The 8 peaks of San Jacinto has been one of my summit project adventures that is been in the works since earlier this year. The idea of doing an all-out summit of all the 10,000+ peaks in a day would be a test of knowledge up in the mountains and how well I can traverse and navigate based on the topography of the terrain. There is very little information about an all-out summit of the San Jacintos, being able to do it my way seems more adventurous and rewarding. That I did, It was fun doing numerous adventure trip up the San Jacintos to map out a route little by little and doing overnight camping trips helped improved my backpacking skills while mixing in my ultra-marathon training while being up in altitude.
There was a total of seven 10,000+ peaks that I have to summit in the San Jacintos which is Miller Peak, Jean Peak, Shirley Peak, Marion Mountain, Newton-Drury Peak, Foley Peak, and San Jacinto Peak. For some reason, I didn’t think 7 peaks is enough and thought it would be even better adding a rock climbing peak, Cornell (9,860 feet) to the mix, making it a total of 8 peaks. My plan was to start at the Mountain Station in the Palm Springs side and work from there.
A lot of trial and error along with multiple trips including a 5 peak summit adventure, I was able to dial in on the right gear and with a lot of rock climbing and scrambling, I need to be as light as possible carrying the minimal essential gear, there was no room for error. The list of the gear includes:
Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest
2 L Water Bladder
2 18 oz Water Bottles
Black Diamond Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Headlamp
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket
2 Redbull Energy Drink
1,000 calorie worth of CarboPro Powder
2 Starbucks Bacon Gouda Sandwich
July 10, 2016
8:25 AM – Game on
I filled out my day permit and it was game on, no turning back. All of the 8 summits or bust, it was exciting and had a race atmosphere with all the preparation and planning leading up to this day. I went on and took the bush whacking route known as the Sid Davis then cut off once I got close to base of Cornell Peak. From my previous trip up Cornell, trekking poles are useful on this area since it is a steep incline getting to the base of Cornell.
9:30 AM – # 1 Cornell Peak
I got to the base of Cornell and looked for a spot where I felt comfortable to start my climb to the summit block. I have done a standalone adventure up Cornell previously in the winter and it’s a fun Class IV climb. It is not until I signed the summit registry that I realized that many who reached the summit block have multiple attempts in their belt before they were able to accomplish this feat and earned the right to put their name and thoughts in the summit registry of Cornell Peak.
One down 7 to go, I took my time and safely descended down the peak. I connected back to the Sid Davis route, not many know about this route and in my opinion it is the most scenic route with the best alpine scenery throughout the whole San Jacintos, as long as you do not get lost. The time it took to summit and go down Cornell Peak ate up majority of the day since going up this peak is a whole day adventure on its own.
1:18 PM – #2 Miller Peak
The last section of the Sid Davis route cuts straight through and connects back to the main San Jacinto trail, summiting Miller Peak was straight forward since it was not too far off located on the second switchback leading up to San Jacinto Peak. Out of all the peaks, Miller has the best view of the Desert Floor down below and the Gorgonio Mountains. 2 down, 6 more to go, I went back to the main trail and headed towards the saddle leading to the next one.
2:35 PM – #3 Jean Peak
Lots of Boulders and scrambling is the best way to describe the saddle leading up to Jean Peak. From a distance, the boulders looked like tiny pebbles and an easy climb up the summit, as I get close the tiny pebbles slowly turn into behemoth boulders. On the way up, I saw another hiker going down from Jean Peak heading towards back to the main trail.
The hiker turned out to be a Sierra Club Hiker who completed all the 100 peaks not once, but twice and was here to do a 3 summit route Newton-Drury, Jean Peak, and San Jacinto Peak. The hiker looked really worried, “No time, you can’t do it, it will be dark by the time you get to Marion” was his response after mentioning I was going for an 8 peak route. I got even more excited and wanted to finish this even more. The hiker wished me luck and I continued making my way up the summit of Jean Peak. There was a nice rainbow cloud as I got up and took the opportunity to take an epic summit picture with the rainbow cloud behind me. The nice thing about the summit of Jean Peak, it is like the eye of the storm located right in the middle of it all with the view of all the alpine scenery and all the mountains that I needed to summit. I spotted Shirley Peak, chugged a Redbull and ate one of my bacon Gouda sandwich then scrambled my way down the boulders.
3:13 PM – #4 Shirley Peak
Descending down Jean Peak towards Shirley Peak felt like I was inside a pinball machine as I went down bouncing like a pinball through the boulders and bushes. It made sense why the Sierra Club hiker I met earlier smiled and laughed when I asked him what it’s like going down to Shirley Peak and told me “I can’t tell you, you have to experience it” It was a relief getting out of the maze of boulder fields then being able ascend up towards the peak.
