Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

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Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby cynthia23 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:18 pm

Some sites I've seen state 'the season' for doing Cactus to Clouds is May through October. This is extremely dangerous misinformation. Skyline, the first and hardest part of C2C, should NEVER be attempted during the summer months. This is when we have most rescues, and several deaths as well. People who try to do C2C in summer don't understand several important points:

1. Failure to grasp that on a summer day here when the temps in the valley will exceed 92, you cannot abort your hike. Many people, especially first timers, fail to complete Skyline due to exhaustion. At four or five thousand feet they simply can't keep going up. November through May this is not a problem; they turn around and go down. In the summer, this isn't an option. If you bonk at 4k on Skyline in June, there is no plan B. Your only choice is to call for a rescue. If you attempt to descend, you will be walking down into temperatures so high that heat exhaustion is a near certainty. At this point, most people call for a rescue. Those who don't, die.

2. Failure to grasp the importance of the nightly LOW temperature. Many people who want to do C2C in summer think that if they leave at 3 or 4 am, when it's 'only' 81, 87, or 89, they'll 'beat the heat'. They reason that, back in San Diego or Washington, they've often done long hikes or marathons on days when the temp was 87. Yes, that was the HIGH that day--meaning MOST of the day, the temps were in the 60s or 70s. On Skyline, you will be hiking roughly at that 87 degrees all day long--yes, you'll be climbing higher, but the temps will rise with you. Most people have never experienced what it's like to exercise strenuously in the 80s for six to eight hours--their previous experience has been only maybe thirty minutes at that temp. Within an hour, you will start to feel ill. It's brutal and draining and literally sickening. The cardiovascular system has to put most of its resources into cooling down the core, and you will thus move very slowly. You will lose huge amounts of minerals via sweat, and commercial electrolytes cannot replace them all. Most people drink too much water, which leads to hyponatremia, or too little, which leads to dehydration. Both result in muscle weakness, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Vomiting and diarrhea are quite likely and further strain the body. Muscle cramps begin, and you can't keep hiking. The CVS system may begin to be unable to keep your core temp stable, and you will start to experience heat exhaustion. What does all this mean? That someone hiking Skyline in June is far, far more likely to bonk than a hiker in January--even though June is one of the months you must never, ever bonk on Skyline.

3. Failure to grasp the importance of ground temps and stored heat. Skyline is a giant pile of rocks, and during the summer, they store heat overnight. As soon as the sun rises, they begin to radiate heat. Ground temps have been measured at 140 degrees, even when the ambient temp is only 100. There is no shade or trees until the last thousand feet. Skyline in summer is like a giant tilted pancake griddle. You are the pancake.

4. Failure to understand the difference between dehydration and heat stroke. I've heard people say 'if I just carry enough water, a summer Skyline will be safe." Water is not a magic elixir that prevents heat stroke. You can be hydrated and still get heat stroke. Some of the people who died on Skyline were found with full bottles of water. Unless you can carry enough water to physically immerse your body--i.e. a swimming pool--you cannot 'carry enough water'.

5. Failure to understand, or remember, how incredibly hard Skyline is. It's eight thousand feet of gain in eleven miles, people. I doubt even one percent of Americans are fit enough to do it. Are you sure you're in that one percent? Sure enough to risk your life? What about the people hiking with you--are you sure about them? (And don't tell me you are hiking alone.)

6. Failure to think through the moral implications of a possible rescue. Rescuing people on Skyline is dangerous, usually involving helicopters. How will you feel if someone loses their life trying to save yours? How would you feel if the friend you hiked with was dead by the end of the day? There is someone who is living with that right now.

conclusion: Don't hike Skyline in the summer months. Just don't. The proper, appropriate time to do Cactus to Clouds is November, sometimes into early December, and then March and April. December through March the trail has snow and ice, but it can be done safely by those with good alpine skills. By contrast, summer Skylines are never appropriate or safe. Please, do yourself and everyone else a favor--hike somewhere else during June through October. We'll see you in November!
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby Wildhorse » Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:42 am

It is a very fine warning. It is hard to mess with.
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby David W » Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:31 am

Critique my C2C thoughts. I haven't done it, maybe someday, and not in summer. I get enough (tripe digit) heat down here in Hell Centro.

I have played with a mister while outdoors in the heat here in the desert, and I think Zippetydude did it with a mister, seemed to work well.

Other thought is to carry enough water/Gatorade and snacks to last the night (weight might be an issue of course)...if you run out of gas, can't make it, camp out in the shade (big rocks?) for the day and descend after dark or when the sun gets low. I've done that going to the Devil's Punchbowl - Cedar Creek Falls near Ramona.
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby Hikin_Jim » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:22 am

David W wrote:if you run out of gas, can't make it, camp out in the shade (big rocks?) for the day and descend after dark or when the sun gets low.
Shade? On Skyline? There's a couple of scraggly pinyon pines at like 5,000', but that's not much in the way of shade. You don't really hit shade until about 7,000'.

It sounds like you're pretty accustomed to the desert. You might actually pull something like that off (camping in the shade and descending at night). A person coming up from relatively benign areas like most of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, just isn't going to make it -- if they even had the presence of mind to think of something like that.

Even people from Inland Empire counties like SB and Riverside don't know the kind of heat we're talking about here unless they live beyond the mountains and out in the full desert areas. Downtown San Bernardino just isn't hot, not really, not when you compare it to something like downtown Palm Springs. Maybe a 10 or so degree* difference doesn't "sound" like much, but when the air temps are above your internal body temperature (typically 98.6 Fahrenheit), every degree counts. The body has a real hard time shedding heat when under exertion in the sun and the outside temp is warmer than the internal body temp.

HJ

*This Saturday's high is predicted to be 99 F in San Bernardino and 111 F in Palm Springs per the US National Weather Service.
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby mattytreks » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:59 am

It's not an accident that the number of hikes I've done in my career decreases significantly in July and August.

We live in Southern California, people. It's important to be smart in high heat. Live to hike another season = happy life.

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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby cynthia23 » Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:27 pm

Wow, very cool and informative graph MattyTreks. HJ, you raise an important point about how hard it is to 'imagine' the difference ten degrees of temp can make. As you say, it can be huge.

Mattytrek's calender reminded me of a simple reason that I think we have so many summer rescues on Skyline--it's people's summer vacation from their jobs or school. I've heard people say 'but it's the only time I have off, to come to the area". People have frustrating economic and logistical limitations that restrict when they can make it here. I get it. But unfortunately the mountain does not. Maybe you can trade vacation time with a co-worker and arrange your vacation for November instead of July. If not, well, I'm truly sorry--but that doesn't change physics and hard climate realities. You can't hike Skyline in summer just like you can't climb Everest during monsoon season. That's life on Planet Earth. :)
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby David W » Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:35 pm

After the "no shade until the top" comments, and looking closer at it on google, I'm less interested...I have plenty of hot rocks to climb on closer. I go to the mountains for cool weather and big, shady trees. I think I'll stick to driving up them.
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby mattytreks » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:43 pm

cynthia23 wrote:Wow, very cool and informative graph MattyTreks.

Thanks Cynthia! Makes me glad I've kept over 12 years worth of hiking trip data in an Excel file. It's so fun to look back over all the information and notice trends and patterns.
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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby scottmac » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:38 pm

Amen, Cynthia.

Spread the word ...

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Re: Cactus to Clouds June through Sept is a DEADLY idea ..

Postby Sose » Fri Jun 03, 2016 4:51 pm

Yeah! What she said! For the sake of your loved ones, leave it alone till cooler days.
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