Day 11 route overview
Swinging around from Camp 4, you’ll head west toward Tahquitz Peak along a thin and epic slope which if covered in snow will also require spikes and an axe due to freeze-thaw in the night. You’ll then hit an expanse of forest which if snow is covering the trail and you’re the first hiker on the snow, you’ll find it easy to lose your way. Knowing how to use map and compass may be essential to navigating your way west toward Saddle Junction where you’ll leave the San Jacinto Mountains for a short break in Idylwild, the first major town to visit on the route.
Already at one of the highest points of the day, once you reach Saddle Junction and turn left towards Idylwild, it’s a steady descent to town for a few hours of switchbacks and long straight sections of trail.
A frosty morning
Upon opening the storm doors after an incredibly cold and windy night on the mountain, I looked at my gear to find it had completely frozen. I proceeded to wear my trail runners while frozen with my waterproof socks on to thaw them out for about 20 minutes before heading off with a stunning sunrise over the valleys below.
The lost hiker
Working my way around the fresh snow-covered trail I worked along a thin and steep section of trail before a voice to my right shouted “hey, I need help! Can you help me get out of here?” I looked over to my right and there was a shivvering man stood by a rock. “I’ve been here all night, I fell down a slope and lost my tent poles, I hit my SOS button but I don’t think anyone is coming!” he muttered as I got closer. The slope he fell down was one of the slopes I traversed the day before around mile 170. He didn’t have an ice axe or microspikes, it was the hiker I’d been leapfrogging two days before who I saw yesterday. He said his name was John.
Leading John to safety
I took a look at John’s Garmin InReach device and saw he’d pressed the SOS button, but had failed to confirm the rescue on the device. I dialled 911 and confirmed rescue, but John was determined he no longer wanted the rescue and wanted me to lead him out. I didn’t know his state of health, whether he was injured or not, but we agreed with Mountain Rescue to meet them halfway, so I advised John how to kick steps into the snow and shorten his pole on one side to make things easier.
Cutting our steps as I went, I led him west towards Saddle Junction where about halfway, the Mountain Rescue Team appeared out of the forest and I left John with them.
Heading down to Idylwild
After leaving John with the rescue team, I made my way swiftly toward saddle junction, I attempted the South Ridge Trail which follows the north face of Tahquitz Peak, but the slope was so steep, covered in deep snow, I decided to head back for Saddle Junction and make my way down Devil’s Slide to Idylwild where I checked into the Silver Pines Lodge and necked a couple of well-earned beers.