Took a hike yesterday I'd been looking forward to for awhile: from the top of the Palm Springs Tramway to the peak of Mt San Jacinto.
The peak is at 10,834ft altitude. The PSTramway got us up the first 8516ft.
From the tram, you hike DOWN into Round Valley (losing around 300ft of altitude) to a ranger station to get a hiking permit. The ranger asked if we had any ice spikes for our shoes, which we didn't. He said, "gonna be real slow, then." Nice.
The first mile or so wasn't bad. Perfect weather (above freezing and even mild in the sunny areas), clear trails, big rocks, and majestic pines.
It wasn't long before the snow began to creep up to the trail.
...and then the snow WAS the trail. Follow the footprints, try to avoid the icy parts (no ice spikes on our shoes). The option was to go a foot or so off to the side and tromp through the snow. That avoids the slippery ice, but some of the snow was DEEP. I sank up to my knees several times, up to my waist twice. Slogging uphill in deep snow is even harder than navigating uphill on ice. It was slow, slow going.
We eventually made it to the Wellman Divide, the first ridge where we could see over to the southwest side of the mountains. Luckily, it was in the sun so the snow had melted off it and we had a dry place to take a break. The guy next to me is my buddy Dave, who went with me. We left his wife and my husband back at home, both of them fighting off the colds that we gave them a couple days before. Both of us were still trying to shake off the last of our colds ourselves.
The view from up here was awesome.
From there, we had 2.3 miles to go, so we were more than halfway to the peak. We were only at 9100ft altitude, so the last couple miles would go up another 1700ft, or 170 flights of stairs. The trail went into the sunny side of the mountain here, so the snow seemed to be going away for now.
From here, we could see the tram station. I mentioned how nice (and awesome) it would be to have a zip line to take us back down there, instead of having to hike back. Seeing it way off in the distance brings home how far you've come... and we are only just a bit more than halfway!
As we climbed higher, we loved the views, the sunshine, the look back at all the snow we'd already navigated, and the total LACK of snow where we were. Things went much faster here, even though we were gaining altitude pretty rapidly. The thinner air up here is absolutely a factor, as you've got to really pant to get as much oxygen as you'd get breathing normally down in the valley. Fatigue sets in quickly.
...and then it got steep, right when the snow came back. Dammit. Sure is pretty, though.
Just before the peak, there's a little stone cabin to provide shelter in case you get stuck in bad weather up here. There are first aid supplies, a couple of bunk beds, and a few other things.
Made it! 10,834ft up (total climb around 2500ft from the ranger station valley). From here, you have a 360deg view of awesomeness. The last bit involved a little stint of scrambling up rocks (rather than trail) but it wasn't too bad.
It took about 4 hours to get to the top, which isn't bad for 5.5 miles of ascent and icy conditions. Only took about 2.5 hours to come back down. It was worth it for the views!