Ascent of San Gorgonio Mountain on 2011-06-11

Climber: James Barlow

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, June 11, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:San Gorgonio Mountain
    Elevation:11499 ft / 3504 m

Ascent Trip Report

Trip Report - San Bernardino County, CA, San Gorgonio Mtn (11,499), 11 June 2011

To start off with my cliché trip report intro line: What a perfect day for a hike!

While this mountain has been climbed thousands of times and is one of the more popular hikes in Southern California, I don’t see a lot of reports from Fish Creek on peakbagger and all of the cohp reports are for Vivian Creek and South Fork. So, this one would make a good addition to the CoHP page…

I didn’t request a permit until Thursday morning via fax. My first choice of trailheads was Vivian Creek (denied) and my alternate choice was Fish Creek (approved). Since I didn’t have a map in front of me at work when I put in the request I had no idea the road to Fish Creek was rough dirt. I figured that out Thursday night when I go home and looked at the map… Anyway, here is the link regarding permits for the San Gorgonio Wilderness: I picked up the permit on Saturday morning before the Mill Creek ranger station opened.

From here, you can link to the pdf’s for either a day hike or an overnight stay. I would recommend choosing a primary and alternate trailhead so that you can go on your desired date. When I called the ranger station on Friday, they told me that my second pick (Fish Creek) was approved and that there were no available day hike permits for the next few weekends for Vivian Creek. I can only assume that overnight permits are booked out for a while. If you can make it up here on a weekday, you will likely have a much easier time getting a permit. Permits can be picked up at the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone, CA 24/7 or mailed/faxed to you if you apply earlier and don’t want to drive up via Mentone.

From SR-38, to reach Fish Creek Trailhead, turn south at the Heart Bar Campground turnoff on to Forest Road 1N02. After about 1.25 miles the road forks. Take the right fork, Forest Road 1N05. There is a sign for Fish Creek (and a few other locations) pointing to the right fork. Follow this road until just past the Mission Springs Trail Camp. Just under half a mile beyond Mission Springs Trail Camp, there is an unsigned dirt road forking to the right. Take this for about 0.1 miles to the Fish Creek Trailhead. If you have the Tom Harrison map for the San Gorgonio Wilderness (, you should be able to find the trailhead ok. I made it to the Fish Creek trailhead in a Toyota Yaris (low clearance 2WD) without any difficulty. It would probably be difficult for cars like mine after rain, but on a good dry day like yesterday it was passable, I just had to navigate around some rocks and ruts in 1st gear very slowly.

The Fish Creek Trail is well-maintained and easy to hike. I didn’t see a single person after I left the trailhead until I arrived at Fish Creek Saddle where there were 2 people camped. I met another group of 6 sliding down the snow just past Mine Shaft Saddle. Less than half a mile past Mine Shaft Saddle, I cut up an awesome snow slope the final 1,000 ft to the summit. An ice axe is needed, but it could probably be climbed without crampons. Since I carried my crampons all the way up here, I chose to use them. It certainly made the climb easier. The snow slopes took me right to the summit. There were only 2 other people there who I chatted with for a few minutes before they began their descent to Dollar Lake. Unbelievably I had the summit of Southern California’s highest peak to myself on a Saturday in June! 4 more people showed up after a few more minutes while I was eating my lunch. Still, not too crowded for a weekend in the summer. The Forest Service has placed a nice summit register on top, so I signed it and was on my way. I sat down at the top of the northern snow slopes and slid 1,000 feet down to the trail near Mine Shaft Saddle on my butt. An ice axe is definitely required for this descent or else you could lose control too high up on the slope. My max speed for the hike was attained on this slide down, 17.2 mph!

After making it to Mine Shaft Saddle, I took off my snow pants and put away my ice axe and headed for the minor peak to the north. After walking over this peak, I headed for Lake Peak, on the HPS list. It has one of the red can registers found on so many California peaks. I signed in and headed towards Ten Thousand Foot Ridge, another HPS peak. This peak has great views, though not as good as on top of San Gorgonio. There are a lot of downed trees on this peak, not sure what caused that. I can see my house from here! Well, I actually can’t, but I can see Yucca Valley and 29 Palms, but I’m sure if I had a telescope I could. From the summit, I made my way back down to the pass between Lake Peak & Ten Thousand Foot Ridge. From the pass I headed northwest directly to where the trail meets Fish Creek at 9,200 ft. A bit fatigued, it took about an hour to reach the car. I made great time up San Gorgonio, but really dragged ass over Lake Peak and Ten Thousand Foot Ridge.

Trip stats:
Mileage: 15.2 miles
Max speed: 17.2 mph
Moving average: 2.3 mph (a bit slower than usual)
Moving time: 6 hrs 32 min

Link to pics

James Barlow
CoHP #56
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3539 ft / 1078 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3539 ft / 1078 m
    Route:Fish Creek Trail to North Face
    Start Trailhead:7960 ft / 2426 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: San G '11

Complete Trip Sequence:
1San Gorgonio Mountain2011-06-11 a3539 ft / 1079 m
2Zahniser Peak2011-06-11 b120 ft / 37 m
3Lake Peak2011-06-11 c321 ft / 98 m
4Ten Thousand Foot Ridge2011-06-11 d294 ft / 90 m
Total Trip Gain: 4274 ft / 1304 m

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