PCT Day 4: Mt San Jacinto

Day 4  5-22-2015  Sleep 2200-317
Miles 159.7-204.8

Woke up to rain drops dripping on my head.  It was 3:17am, 43 minutes before my alarm.  I figured I might as well get up, get going and finish the road walk section before too many cars were out.  It was windy with the rain kind of spitting, which made for a cold morning.  I was on the Hurkey Creek section when I clipped a low hanging branch.  It grabbed my rain jacket (must have just been a funny angle) and I heard a loud rip.  Looking down, I let out a slight curse, but kept moving.  I had a foot long gash in the torso section of my jacket.  When the rain let up for a bit, I took the jacket off and taped it with duct tape.  It didn’t really hold and I could tell was not going to be a long term fix.  The next thing I did was check my phone for cell service.  Bingo, searched outfitters and found “Nomad Ventures” in Idyllwild only 1.9 miles off the trail.  At the store I was also able to pick up a thermal top and some wool socks.  I didn’t have any warm layers yet, as I thought I was going to be hot in the desert. 
Fuller Ridge in the fog and rime
I got out of town and had a wonderful, fog engulfed, spitting rain/snow traverse of Mt. San Jacinto.  The nice thing about being cold, whether you are tired, hungry, thirsty, you are constantly reminded that you are cold.  The best way to get warm; is move and move faster.  I think this helped me make quick time around the mountain.  Finally, in the afternoon after descending the Fuller ridge a bit, the sun came out and warmed me to the bone.  I stopped at one windy spot and was able to dry out my gear and my feet really quick.  My feet had gotten pretty soggy and it was nice to have them dry and hard again.  In sitting there, I was staring up at Mt San Jacinto in aw.  It was a gorgeous peak, half engulfed in cloud, the other half baking in the sun.  I couldn’t believe I had just traversed this peak.  I daydreamed about skiing it.  The North had two or three basins that had many chutes that came together into a massive run-out.  I would imagine if we got the planet some few degrees colder and a good snow year; you could ski the beast from the peak ~10,800 all the way down to ~1,800 feet.  9,000 feet of gloriousness.  Haha yup, this is what I dream about. 

All the way down there, then back up
Ski mountaineering was a big part of my training.  During the winter I averaged about 5k vertical climbing everyday with ski’s on my feet.  This not only got the legs, lungs and heart in shape but also keeps the fat off and makes the transition to running much easier.  All of this hiking was done at an elevation of ~8-11k feet, which helps get you used to the high elevations faced in the Sierras.  The PCT is claimed to have 450k vertical for the entire 2,650 miles.  That is 170 feet per mile average and thus in a 50 mile day you should average 8.5k vertical feet.  So basically, for four months straight through (it would be five or six months, but it just didn’t snow this year) I was doing about two thirds the vertical I would have to do on the PCT.  That kind of training gives you the confidence it takes to tackle such an endeavor.  However; descending on ski’s is much easier than in shoes.  I made my way on what seemed like a never ending descent.  I thought for sure in an hour and a half to two hours I would have made it down to the highway.  Well I ended up giving up on the notion of making the highway tonight and found a nice little camp spot cut into the side of the hill.  I was tired, it was a long day and I was supremely satisfied once more, this time with how I handled the adversity of ripping my jacket and some cold wet weather. 
I thought an all night tour was great training for the PCT; Aaron Rice before the sunrise
Mt San Jacinto


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