Holy C2C or What Have I Got Myself Into?

Five days to the Cactus to Clouds hike on Saturday, the day after I turn 39.

I had no idea that it was an UNSANCTIONED hike on an UNMAINTAINED trail.

Chad and I scoped the trailhead behind the Palm Springs Museum yesterday and hiked the first 35 minutes or so to the picnic tables at 1,000 feet. Only 9,ooo feet elevation gain and sixteen more miles to the peak. Will I make it? I consider myself normally relatively fit, but I am just back from three weeks of walking very slowly and lots of floating on my back in a pool. If I had planned better, I would have walked up the stairs everyday to the seventh floor – two or three times.

Then we headed over to the Palm Springs tramway, which will bring our leaden bodies back down to sea level at the end of the day. Not much to see there at the tram base: just a silly giftshop and a few tables outside under the misters. A round trip costs $21.95 and an unlimited summer pass costs $50. Rumor has it that it is free to ride down, if you didn’t ride up, but we didn’t bother checking. There is a restaurant at the top of the tram that we may consider eating at – I don’t know, we’ll see.

If we start at 5 am (to beat the sun), then we may be at the ranger station (top of the tramway) by noon. Plenty of time then to bag the peak (5 1/2 miles further up) and stumble back down onto a downward tram.

Here’s a blurb from backpacker.com:
5. Cactus to Clouds Trail Mt., San Jacinto from Palm Springs, CA Score: 80 Miles: 23 Elevation Change: 13,400 feet X Factor: Broiling temps
Sure, it’s a big deal to climb Mt. Whitney-but on the highest peak in the lower 48, you begin at 8,360 feet. To conquer Cactus to Clouds, you start on the desert floor and ascend 10,700 feet-a vertical half-mile more than Whitney. Two fun ways to put your pain in perspective as you churn up the unmaintained trail: The trek to San Jacinto’s 10,804-foot, boulder-strewn crown is only 800 vertical feet shorter than the climb from Everest basecamp to summit-and comparable to doing more than a thousand flights of stairs. Start before dawn, because temps hit triple digits more than 100 days a year, and there’s no water below 8,500 feet. But come prepared for wild temperature inversions and possible rain and hail up high; the worst scenario is to be forced to descend waterless in the ruthless afternoon heat. From the top, where you’ll see every major peak in Southern California and all the way to the coast, most people hike down 2,300 feet and take the tram back to town; the hike’s tough enough without adding another 8,000 feet of downhill. Contact: Long Valley Ranger Station, Mt. San Jacinto State Park, (951) 659-2607; Palm Springs Aerial Tram, (760) 325-1391

We’re putting together our backpacks for the day. We’re also borrowing some hiking poles.

So far:

  • 1 1/2 gallons water per person (camelbak plus water bottles and gatorade)
  • sandwiches
  • 3 L’arabars (Chad’s bringing 5 Tigermilk bars)
  • oranges
  • 1 # trail mix (dried fruit and nuts)
  • First Aid kit (paper tape, neosporin, ace bandage)
  • rain ponchos (could serve as “blankets” in case of emergency)
  • headlamps
  • extra socks
  • long-sleeve shirt
  • sunblock and lip protection
  • hat
  • bandannas (for nose-blowing, sobbing, and sundry)
  • pain-killers

Can you think of anything else we might need?

For another account of this hike, one that was published in the LA Times Outdoor section in 2004, go here. The author, Robie Madrigal, hiked to the tram top in November and writes with entertaining detail, especially about his fellow hikers.

Check out this view of the hike, Cactus to Clouds, or affectionately known as C2C.


More information can be found at hiking4health.com. To put the trail in perspective, there is a 67-year-old Rialto native, Cyril Keicener, who likes to do this 22-mile hike once a week; to date, he’s hiked it 181 times!!!

If I haven’t posted by the following Monday, call for help…

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