Up San Gorgonio We Go (and Down We Glissade)
April 30, 2017
Redlands, CA to Mt. San Gorgonio, up the mountain and back to Redlands.
Greg picked us up at 4:50 am in Redlands. We ran out from our room at the Goodnite Inn, after preparing from the night before and starting again in the morning at 4:30 am. The hike was life-changing.
Ice ax training made me dream of glissading and self-arresting down the slopes of Minnesota instead of sledding or skiing next winter. We started by digging out a hole in the snow to set our packs and to settle ourselves before upright glissading into self-arrest. Then, Greg sent us down the hill upside-down and backward. We still stopped ourselves. If you can imagine: staring down a mountain slope while laying on your back, headfirst, with a guy you just met the same day holding on to just one of your feet. Without warning he releases you and tells you "wait, wait, wait until you really pick up some speed," before giving you the go-ahead to use your ice ax to flip yourself around and (hopefully) stop your slide. To add to the spectacle, Alex and I are wearing bike helmets that we already had on-hand rather than opting for purchasing brand-new climbing helmets. To my shock and delight, we stopped ourselves. We all stopped ourselves—me, Alex, and Deanna (a JMT hiker who we met in the parking lot). We stopped ourselves every time.
I cannot express the level of confidence I felt after training with Greg. Not just because we were able to self-arrest. We started the day already tired from yesterday's 15-hour drive on next-to-zero sleep, followed by a 1,000-foot nearly vertical climb over one mile of trail. After the vertical we climbed up and over a nearly vertical snow field, alternating between duck walking straight up the thing and making our own zig-zaggy switchback pattern. This was my first time using crampons and I was exhausted, lagging behind everyone. We came to a plateau, took a lunch break, and it was time to start training. We trained on self-arresting for two hours, hiking back up the hill and sliding down again. Yet, despite the intense physical exertion that it took to get us up Mt. San Gorgonio, here I was, sliding down snow slopes, digging my ice ax into the snow and throwing my body weight onto the pick. I sucked at first and then, finally, something clicked and I understood what to do. I feel 1,000x better about the Sierra. It feels like we've finished the last piece of our puzzle in preparing for the Pacific Crest Trail and now we can finally relax.
Weather was unbelievable today. It was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. After our hike to the top we sat on a beautiful vista and ate. Greg and Deanna were great. Greg is a TV producer; Deanna a physics teacher. Fun fact about Deanna, she hasn't just been on 'The Price is Right', she's actually won stuff on 'The Price is Right'.
Greg dropped us off at the hotel after we picked up some Chester's hot fries and water at the gas station. We went to bed without dinner, ready to start our three days of relaxation before we face our insane decision to try and hike 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada.