San Gorgonio Mountain via Vivian Creek Trail, November 23, 2007
Below is a brief report and photos of the trip up to San Gorgonio Mountain via the Vivian Creek Trail by Tyler and Troy Schemper and Mark Vander Pol.
We met at the Mill Creek Ranger Station around 8:00am to fill out a wilderness permit and started hiking around 8:30ish. There were a few cars in the parking lot and we passed a few parties early on and then played leap-frog with a few people on our way to the summit. We ended up being one of the last groups down the summit that evening, although around 3:30pm we met some people at High Creek Camp who were getting ready to attack the summit pretty much in the dark! There was a glorious full moon shortly after it got dark which probably made it easier for that group to summit.
The Vivian Creek Trail is a very popular trail for attacking San Gorgonio Mountian, although some have called it the hardest hike in Southern California! It starts at 6,080 feet and ascends to the peak (11,502' - the highest peak in Southern California) in 7.8 miles passing three wilderness campsites on the way. It is an absolutely gorgeous hike and the photos below don't do it justice!
Starting out from the parking lot in the morning.
If you cannot tell, that is ice in the stream! The car thermometer read 30 degrees when we started out! There will be more on the weather below.
There was water flowing in Vivian Creek, not a lot but a good amount considering the small amount of rain the area has received the past six months.
Looking up coming out of the Vivian Creek Camp area.
Looking across the valley at Dobbs Peak (I think!).
Especially at the higher elevations this is what the trail looked like most of the time. Here we are making our way up the switchbacks after High Creek Camp.
San Gorgonio Mountain was hidden from us until we rounded a ridge. Actually the peak itself is still hidden but the little peak on the left is just a little lower than the actual high point.
The hike up to this point was an absolute joy. The trail was not very steep and the views were incredible. Shortly after this, the trail got quite a bit tougher, not least of which was due to the fact that we were over 10,000 feet and the weather got considerably colder as we started to get into some wind. The weather for most of the trip thus far was perfect for hiking, in the low to mid forties in the sun and a little cooler in the shade. Since we were on the south side of the mountain we got quite a bit of sun. Once we got around to the eastern faces of the ridges the wind began to hit us and it got cold quickly. We were all prepared for it to be cold, so that wasn't a worry. A guy we met coming down from the summit said his little thermometer was reading 28 degrees on the summit, not counting the wind-chill, which I would estimate dropped the temperature to the low teens at the least.
Looking north from the summit towards Big Bear.
Troy on the summit.
Mark on the summit.
Unfortunately Tyler had to stop just over a mile from the summit, so he didn't make it up.
The sun setting behind some trees.
Photographers call the time right before sunset "the golden hour" because the warm light given by the setting sun. You can see why in this photo!
The sun setting behind Oak Glen Peak (or thereabouts!). At this point we were about a mile from Halfway Camp and about 3.5 miles from the cars. It remained light for a little while, but by the time we got to Halfway camp we were hiking with the aid of headlamps. We finally arrived back at our cars at 6:45pm, all quite exhausted.
Overall it was a great trip and it was one of the toughest, if not the toughest hike I have been on yet. 5,422 feet elevation gain in 7.8 miles. This means overall 695 feet per mile. The only hike I have done with more was Mt. San Antonio via the Ski Hut which was 758 ft/mile. But that was almost 1,500 lower in elevation and we came back down via "The Notch" which was easier on our knees since the last 3 miles is on a fire-road.