Round Valley Trail — Page 5

Mount San Jacinto's Summit

San Jacinto's Summit

Are brothers competitive? Maybe just a little. Despite the heat and elevation, My brother and I pushed the pace up the final section relentlessly, unwilling to give an inch.

Finally, below the jumbled blocks of granite atop Mount San Jacinto's summit, my brother pulled to a halt, saying he needed a rest. Victory! It will be only temporary, of course, as my brother is now on his way to a new home at 7000 feet in the mountains of Northern Arizona, a sure advantage the next time we meet in the high country.

Civilian Corps Stone Shelter

Civilian Corps Stone Shelter

Mount San Jacinto Summit Sign

Summit Crowds and Sign

Looking Down San Jacinto's North Face

Looking Down the North Face

Looking Down San Jacinto's North Face

My Brother on the Edge

But nonetheless today's round goes to the older brother.

Once my brother's heart valves stopped fluttering, we resumed the climb, passing a stone shelter built in the 1930's by the 'Civilian Conservation Corps', and still in use today by overnight travelers.

Past the shelter, the trail becomes a class 2 or 3-ish scramble up a hundred vertical foot section of granite blocks.

And then, with no further fuss, the trees part, revealing the summit blocks and a sign informing you you've reached the top.

The summit at the moment held a fair crowd of weekend hikers, all of whom were basking in the warm sun.

After the mandatory scramble atop the summit block, we worked our way a hundred yards or so to the northeast, escaping the crowds and finding a rocky premonitory that seemed to hang out over the north couloirs and the desert 9500 feet below.

I tentatively inched out along a rocky outcropping until I seemed to be floating out above the desert.

Surprisingly, I saw patches of snow still lingering in the couloir below.

Now was an excellent time to scout the north face of Mount San Jacinto for future ski possibilities.

The couloir did not look as steep as I expected—perhaps a modest 40° average in the steeper segments.

But the vertical drop...

Confronted with such a giant expanse of space, the mind struggles to form a coherent sense of perspective.

Inevitably, the brain compresses the distance, trying to get the view to conform to expected patterns of how the world is supposed to look. But no, there is no way to reconcile it, and so the vertigo becomes overpowering.

John Muir is said to have called the view atop Mount San Jacinto, "The most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!" Given Muir's legendary wanderings, that's quite an endorsement. I crept back from the rock and traded places with my brother to get a photo or two, enjoying his wide-eyed look as he cautiously stepped toward the void below.

The hike back down seemed to be quite a bit longer than the way up, and we were both covered in salt and sweat by the time we returned to Mountain Station, some two hours later. There, we washed up, grabbed some pizza and Gatorade, and sat on the station's balcony overlooking Palm Springs, two brothers on top of the world.

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