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Sean

Leatherneck Ridge (Palm Springs)

Leatherneck is the next ridge north of the popular Skyline route. It begins near the visitor center in Palm Springs and climbs over eight thousand feet to Long Valley in the San Jacinto State Park. There is no trail. And depending on which particular route you take, the climbing can reach a difficulty of around class 3.

Henry had been dreaming of doing the ridge from the bottom, ever since he previously hiked the upper half starting from the tram station. And Dima had recently returned to town, looking for something to do, after completing a weeklong bicycle ride to San Francisco. So we all left my house at 1am on Thursday, having accomplished a sum total of maybe four hours of sleep between the three of us. We reached the Visitor Center around 2:30am. The lot had "no parking" signs posted prohibiting parking between 7pm and 7am. So I parked in a turnout across the street.

We managed to prep and depart by headlamp at 2:45am. Crossing the valley floor toward the base of the ridge ate up about forty-five minutes. When we finally reached it, the slope was a very steep pile of rocks and slabs, which offered some fun class 3 action. By 5am we had gained a couple thousand feet and the eastern sky was beginning to brighten.



As the sun decided whether it would rise or not, we continued scrambling over the boulders and outcroppings.





Around sunrise we stopped briefly and took in the sight of the long, seemingly expanding ridge.



We happened to settle down with a baby rattlesnake, still slumbering on a rock about six feet from us.



The bumps along the ridge had turned a nice, reddish brown in the new sunlight.





We had started so early in the morning to beat the forecasted 100-degree heat in Palm Springs that day. At 2:45am it had been about 75 degrees. Now a few thousand feet up the ridge at 6:15am, it was still cool with mild and occasional wind. While Dima pushed ahead blazing the route, and Henry played sweeper while lugging seven liters up the mountain, I entertained myself by looking for flowers.





After some light bushwhacking and route-finding up steep slopes, Henry and I made it to the large pine trees which begin around the six thousand-foot elevation line.



A huge rock blocked the sun, and Henry and I plopped down in the shade next to it, amid the beautiful forest setting.

Dima arrived from checking out a viewpoint ahead, and we all ate some lunch. I munched on some fruit and a pre-packed sandwich from 7-11. Henry had made his own sandwiches for the day. And Dima had a bag of dried banana chips and nuts.

After lunch we zigzagged up the slope another thousand feet to a bump at 7446', where we had an excellent view of San Jacinto.



By this point it was already 12pm. The near-constant sunbeating was finally getting to me. I felt a bit nauseous and already had burned through all five liters of my water. To stave off dehydration issues, Henry and Dima graciously supplied me with additional agua. Still, Henry and I were both pretty tired and started moving very slowly.

At point 7446', the ridge jogs southward and consists of several rocky bumps. The opportunity for more fun climbing helped take my mind off of how exhausted I was.









Three hours later we reached a flat area next to a drainage between two bumps. Rather than stick to the ridge, which would have added another 100' of gain to point 8802', we instead scrambled up the dry gully to a saddle and then dropped down into Long Valley, where we caught the trail to the tram station.




In total we survived about nine miles with 8700' of total gain, and were out for over thirteen hours.
JeffH

Hell of a walk.
Was the snake more startled than you guys?
Sean

The snake seemed more interested in sleeping than reacting to our presence. It may have opened its eyes, but it didn't rattle or move while we snapped pictures. Then it went back to sleep while we had a snack on the next boulder.
tekewin

I like that picture of Dima on a scramble section and the two long dead trees.

Your time was around our C2C time, but of course, we had a trail. It looks like a rough ride.

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