Up and Down the Mountain in Two Days

Sunday, May 7 – Monday, May 8, 2023

31 miles

We woke up early, packed up, and walked a mile up the road out of town to the Deer Springs Trailhead. This would start our ascent up Mt San Jacinto, the second tallest peak in Southern California and highest on the PCT before the Sierra.

This trail went up 4.1 miles to Strawberry Junction at 8000 feet where it met with the PCT.

We turned left on the PCT to continue northbound and soon the snow started to be more frequent. The water was flowing great with all the snow melt, so we never carried more than a couple of liters.


Soon it was time to put on the Microspikes to help us get some traction. Later, the ice axes would come out.


We trekked on until we came to Fuller Ridge. This is notoriously difficult in snow and I am definitely glad we had ice axes. We would not have attempted it otherwise. There were a couple of younger hikers doing it with just poles, but that is not advised.

Ice axe would come in handy

I don’t have much from the hard parts, as you had to be completely focused and in the moment every step of the way. If we fell, we wouldn’t have died, but definitely could have gotten hurt in some parts. I self arrested with my axe twice and Chainsaw (John) did three times. It took us about 2-3 hours to get fully done with the ridge.

Here’s a fun glissade (sliding down on our butts) though.

Chainsaw with proper ice axe technique (axe on the uphill side)

We finally got to the other side of the mountain and started descending. We had some amazing views of Mt San Antonio (aka Mt Baldy) and Mt San Gorgonio in the clouds on the way down. These mountains are part of the horizontal range above Los Angeles.

Mt San Gorgonio
Cool clouds

We got to camp at a lovely sheltered spot next to a creek below snow line. There was no wind and the sound of the babbling brook was nice to fall asleep to. This would not last.

The next morning, after the wind decided to rage starting at about 1am, we got a slightly late start on the remaining 16 mile hike down the mountain to Interstate 10. This is a huge 7000 foot drop to the valley floor and the second lowest spot on the PCT.

The rate of descent is actually very gradual and the trail winds around the mountain faces FOREVER. We would also pass the 200 mile mark.

Looking back from whence we came. Chainsaw is just visible at the bottom of the pic.

We finally got to the famous high pressure water faucet at the bottom several hours later and refilled water and soaked our hats for the remaining 3 mile flat walk to the I-10 underpass, which marks the end of PCT Section B. This was actually just as brutal as the descent. The wind was relentless and we had to trudge through a dry, sandy riverbed that was reminiscent of walking on Mars.

Snow Creek water fountain
Brutal ending
San Jac peak (center) and Fuller Ridge (right)

But we eventually made it and we’re greeted with trail magic of cold Rolling Rocks to end the day!

Cold beers after a very long day. Thank you trail angels!

The guys got picked up by their wives at the underpass to go stay in Palm Springs for a couple of days and I miraculously got an Uber back to Idyllwild (45 min drive back up the mountain). I will have another couple of zeroes there while I wait for Court to meet me and then have a long Palm Springs weekend of our own.