Riverside County Highpoint Trip Report

San Jacinto Peak (10,804 feet)

Lykken Trail ("Cactus to Clouds") route (10,300 feet of elevation gain)

Date: Memorial Day weekend 1997
Author: Adam Helman

Note - this is a non-standard route. Please refer to Suttle's book on climbing the California County Highpoints for information on normal approaches to this peak.

Edward Earl and I had previously hiked up San Jacinto from the west (starting elevation 6,400 feet; 4,400 vertical foot gain). This time our goal was the daunting task of climbing 10,000 vertical feet and/or two vertical miles in one day. Owing to its prominence and proximity to our homes in San Diego, an ascent of San Jacinto Peak from the desert floor fit the bill.

Subtraction of two miles (10,560 feet) from the summit altitude suggested that a two vertical mile ascent must start no higher than 244 feet above sea level. Unfortunately that would place us more than a dozen miles from the mountain's base and would necessitate a bicycle ride as preface to the hike. We opted to neglect the two mile concept in favor of 10,000 vertical feet: the mountain's base (actually Palm Springs) would allow for a 10,300 vertical foot gain.

On Saturday, after our drive from San Diego, we rode the Palm Springs tram up to its terminus at some 8,400+ feet. We then hiked within the high, alpine valley (Round Valley) some 2 miles to a secluded spot at around 9,000 feet. After noting our GPS coordinates, we cached gear for a possible overnight stay in the event that we would not find the time to hike out after our mammoth climb the following day. We rode the tram down and camped for the night.

Sunday was the "big day". We commenced hiking at 4:30 AM from the McDonald's parking lot in downtown Palm Springs, each of us toting about 1 1/2 gallons of water and a descent amount of food. We took the Lykken trail as described in the literature.

The east face of San Jacinto was warming up at perhaps the same rate that we could avoid the gathering desert heat by climbing to higher ground. Thereby the ambient temperature remained at a tolerable level the entire time.

We reached the rim of Round Valley near the tram terminus just after 12 noon and spent some 75 minutes performing tasks such as water replenishment and rest. We resumed our trek, some 4-5 miles remaining to the summit. The route was far shallower since we were now inside Round Valley. The summit was attained just prior to 4 PM.

I looked back east towards Palm Springs and marveled at how far we had traveled: some 20 miles horizontally in addition to a vertical gain of 10,300 feet.

We retrieved our gear and took the tram down.

Other mountains where two vertical miles in one day are possible include Mount Rainier, Kilimanjaro, and Denali. Two vertical miles in one day on any of these would require an extraordinary level of fitness and acclimatization.