Once reaching the summit, I had a great view of the whole Idyllwild side; I found and signed the summit registry then took the “picture or it did not happen” shot. Unfortunately, the “never a dull moment” struck out of nowhere and a strong gust of wind suddenly send my phone flying down the boulders below.
The good news, it is on a LifeProof case and the bad news, I have no idea exactly where it landed since it was bouncing from one boulder to another as it went inside one of the cracks. After about a half hour later of going under and squeezing underneath the boulders, I was able to locate it unscathed. It took a lot effort and I ended up chugging down my 2nd redbull drink then headed onward towards the next mountain.
4:05 PM – #5 Marion Mountain
It was a change of pace getting to Marion Mountain from Shirley Peak, since it’s mostly downhill and flat, but this was inside the dense timber forest with all the trees blocking and obscuring the view. It was difficult to tell whether you’re in the right direction or not, but having a compass or the coordinates dialed in Marion mountain solves this problem. I made it out the dense timber forest towards the base of Marion Mountain and the climbing begins all over again.
At this point, all the climbing and scrambling is starting to take its toll in my arms and legs. I tried to minimize the damage by avoiding and going around any boulder and fallen tree logs whenever there is a way around it. A little past 4, I finally made it up, having to spider walk up between two huge boulders which was really fun and took the obligatory Marion Mountain summit shot.
I was able to sit back and relax while taking in the view until reality struck, I can see San Jacinto Peak and it was a long distance away. My doubt sets in and wondered whether I can really summit all of the 8 peaks since I was low on time. I quickly set that thought aside and shifted focus on to the next, Newton-Drury Peak.
5:03 PM – #6 Newton-Drury
I was able to cover a lot of distance running down towards the base of Newton-Drury until I saw the actual peak that I have to summit. Newton-Drury Peak looked like an impenetrable mountain fortress with boulders as it walls, just looking at it seems intimidating. At this point, I thought I was going to be spending the night up the San Jacintos Mountains, but I needed to put up a fight and try to siege the mountain fortress. I rethink my approach and looked into the topography map. I decided to gamble on a spot on the far right side where I hope there wouldn’t be as many boulders, but I needed to hike a little bit more to get there. It was an effective and decisive move, the fortress was weak on the far right side; it was steep, but not as many boulders compared to taking it head on.
I slowly made my way up and eventually making it to the summit, I felt done at this point, but seeing a lone little pine tree up the summit sitting next the summit registry growing on top of the boulder and wondering how in the world did a tree grow through a boulder. The little tree was a never give up symbol and gave me hope to keep going and try to get to the last 2 peaks, Foley and San Jacinto Peak.
7:02 PM – #7 Foley Peak
I went with my planned route to get to Foley which was descent northwest from Newton-Drury Peak while avoiding the habitat zone and headed towards a gully that eventually connects to The Little Long Valley Ranger Station from there, go up Deer Springs and was planning on cutting off the trails after a mile and work my way climbing ridgeline towards Foley Peak.
There was one problem, I couldn’t handle another ascending bushwhacking bouldering session at this point and had to make a last minute adjustment on the fly by going all the way up towards the base of San Jacinto Peak then work the ridgeline by descending towards Foley which adds another mile and more elevation, but a less strenuous approach.
As much as I would like to avoid climbing rocks at this point, it was unavoidable to get to Foley, I slowly made my way up the summit. The view up Foley was a sight to see, I was above the clouds and my fatigue slowly dissipated, it was worth the climb and revitalizing. I signed the register and wrote “1 to go, San Jacinto Peak!”
7:58 PM – #8 San Jacinto Peak
I was like a shark that smelled blood at this point; I can’t be stopped from getting where I want to be, San Jacinto Peak. I was on a summit hunting mode, hopping quickly from one boulder to another. Eventually, I got to the start of the class IV climb of San Jacinto Peak where the winter mountaineer route S2C (Snowcreek to Clouds) is located.
After a half hour of climbing, I finally made it up the summit of San Jacinto Peak and was greeted by a golden sun setting over the horizon. I been up the summit of San Jacinto countless times to the point that I do not count it anymore, but it never gets old, its always special summiting San Jacinto. As John Muir wrote, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!” All 8 peaks of San Jacinto provided me with that view, it was an epic way to end a successful 8 peak adventure that took months of planning, it had a little bit of everything from running to navigating down to rock climbing.There were no medals or 100 mile buckles, but I felt the same feeling of accomplishment just as when crossed the finish line of an Ironman or finishing a 100 mile race.