURE to top off water and electrolytes at High Creek on your way up. I brought my Katadyn super efficient water filter. It let me draw straight from the stream and fill right into booth my 3L CamelBak and also my 20 oz electrolyte bottle directly.
– As I mentioned, the latter part before you come to the Dollar Creek trail turnoff 0.3 mi from the peak is switchbacks. Not insane slopes, but you are right around 10K going up to 11K at that point, which makes them just a bear, as the air only has 60% of the oxygen at sea level. There are a fair amount of them too, climbing up another sub-mountain getting over to Gorgonio. Plan accordingly with pace and hydration.
– The peak is like San Jacinto lite, very lite. No prob (though it made it hard to do my side plank I always like to do on the peak). But not flat dirt like many other summits.
– The switchbacks down (esp. high but also the low ones) can be slippery with loose rock. Exercise caution. Check your water supply and top off some if needed at High Creek on the return.
– The hike has several rocky parts, so be sure your shoes have good, thick soles. I use toe caps to prevent blisters and also used heel caps for the same, though mine split on this descent. I have found calf compressions sleeves and knee braces help too for especially the downward shock forces. Gaiters also totally help keep the rocks and junk out. I forgot them on Marion 2 days before, and man was I regretting it!
Thank you to everyone for your support, my fast hike partners who were so kind to wait for me and offered me food and kindness, the so cool guy and his dog who helped me top of my CamelBak coming down and offered me a few moments of peace watching a red tailed hawk I would have missed, and to Jeff for organizing such am amazing, life changing experience! Congratulations to all of the Six Pack achievers and all those who even did any of the peaks!