The Six Pack of Peaks are a series of increasingly higher and harder peaks in southern California. Starting with Mount Wilson, known for its Observatory and ending with San Gorgonio, the highest peak in all of southern California, this challenge benefits Big City Mountaineers and provided me with hours of hiking and bountiful rewards.
Mount Wilson: 5,710′, 14.4 miles, 4,200′ elevation gain – felt hard when we did it but now I look back and think, “5,701′; how adorable!”. It was extremely buggy and the summit is the Observatory’s parking lot so it’s not terribly exciting. This trail was a loop and the part after the peak was much longer than the climb.
Cucamonga Peak: 8,859′, 11.6 miles, 4,300′ gain – except that my GPS said is was 9,068′. 13.3 miles, and 4.465′ gain so…the peak was super cool. It was crowded and there was a 10 minute or so wait for our peak photo, but it was epic. This was our first “out and back” and I found that I much preferred knowing was coming on the way down.
Mount San Antonio (known more commonly as “Mount Baldy”): 10,064′, 10 miles, 3,900′ gain – eh. This was our second loop and I disliked it as much the second time. We went up the steep way and down the Devil’s Backbone and past the ski resort. While it was nice to stop briefly at the ski resort to use the bathroom, the walk down was brutally boring.
San Bernadino Peak: 10,649′, 16.5 miles, 4,702′ gain – this was the first peak that required a permit. We got permits for San Bernadino and San Gorgonio by fax (sorry, what century is this?) about 4 weeks ahead of time. I really enjoyed this hike – it was long and hard, but the peak was gorgeous and it was the first time we hiked through manzanita flats. They were almost like prairies filled with manzanita bushes, some prickly bushes, and these bushes that smelled just like chamomile tea. This peak was also an out and back.
San Jacinto Peak: 10,834′, 11.4 miles, 4,689′ gain – this peak actually required a permit, but it’s only available from the ranger’s station the day of. There were about 10 people in line in front of us when it opened at 8am and it was nice to use a real toilet before we headed to the trailhead. The drive to the trailhead was a tough one and I actually saw a 4 wheel drive Jeep get stuck in the lot. San Jacinto felt like a breeze compared to the much longer San Bernadino two weeks prior. Despite the permit, the trail was fairly crowded and the peak was a zoo. It was really fun climbing boulders to the very top. Another out and back which made me happy!
San Gorgonio: 11,503′, 18 miles, 5,840′ elevation gain – the beast! We had worried about this guy (Old Grayback) for weeks. Described as five discrete sections, two of them were killers. It was a long, long day and I got the worst altitude headache about an hour below the peak. It wasn’t debilitating, but it wasn’t super fun. It took until the next morning and a lot more water to go away. But! We did it!