Trip Report, Wed, 11/22/06, Advice for First Timers

General Palm Springs area.

Trip Report, Wed, 11/22/06, Advice for First Timers

Postby john m » Wed Nov 22, 2006 9:06 pm

Three weeks ago, I did my first Cactus to Clouds summit with Cy Kaicener and Yicchus showing the way to the tram. It was a leisurely pace of 8 hours to the tram and I was easily able to go to the SJ summit alone after leaving Cy at the tram. I felt great afterwards, and hardly tired.

Today, I returned to do the Skyline Trail only to the Tram, by myself. I had decided I would try to set a "time to beat" for myself on the Skyline Trail. Big mistake.

The first four hours were great. However, somewhere around Flat Rock (just before the really steep part), I hit the wall. The last two hours of almost straight up trail climbing with increasing altitude, were very rough. I stopped frequently. In the end, it took me six hours to get to the Tram but I paid the price as I was extremely tired. The exertion was extreme. There is no way I could have continued to the SJ summit and back. As I write this from home, I'm more tired than I can recall from any hiking trips in quite some time.

I mention this for the benefit of those who check this board regularly and are considering attempting this trail. The reputation of the Skyline Trail is fearsome. However, on the right day, at the right pace, with the right weather, it is doable for those with good hiking experience and in excellent condition. My two hikes demonstrate the right and wrong way to hike this trail. A reasonable "pace" is absolutely key to success; I had forgotten how important the correct pace is.

If you are reading this and considering attempting this trail over the Thanksgiving holiday, contact Cy; he is going up Saturday morning early. His pace is absolutely excellent, the conversation is great and his experience will help you. Do not become impatient with the slower pace as it will see you through to success in comfortably reaching the peak and back to the tram. In addition, he knows the trail well. Today, I found myself very fatigued and yet having to concentrate hard on trail following in the sketchy, steep, top section, a far cry from just following Cy three weeks ago.

Further advice to first timers, in addition to hiking with a trail veteran like Cy, would be to have sufficient long hike experience and be currently in very good shape. I am 50 and in the last three years have hiked SJ from Idllywild about 22 times, hiked San Gorgonio from Vivian Creek about 7 times, done the Mt. Whitney day hike the last two years, and spent a few nights on the JMT around Mammoth. If you can do San Gorgonio from Vivian Creek or the Whitney day hike with a smile on your face at the end of the day and not much fatigue, you should be fine for Skyline, provided you are current on your conditioning.

The weather today was perfect with mild temperatures and a sun that stayed in the high clouds. No wind on the trail (although it was strong at the Tram) and absolutely not one person on the trail. If you have been thinking about trying Skyline, I would highly recommend it with weather like today's, if you do it with a trail veteran, and meet the other criteria above. You'll do fine and the feeling of accomplishment is huge.

I'm off to the hot tub to soak my aching body and next time I'll treat the Skyline trail with more respect and take care to set a comfortable pace.
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Advice for first timers

Postby Cy Kaicener » Thu Nov 23, 2006 5:13 am

John - I think you were pushing yourself because of a fairly late start. You were planning to leave at 6 am. The sun drains one's energy more than anything else. Also hiking on your own must have made you apprehensive with no one else to distract your attention.
Everyone stops a lot after Flat Rock. Short breaks are good. If you stop too long you stiffen up in the legs. No matter how often I do this hike, it still kicks my butt. You did great - nothing to worry about. Very few people that I take for the first time come back for seconds, especially so soon afterwards. I can tell you are going to be a regular on this trail, maybe even become addicted like I have. Also, if you set yourself a target of doing at least 5000 ft elevation gain every week, you should have no problem. At my age I have to raise the target to 10,000 ft gain a week which means an additional smaller hike on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
. Please visit my website at www.hiking4health.com for more information especially the Links.
http://cys-hiking-adventures.blogspot.com
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Postby magikwalt » Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:24 pm

Great post John,

I did Skyline for the first time back on Nov 16th and had the same result. At 4 hours (8:00am) I pulled on fresh socks and grabbed a snack at 5000ft where a flat headstone looking rock sits at the edge of the trail. From there the trail drops about 400ft before starting the long climb to flat rock.

I felt really good through the first 4 hours and didn't feel the fatigue until I started past flat rock. Slowly it seemed like I was stopping every chance there was. Having hiked the trail once before as a young Marine and having read up on it extensively before going I felt confident. After the traverse towards Coffman's Craig the trail heads up but I seemed to be off trail and gully scrambling most of the way to Round Valley. The young Marine inside my almost 50 year old body remembered the hike being easier!

I made the Tram in 8:45 hours but certainly wasn't going further. I am thinking about going again on Dec 2 and want to think through the pacing issue more. I have noted that some folks believe that the start of the Shady Area equates to about 1/3rd of the trip time wise. I was wondering if someone would care to suggest a 2/3rds marker for time. Would it be Flat Rock or still higher??
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Advice for first timers

Postby Cy Kaicener » Thu Nov 30, 2006 3:15 pm

Magicwalt - The top of the shaded switchbacks would be about one third of the way. The drop after half way is only about 100 feet. Two thirds would be before Flatrock. After Flatrock you gain about 2500 feet in only two miles.
. Please visit my website at www.hiking4health.com for more information especially the Links.
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Postby marmot » Fri Dec 01, 2006 5:54 pm

i think 2/3 the way would be right at the 4900' saddle in terms of mileage, from the saddle to the flatrock was about 2 miles, then 2 miles uphill to RV. or so it seemed anyway...
Last edited by marmot on Fri Dec 01, 2006 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby marmot » Fri Dec 01, 2006 5:56 pm

come to think of it, Cy probably is right.
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