Ascent of Foster Point on 2021-05-02
|Others in Party:||Robert McSpadden|
|Date:||Sunday, May 2, 2021|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Car|
| Elevation:||5640 ft / 1719 m|
Ascent Trip ReportMonument Peak #1, Garnet Peak, Garnet Mountain, Garnet Benchmark, Hays Peak, Foster Point, Peak 5958 and Peak 5663
Total distance: 22.6 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,300 ft
Total time: 12 hours 30 minutes
Start time: 6:50am
Trailhead: Kwaaymii Point, just off Sunrise Highway, 17 miles northeast from Highway 8
Accomplishments by list: HPS #92, #93 and #94
Difficulty of hike: 7 out of 10. While long, at no point was it steep. The PCT is in excellent shape all along this route. The only bushwacking is between Garnet Mountain and Garnet Benchmark. There were heavy winds at all the summits and at many other points along the trail, which added a bit to the difficulty. But unlike Owens the previous week, I didn't make the stupid decision to leave my sweatshirt in the car.
Views during hike: 9 out of 10. The dramatic dropoff to the east all along the trail gave us incredible views down into Anza Borrego. For Garnet Mountain and Benchmark, that meant great views of Granite Mountain. At other points, the highlights were the other summits done on this hike (i.e. Garnet Peak from Foster Point, Monument Peak from Garnet Peak, etc.) At the high point of Monument Peak, we could see Cuyamaca and Stonewall Peaks to the West. The only downside to the views were the clouds that were rolling in as the day continued, blocking some views.
Ascent on the descent: way too much to recall. Ups and downs along the entire route.
People seen during hike: around 50 or so other hikers, backpackers and trail runners. Most on the PCT.
Animals seen: A small bunny in the last mile
I wanted to do one more 20+ mile hike before attempting a day hike of Big Pine Mountain in two weeks. I couldn't get the exact distance for the 3 HPS Peaks in the Laguna Mountains, but I approximated around 20 or so miles. With all the extra summits, it turned out to be 22.5, but the more the better. I invited Robert McSpadden, who I met at Hot Springs Mountain last year, to come along with me. This was his personal distance record.
From Kwaaymii Point, it's no more than 15 minutes to the summit of Garnet Mountain. It's easy to miss the turnoff from the "road", but once the climb begins, it's pretty straightforward. Didn't even break a sweat to get up there.
I wanted to tag Garnet Benchmark next before heading in the other direction, partly because some maps have that point as Garnet Mountain. It turns out to be a modest bushwack to get from Garnet Mountain to Garnet Benchmark. The point that's marked as Garnet Benchmark on Peakbagger doesn't appear to be the highest point in the area, but we tagged them all. To add to the adventure, the Southern Fire was burning in Anza Borrego, 3000 feet below us. As we reached the Benchmark, the smoke from that direction started getting pretty intense, and it looked like it was approaching the PCT below us. We decided not to stay at this point for too long, and rather than descend down to the PCT and possibly an active fire, to bushwack back towards Garnet Mountain. Eventually, we found a way to cut to the PCT and then return to Kwaaymii Point. We could still see the fire below us, but it didn't appear to be climbing up to the mountains. We decided not to abort the hike, but kept going and keeping a wary eye on the fire.
From Kwaaymii Point, we then took the Sunrise National Scenic Byway to the Pioneer Mail picnic site, then looped around to Garnet Peak. We took the main route up to this summit, which was a nice and gradual, if not a bit long, climb. I didn't see it right away, but we did pass the route called "Garnet Route Alt" by HPS, which climbs the ridge directly on the west side. We didn't really have an interest for this steep route, when the main one was more developed. As far as the summit of Garnet Peak, it was probably the most impressive point of the hike, with some very dramatic dropoffs right from the high point. Gotta be very careful up there, especially in strong winds.
After descending from Garnet Peak, it was several miles of PCT hiking to reach the next summit, Foster Point. If Foster Point was the only summit we'd do that day, the views would be incredible, but in comparison to the other summits, it was not that remarkable. The views of Garnet Peak were great, but they were even better at Peak 5958. It should be noted that there's an alternate trail leading to Foster Point, a bit south of the one with the sign for it. But the alternate trail hits the PCT at an angle that makes it easy to miss.
Past Foster Point, the PCT drops a bit before climbing close to Peak 5958. A small amount of cross country hiking is needed to reach this high point, but the views are worth it. It's also the top of a beautiful ridge running to the north into Anza Borrego, which would be quite an adventure to climb or descend. Maybe another day.
After Peak 5958, we were running low on time, but had at least 2 more summits in front of us. (My original plan was to go all the way to Stephenson Peak, but that was abandoned by this time.) The one that sticks out from the trail next is Hays Peak. We made the decision to climb Hays from the northwest, and that was the right call. The scramble was the most fun part of the hike. The rocks were solid, it was all Class 1, and there was basically no bushwacking. The views from Hays match the views from Monument, but without the towers, and with basically none of the foot traffic.
Heading southwest from Hays, if the use trail is found, the descent towards Monument Peak is straightforward. Past the saddle, there is a short climb towards the helipad, at which point the use trail joins the main trail, which quickly joins the paved road that heads to the summit. This was not as adventurous as the other summits of the day, but it was the high point of the whole hike, and thus it arguably had the best views. We shared the summit with another group of 3 hikers that were on their own 13 mile hike from a different direction.
From the summit of Monument back to Kwaaymii Point was a 10 mile return trip. I had 3 other minor peaks saved on my GPS that we could have done, but we only went with one, Peak 5663. And this was a good choice too, as the views of Garnet Peak and Monument Peak were spectacular. We didn't stay long here, and the clouds were really rolling in by this point. But this is definitely a recommended detour if you're in the area.
Of the 8 summits of the day, the ones with registers were Garnet Mountain, Garnet Peak, Hays Peak, Monument Peak, and Peak 5663. Garnet Benchmark may have had a register (or even a benchmark), but we didn't see it because we were in a hurry to leave due to the smoke. Peak 5958 had a nail that may have been a benchmark, but not a proper one, and no register. The register on Monument Peak was well hidden, to the point I thought there wasn't one. So I was going to leave a register I brought with me, before finding the one that was already there. I left the notebook anyways.
|Summary Total Data|
| Route Conditions:||Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble|
|Ascent Part of Trip: Laguna Mountains|
Complete Trip Sequence:
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by David Sharg
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