March 22, 2015

Thank You Alto Vista Peak – You’ll Do Just Fine!

Alto Vista - The One

Being bitch slapped by the mountains is kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have a plan – meticulously crafted by the ego – that choreographs your grand summit. Here simple alpine fundamentals take a backseat to visions of self, standing high upon a pinnacle overlooking mankind. Then there’s reality. Or all the little details that spring-up while you dwell in fantasy during your trek. Wait, what? Oh, I didn’t think of that.

For us Southern California flatlanders, San Gorgonio is kind of a Grand Teton. Even though we can’t see it from Orange County (unless standing on Santiago Peak), it’s always beckoning. So when I signed the day hike permit, the vision was simple. Get to the top. The pinnacle. What else is there?

I began to look a little more into the details. My route from South Fork to the summit and back was 21 miles with around 5,000 feet of ascent. No big deal. Hell, I’m an ultra runner, I thought. I’m invincible!

San G - The Elusive One 
The first couple of miles were amazing. Meandering single track with some great glimpses of San G. I was so sure to bring my Olympus Pen camera that I hung it around my neck so I could get the best shots without having to dig into my pack. The pictures I was getting were amazing! I’m not sure if was the 10th or 11th shot when I noticed something blinking in the view finder. “NO CARD.” “NO CARD.”

Santiago Peak - The Flatlander's Vantage Point
Whatever. Since I didn’t have my GPS, I was calculating my distance by landmarks along the way. Two miles, four miles. What I didn’t calculate were the snow drifts. A step here. A slip there. A contorted epileptic move here and there. Finally I reached Dollar Lake Saddle at 10,000 feet, 7.4 miles in. It was covered in snow. Hell, I thought, this is where the real climbing will begin! After taking a few shots with my phone, I moved further up the snow to get to the trail. Wait, what?

From Alto Vista Peak
No trail? I looked around feverously. For footprints, snowshoe tracks, coyote droppings, anything. But there was nothing. Then it hit me. The two and a half mile trail to San G summit was completely buried under several feet of snow. Details.

Wait. What? 
At this point my vision of pinnacle grandeur was fading into just bagging any old summit I could find. So off I marched, heading due west, the opposite direction of San G, but toward the many peaks along the 10,000 foot ridge. I finally found one. Alto Vista Peak. I stood on the “pinnacle” for a few minutes, soaking in everything I could.

Thanks Alto Vista Peak. You'll do just fine.

1 comment:

Jukka Kukkonen said...

Nice pics! That's a lot of snow. We don't have any at the moment.