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So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/25/2010 21:40:04 MST Print View

Okay, I am not big on group hiking. To be more exact, I have never hiked with more than 1 partner, and that is rare.

This May I am going to do the "Desert Skyline - PCT - Jo Pond Loop" again. I think it is one of the best 3-4 day loops in the U.S. and it is right here in So Cal. Right now I am thinking Memorial Day weekend. But leaving the trailhead on Friday morning around 5:00 AM.

Here is my trip report from last year:

Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond

Last year I did this on Memorial Day weekend. Left at 5:00 AM Friday and got back to Palm Springs around 5:00 PM Sunday. The reason I spent Friday night in the San Jacinto State Wilderness was because I didn't want to try and do it Saturday night on a holiday weekend.

This is pretty strenuous. I did it in 3 days last year, but I would be willing to do it in 4 days:
Day 1 - Desert Floor to Round Valley
Day 2 - Round Valley to San Jacinto Peak, then back down to somewhere on the PCT.
Day 3 - PCT to Cedar Springs
Day 4 - Cedar Springs to Palm Springs.

What you need to be prepared for:
Daytime temps on Day 1 & 4 could be around 100F.

Day 1 & 4 will probably require starting out with 6 liters of water for most hikers.

Night temps if camped in Little Round Valley or Round Valley likely to be in the 40s.

Total loop is 61 miles. Elevation gain/loss is 10,400'/10,400'

You need to be in good shape. You should proably do a 5,000' elevation gain hike a week or two prior. But it is not that bad... I will turn 60 this year.

You are going to need a very light base weight.

What you need to know:

IMO, this section of the PCT is the most beautiful hike of the PCT south of Kennedy Meadows.

The first day's hike is one of the steepest in the U.S. (so you get bragging rights). You will go through 5 climatic zones (so I am told). Except for one section, there will be few people on the trail.

Permits are required, so I want to firm up plans by the end of March.

If interested or any questions I will try to answer them.

Edited by ngatel on 02/25/2010 21:41:04 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/25/2010 21:56:13 MST Print View

I'm interested, but I'm likely unable to take Friday off (as a teacher it's pretty bad form to take the day before the holiday weekend).

How far out of Palm springs is the trailhead? What's the mileage on day 1? I suppose this largely depends on whether you make it a 3 or 4 day trip.

I'm just wondering if it's feasible for me to drive out after work (I'm off at 2 PM) and catch you that night. Solo night hiking is fine with me.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/25/2010 22:29:59 MST Print View


Don't know how many are going to be interested. I would be fine doing Sat - Mon. Just have to get permits early. I can do it another time too. Timing is critical as it can be too hot in June and lingering snow in April til the beginning of May. Last year there was still a little snow at 9,000 feet at the end of May.

The trailhead is in the dead center of downtown Palm Springs, behind the Desert Museum.

Right now I am just getting feedback, and I am very flexible.

Day 1 one mileage to the peak and then down to Little Round Valley is almost 18 miles. Plus it is about 10,500 feet up. Going to Round Valley is more like 13 miles, with around 9,000' gain.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: Re: So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/25/2010 23:56:38 MST Print View

I'm interested, but I've committed to another backpack trip Memorial Weekend. How solid are you on that weekend?

Aaron W
(ADW245) - MLife

Locale: Chula Vista
So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/27/2010 00:19:50 MST Print View

I am interested.

Are you one upping the bay area BPL’ers. They hike 5miles to a beach drink beer and grill things. Your trip idea has more altitude gain and loss then most mountaineers do.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/28/2010 02:03:00 MST Print View


Any time works for me, I have tons of vacation time every year, but limit it to one week at time. I just threw out that weekend, as it requires a minimum of 3 days, plus it really needs to be done in May. Earlier requires dealing with snow and ice, and later will potentially put us into temps that could hit 110F or higher.

Edited by ngatel on 02/28/2010 02:03:43 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May on 02/28/2010 02:06:17 MST Print View

Not trying to one-up anyone. :)

I cannot think of any 3 day loop in California with more varied terrain and views. This is an epic trip of short duration. You just need to make sure you are in good condition.

Pieter Kaufman
(Pieter) - F
Interested on 03/02/2010 12:33:44 MST Print View

Count me as very interested.

I haven't done miles/elevation like that in a long time, but with over two months to go, and a lot of planned trips between now and then, can I say I'm apprehensively optimistic? My current recent max is apx. 15 miles at 3,900 ft gain/loss at moderate level of difficulty, surrounded by shorter but more strenuous and technically challenging trips.

I know it's not a holiday weekend, but the previous weekend would work better for me personally, but I could try to shuffle plans around to accommodate Memorial Day weekend if necessary.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Interested on 03/02/2010 18:40:27 MST Print View

I thought I'd let this thread run for a couple of weeks more and then see who is really interested and then finalize plans. Heck, maybe I'll just do it two weeks in a row :)

Pieter if possible it would be good to do a hike the week before with a gain of around 5,000 feet. However, if one is in good shape and has no altitude problems then you should be okay.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Interested on 03/02/2010 18:54:09 MST Print View

I'm still considering this trip if you end up starting on Saturday morning (I'm up for super early and could make the drive) or if there's a way to catch up on Friday night. I just don't see any way for me to hit the trail before 5 PM on Friday considering traffic from LA (I work in Culver City). If you did the Sat. morning option I could come out on Friday night and sleep in the car somewhere to get an early start. In this case I'm good as long as I could be back home on Monday night.

