“Adventure Timing with Telegraph’ is a monthly adventure brought to TUBE.
from The Telegraph Hiking Club. Happy exploring!”
Mt. San Gorgonio
Mileage: +/- 18 miles
Difficulty Rating: Strenuous
Elevation Gain: 5,422’
When to check it out: Year-round for the adventurous, or June through October to avoid the snow.
Housekeeping: An Adventure Pass or National Interagency Pass is REQUIRED to park year round at the and rangers do issue tickets daily. All hikes in the San Gorgonio Wilderness require a free day use or camping permit. You can apply online at least 5 days before you arrive or hope free day use permits are available at the trailhead.
The Lowdown: As you may have noticed, the Sierra has been on lockdown with some epic and much-needed snow. We wanted to escape the North, but still have a true Winter alpine adventure, and we decided to meet some of the crew in Southern California to climb their tallest summit, San Gorgonio.
At nearly 11,500 feet, Mt. San Gorgonio, also known as “Old Greyback,” is a true monster in the San Bernardino Mountains and great training for any Sierra climb. As we have learned over the years, you can plan everything except weather and the weather gods were not playing nice when we arrived in Southern California. That was okay, however, because we were in Los Angeles and decided to hang back a day explore iconic Griffith Park for the day, another article for another day.
Friday morning there was a two-day break in the weather so we packed up the Subaru and jetted from Burbank to the small town of Forest Falls, California. The recent storm left a winter wonderland, and snow had fallen below 5,000 feet. The small town had turned into a giant snow park, and it seemed like the entire city of Los Angles traveled up Ole Greyback to make snow angels. Despite the traffic, we still managed to score the last parking spot and threw the Interagency Pass in the window. At $80 a year, these passes are true gold and pay for themselves with 3 trips to Yosemite. They can be used anywhere an Adventure Pass is required.
Today’s trail was Vivian Creek Trail. It is the shortest way to the summit at 9 miles each way, and the most popular trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. In the summer, this trail is covered with day hikers, but winter provides a true Alpine experience which limits your company. Whether you visit in winter or summer, this trail is not for the noob or the faint of heart. The first mile is slow and gains you less than a thousand feet to Vivian Creek Camp. After a wooded respite, you enter a steady climb to the summit. The snow was deep and fortunately, an early group cut a trail for us. Always thank the trail cutters, it can be a thankless and challenging pursuit.
Despite the great weather, the recent storm left waist-high snow just above camp, and little opportunity for a good summit bid. We kept pushing, and after another mile decided to spend the cold winter’s night at Half Way Camp only 3 miles up the trail. By evening, there were four groups all hoping to make a summit push, but when the 3 AM wake up alarm went off, everyone in camp decided to call it a draw and leave the summit as another adventure for another day. After all, the goal is not to get to the top but to make it safely back to the bottom. Until next time… Take a Hike!
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Words, Photos and Video: Joey Miller