Sam Fink Peak HPS
Suicide Rock HPS

Thu, Dec 4, 2008

With: Tom Becht

Etymology
Sam Fink Peak
Suicide Rock
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profiles: 1 2

Continued...

Tom and I were up at 5a in Idyllwild Park with temperatures below freezing in order to get an early start. The outing was not expected to be difficult, but it would allow us to finish at a decent hour since I had to drive back to the Bay Area that evening. We drove up to Humber Park, our same starting point from the previous day, this time via a different trailhead. I had been on the Devils Slide Trail some years earlier on my first visit to San Jacinto. I had started in the dark for that trip as well.

It took us just over an hour to hike the 1,600ft of gain over three miles to Saddle Junction where daylight was starting to filter down through the trees. We spent the next hour and a half heading east past a series of junctions on a steady descent to Carumba Camp. We saw no one along the way the whole morning. Carumba Camp sits at the end of the trail, and judging from the map it lies at the edge of the eastern escarpment dropping down to Palm Springs. I expected the camp to have a wonderful view overlooking the desert in that direction, but was mistaken. It was as wooded and shaded as much of the rest of the San Jacinto plateau. I'm not really sure why the trail was built all the way out to this point and why a camp was established here. Perhaps for the privacy it offers?

It was finally above freezing around 8a as the sun started to penetrate the woods around Carumba Camp. We took a short break, then crossed the creek to the south side and looked around for some ducks and use trail. We found plenty of ducks and a thin trail heading up the north side of Sam Fink, just as indicated in the HPS guide. The trees gave way to open, low chaparral for the last 300ft or so providing nice views of the Desert Divide to the southwest. We were atop Sam Fink Peak shortly after 8:30a. The views were even better at the summit, looking north to San Jacinto, east to the deserts, south and west to the divide we had hiked along the previous day.

The register had some unusually wordy entries from Doug Mantle. It appears that Sam Fink Peak and nearby Drury Peak had been added to the HPS list around Dec of 1999. In order to "catch up" with his multiple completions of the HPS list, Doug visited both summits four times in a period of less than three weeks. Now that's dedication!

As it was fairly early and the entire hike had been fairly mundane, we looked around for something of interest, spotting the rocky ridgeline from Sam Fink to Red Tahquitz. We picked out the most prominent pinnacle along this ridge as a worthy objective and set out to climb it, following the interesting ridgeline. We were not disappointed. There was a great deal of fun scrambling on the coarse granite, some class 3, some bushwhacking, a sampling of all the little features that make for a good day in the mountains. All told we spent an hour and half reaching the highpoint, the class 3 summit rock being easier to ascend than descend. We were almost surprised to find no register from Lilley/MacLeod or Andy Smatko.

After descending off the ridge, we struck off cross-country to the northwest, taking about half an hour to find our way back to the trail we'd come in one. Just before noon we returned to our vehicles. Though I made a good try of it, I was unable to get Tom to join me for a quick ascent of nearby Suicide Rock. He'd had enough for the two days and was eager to get home, so we parted ways.

I drove out of the park and looked for the roads described in the HPS guide to reach the Suicide Rock TH. The roads in Idyllwild are somewhat confusing with their twists and turns, and I was unable to reconcile exactly where to start. No Parking signs abound outside Humber Park, but I managed to squeeze the van in a small space next to a water tank on the south side of the road. I figured I'd just cross the road, drop down to the creek and find my way to the other side towards Suicide Rock, picking up the trail eventually.

I got lucky, finding an old set of wooden stairs dropping down from the road immediately across from parking spot, with some helpful signs leading the way across the dry creekbed and onto the paved road on the other side. The signs continued to direct me to the TH, all the while keeping me off the private roads and property. There was a register at the end of the maintained trail, where the climbers' trail to Suicide Rock begins. I enjoyed the trail a good deal, as it winds its way through the forest towards the huge granite monolith that dominates the north side of Idyllwild. There are numerous braids in the trail, common with many climber trail, but this seemed to add to the charm in finding one's way rather than distracting from it.

The trail is not long, less than a mile in length, but is rises over 1,000ft towards the summit. Where the trail runs up against the steep rock slabs, it follows around the northeast side of the formation. I marveled at the slabs and cracks, wondering and guessing where the myriad of popular rock routes are located. The angle of the slabbly granite lessens as one moves around the NE side, climbing up to a saddle on the north side where it meets a maintained trail coming from the west. Before reaching this saddle I decided to climb up a class 3 set of cracks and slabs to give me some playtime on the best features of this summit. It was good fun for a couple of pitches worth, then it grew easy and I intercepted the maintained trail.

I followed the trail to its end at an overlook on the south side of the summit, surprised that it didn't reach to the top. After scrambling up the remaining bit to the summit I found out why - there are no views to be had at the forested top. But there was an HPS register dating to 1992, which seemed quite old given the ease of reaching this summit. I suppose most folks stop at the overlook and return without climbing to the top.

Jogging much of the return back down, it took only 25 minutes to retrace my steps (minus the class 3 scramble on the slabs) back to the van. It was not yet 2p, and I easily had time to grab a shower back at Idyllwild Park and make the drive back to the Bay Area before 10p. I would have a few days to reacquaint myself with the family before turning around and driving back to Southern California for another four days...


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