Don't change or shorten the trip on my account. I'll lurk until it looks like you have enough of a group to decide the official time/day.


The more I think about this trip, the more I like it (bigger miles and a whole 'lotta scenery- these are the solo trips I usually do). I'll do what I can to try and make it work. Let me talk to my family tonight. Thanks for putting it out there Nick.
If I can't make it with you, it's definitely made my list.

Edited by xnomanx on 03/02/2010 19:15:47 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Interested on 03/02/2010 22:31:05 MST Print View


the Satuday - Monday timeframe makes the most sense. It would probably be best for you to get a good night's sleep and then leave around 3 am. No traffic and you will get here around 5 am.

We really need to get on the trail by 5. Good chance highs in the desert will be around 100F. But by noon we will be well over 5,000 feet up.

For many people, doing the C2C is a big goal. But when we are done, I think you will agree that descending from the high country and hiking south on the PCT towards the Desert Divide is the most impressive part of the trip. Since most PCT through hikers do this from south to north, they miss the vanatage of the unfolding vistas as you hike south. The last section, the Jo Pond Trail, will take use from a thick grove of incense cedars down to a large palm oasis. The variety of flora, fauna, and geology on this section is mind boggling. Once done, C2C was a nice accomplishment, but days 2 & 3 are really the icing on the cake.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Interested on 03/08/2010 08:58:44 MST Print View

If you're willing to do the Sat. through Monday trip count me in. I spoke with family and the time frame works fine for me.
I'd likely go ahead and do what you suggest- hit the road at roughly 3am (I'm a fisherman, no stranger to awakening and driving at ridiculous hours!).

If there's greater interest to go on Friday, don't change on my account though.

I'll PM you since this thread's been quiet for a little while...

Timothy Sexton
(Tijos1) - F
wow!!! on 03/08/2010 09:51:28 MST Print View

I would love to take part in this trip. The Saturday - Monday thing seems great. my problem is I will have to be home Tuesday morning for school so I cannot do the 4 day trip, but 3 days would be just fine and dandy.
In terms of prior experience I have completed cactus to clouds twice and I love that hike.
One quick question: How long does it take you to complete cactus to clouds?
If I do join the group on this trip I would want to leave at 4 a.m. to avoid the desert heat. I HATE THE HEAT!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Update on 03/09/2010 22:33:18 MST Print View

Okay it is Sat - Mon (May 29-31), so lets plan that. I will give everyone a couple of weeks before sending for permits. We will be checked for permits, so lets make sure everyone who wants to go speaks up.

Also, lets discuss a couple hiking options for Day 1.

Camp at Round Valley about 3.5 miles from the peak and hike to the peak Sunday morning. We will then have to hike back down a ways to continue our loop.

Camp at Little Round Valley. This means summiting the Peak Saturday, and then hiking about a mile down the other side of the peak to Little Round Valley. Sunday morning we would have to go back to peak and down towards Wellman Junction. This is what I usually do.

Also there is probably going to be snow on the peak that weekend. We have had large amounts of snow so far this year. There is still about 3-4 feet of it at 8,500 feet. Last year there was still a fair amount of snow at the end of May, but it was easy to hike. We really won't know for a while. Even if there is a lot of snow, trails should be well established. Possibly of crampons would be needed, but I doubt it.

Start time. Unless we have a hot streak, temps in the desert that time of year are maybe a high of 100F. But starting at 5 am, we will have a good 6 hours of hiking before it would start to get hot, and by that time we will be several thousand feet above the desert floor.

Since everyone but me is driving some distance, I wouldn't want to start too early, because folks are not going to get enough sleep. Not a great thing to do a hike with a 2 mile elevation gain with little sleep. But I can easily do whatever time the group feels is best.

You are going to love this trip. Just make sure you are in tip-top shape.

A couple folks asked about doing this a week earlier, and I was toying with the idea of doing both weekends. But some friend of my wife, who I don't even know, is getting married on the 22nd, so I am stuck with that.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
LAST CALL on 03/15/2010 20:58:27 MDT Print View

I am going to mail permit requests this coming weekend (State & Federal required).

Dates are Sat - Mon (May 29-31). 3 people are in. Craig W, myself and a local here in Palm Springs.

Let me know by Sunday if you want to join us.

Aaron W
(ADW245) - MLife

Locale: Chula Vista
"So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May" on 03/22/2010 14:25:59 MDT Print View

I am interested. I work the weekends so I need to see about getting the time off.
Sat to mon works best for me.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Aaron -- Re: "So Cal BPLers - Skyline-PCT-Jo Pond Trip in May" on 03/23/2010 03:37:56 MDT Print View


I sent in for the permits last night. But you are more than welcome to join us.

Dates are May 29-31 (Sat-Mon).

You will need to get your own permits... you need two. You get them from the appropriate websites. The State one you fill out the PDF online, print it and mail it. The federal you print it and mail it.

1. Calif San Jacinto Wilderness
2. San Bernardino Nat'l Forest San Jacinto District.

One the State permit:

On the Vehicle License you can put down dropped off at PS Desert Museum, since it is not a trailhead.

Location of entry is Long Valley.
Location of exit is Wellman's Cienega.

Planned overnight camp location is 5/29/10 Little Round Valley.

Alternative campsites would be
Tamarack Valley
Round Valley

On the Federal one, you just need a hiking permit, as we will be sleeping outside the wilderness area, at or near Cedar Spring.

Start Date is 5/30 and end date is 5/30.

Location of entry is PCT via Wellman's Cienega.
Location of exit is PCT south of wilderness area.