Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Cactus to Clouds March 3rd
Display Avatars Sort By:
Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
Cactus to Clouds March 3rd on 02/07/2013 10:34:42 MST Print View

I find that I have to be in Palm Springs on the weekend of March 2/3.

I've had my eye on the Cactus to Clouds for a while, and was planning to do it in September this year.

Does anyone know if early March is a feasible time to attempt this? I'm from the UK, so not familiar with high altitude SoCal weather at that time of year.

I'd be solo ultra-light hiking, if that is feasible. Clearly if it will be snowcapped and I'd be post-holing the last few miles, I'll prolly give it a miss.

I've Googled, but can;t find anything definitive about the climate.


Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Cactus to Clouds March 3rd on 02/07/2013 15:02:39 MST Print View

feasible - yes.
also technical and dangerous. I don't know your skill and comfort level.

Call the SJ ranger station for up to date forecast and trail conditions.

The snow will still be there till about April, most will melt away in late may or June.

Melted snow refreezes at night into ice. Unless there was a snow storm the night before, you won't be trail blazing. there is regular foot traffic to keep it stomped. but it will be slippery.

The weather at Palm Springs might be 70F, then the top of the tram station could be 30 degrees cooler = 40F, then to the top of San J subtract another 20 to 30 degrees, bringing it to 10F to 20F summit temp. then figure out wind chill factor.

This weekend we're expecting some rain or snow.

Nick G, is a Palm Springs local and is more of an authority.

PS: The permits are a pain between all the jurisdictions. The tram to SJ summit is managed by the State and charge fees. But if you approach from Idyllwild, it's Fed national forest, you still need a permit but it's free. they do have a car parking permit called Adventure Pass ($5 per night, or $30 per year)

Call the Idyllwild ranger station: 951-659-2117, or county: 909-382-2921
San Jac ranger station: 951-659-4880

And I hope you won't need their help, but the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit: is a good resource on where and how people get in trouble. Contact them - often times they know the trail and weather conditions far better than the phone clerk at the ranger desk station.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Cactus to Clouds March 3rd on 02/07/2013 19:47:02 MST Print View

Nobody at the SJ Ranger station will give you any information about the trail below Long Valley (that's the first 10 miles or so of the trail, and the first 8,000 feet of elevation gain). That part is called the Skyline Trail, and it is not considered an official trail by any agency.

In March, the traverse from Grubb's Notch up to Long Valley is usually serious ice. Also the mile before Grubb's Notch is often treacherous. We're talking real crampons, ice axe, and the requisite skill to use them. By the time you hit all of this you will have traveled about 8 miles and gained 7,000 in elevation.

So, not advisable unless one has serious mountaineering skills and the equipment to go with it.

I hope you realize that Cactus to Clouds is 17.5 miles and over 10,000 feet elevation gain. Plus if you think you are going to do it in a day, you have return 5.5 miles back to the tram.

We have had quite a bit of snow the past couple of weeks and it may continue.

I did this in March a few years ago during a low snow year. By the time you get past 7,000 feet you basically have passed the point of no return, unless you started out with a couple of gallons of water or can melt snow/ice. Before I got to Grubb's Notch I was in a serious situation, the ice was that bad. There was no snow or ice until around 7,000 feet because that portion of the mountain gets a lot of sun. The rest is heavily wooded and gets little sun in winter. As soon as I got to the shaded area, there was several feet of snow and it was mostly ice. At this point I knew I was probably beyond my skill level -- there wasn't much choice or options. I was solo, did make it safely to the tram, but it was the scariest situation I have ever been in. I will admit, I was beyond my skill level. I had crampons and an ice axe with me and had to use them.

You may want to consider just taking the tram up and going to the Peak and back to the tram, 11 miles round trip. Don't underestimate this mountain because it is in southern California.

Here are a couple "fair weather" trip reports that might provide you with some information: San Jacinto Loop

Weather: PS Tram Weather

There used to be a lot of good recent information here. I haven't checked it out in several years.

San Jacinto Forum

edited to fix url links.

Edited by ngatel on 02/07/2013 19:50:35 MST.

Marcus Dyson

Locale: Yorkshire, UK
Re: Cactus to Clouds March 3rd on 02/08/2013 01:00:50 MST Print View

Roger, Nick,

Thanks for the comprehensive and useful information.

I'm more of a fast endurance hiker - I have done Grand Canyon Rim-Rim in 8 hours, Portal - Whitney - Portal in 9.5 hours, and Happy Isles to Tuolumne in a day, so I believe that I am capable of the ascent and distance - in good conditions.

I have experience up to 18,500ft, with crampons and axe, but always as part of a group, and roped where necessary. Since I'll be solo, and since planning for this would add considerable complexity to what is already a whistle-stop visit, I'll give it a miss. I'll be back in September (permits allowing) to have a go (and be aware that then, temperature and dehydration will be my risk factors).


Edited by DoctorDee on 02/08/2013 01:04:01 MST.

janos mathiesen
(janosm) - M

Locale: phinney ridge
Just finished on 02/22/2013 18:09:47 MST Print View

Just finished this hike today. Grubbs notch, even if icy has no sections with any real exposure. If it was indeed sheet ice crampons would be helpful and micro spikes more than likely enough. Maybe I am used to cascade conditions but I was surprised at the overall safety of the trip considering I was nervous about finding a run out and exposed section when I was that far in. It is indeed a strenuous and taxing hike (I am sitting in my hotel room in a vegetative state:)) but did not really strike me as technical. That being said I respect every bodies individual comfort zone and this hike, like any hike of this length, should be taken seriously.