Hiking The 3 Peak Challenge/8,000 Meter Challenge
Earlier this year, I decided as a personal challenge I would hike six pack of peaks all over again. Doing this, with my life and schedule is quite difficult since I often travel and have to be ready to leave town at a moment’s notice. So, when the opportunity knocked to finish three in 24 hours: San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and Mt Baldy, I jumped at the chance.
The 3 Peak Challenge is through the Adventure 16 store. There are several options in taking the challenge which conveniently serves all skill levels: 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days or 24 hours. The total trek: 39 miles and 11,600 feet of total elevation gained. So myself, and three other women signed up through the West LA store and started planning.
Anyone who has tried to plan things amongst women, especially working women, know that its a challenge in itself to make the right day and time work for everyone involved. So, we settled on picking a Monday and starting at midnight. I guess I didn’t think enough of it at the time, as someone who doesn’t sleep well during the day, that I would be hiking 40 long and steep miles on day old rest. There, in itself was the first mistake I would make that would hinder my progress and accomplishment.
As I mentioned last week, there are/were many things I would pick to do differently and intend to next year when the challenge becomes available again. Through Adventure 16, you must finish by October 15th. There are also things that were done well and will be duplicated the second time around.
To me, failure is never an option because failure sucks. So, as you now know we did not finish having not enough time after summiting San Jacinto to make Baldy in time, with driving, plus the summit and back. But, my journey did not end there. Per Adventure 16, those who miss the 24 hour mark but still complete all three peaks are then eligible to be a finisher of the 3 day, 3 peak challenge which I completed after a days rest at Mt Baldy. And, damn… it felt good to get it done and over with.
If you are attempting the 24 hour challenge, also known as the Mark Fulton 8K Meter Challenge, here are some things to consider:
Be mentally prepared. I can tell you right now that my body held up well and could’ve taken more. My mind, not so much. Because I am someone who suffers from anxiety, I strongly urge you start the challenge when your affairs at ‘sea level’ are 100% in order. I had just began to move the week and weekend of the challenge and my life metaphorically and physically was a mess. It doesn’t feel good setting out on this mission being unsettled at home. Be right with your loved ones too… I cannot stress this enough. Because your body is busy on the trail, the mind will wander, at least it did for me and it did not feel great worrying about the loose ends I had at home.
Go with the right person, people. I cannot stress this enough. This mission should not be underestimated even by the most accomplished hiker. Because you are sleep deprived, because the miles are long and seem endless (especially while in the dark) sticking together is helpful. Teamwork. Go with someone who you have hiked with before and is evenly paced with you. Check in with each other leading up to your start date making sure your rest and nutrition are consistent and above par.
Bag your snacks, energy bars, etc separately for each peak. This was recommended to us by an Adventure 16 employee who has just recently completed the challenge. This helps you to relax, kick back in the car between the peaks instead of unpacking and repacking your bag.
Consider finding a driver. This was something we had in our favor. Because you are tired, on the edge of delirious I don’t recommend one person doing the driving. I know asking someone to drive you around for 24 hours seems like a lot because it is. Just something to consider.
Equipment and gear: bring poles, of course! Pack extra clothes (layers are best) and accessories like gloves, masks, hat, beanie, hand warmers for weather. The less gear you’re carrying on your back, the better. I lined up all my gear including wipes, my bio lite power light for charging my phone, headlamp, extra socks, trail runners (I recommend switching up your shoes), etc. Don’t forget your flag and time logging documents and get all this stuff together the day or night before so you’re not looking for things leading up to your departure.
Hike all of these mountains before the challenge some time. I had done 2/3, not San Gorgonio which made it seem like it took FOREVER. And, that was the peak we started with at midnight. Being in the dark, not knowing the trail worked against me mentally.
Check, recheck and be mindful of the weather. It was unusually cold when we did the challenge and WINDY. So WINDY (see video here). The last two miles up to the peak of San Gorgonio were scary and treacherous due to these winds. We knew it would be windy, but it was shocking while up there the strength of the wind blowing at us and nearly, no joke, blowing us over. Two of us lost our gloves because the wind literally took off with them.
If 24 hours seems like a lot, its because it is. Sleep deprivation is no joke. Hiking these mountains, especially San Gorgonio is hard enough as a day hike on a full nights sleep. Many of you can attest to that. For me, leaving at midnight did not work for me. But, planning is key. You will need a permit for San Gorgonio, so keep that in mind. San Jacinto is done from the tram which starts running at 8AM and the last ride down is at 10PM. So, plan your summits accordingly and plan them according to your sleep schedule leading up to your start time.
While on San Jacinto, at about the half way point I became delirious. I remember recording an instagram story and I nearly couldn’t understand my dictation because my brain, mouth and eyes were not ‘working’ properly. The more I moved, the quicker I hiked, the more I felt ‘out’ of my body. I didn’t feel any pain because my body was conditioned and ready for this, but my mind could not keep up. I often get vertugo and there were a few spots along the trail that this set in which was when I started to have to consider I was not going to make it at Baldy. I had actually just hiked Baldy that Wednesday to prepare and there was just no way with my condition on ‘San J’ that my head was going to make the trek. I just couldn’t see it happening, even though it was part of the plan. But, being a smart and prepared hiker means also planning for turning around. I remember some time ago, reading something from Mark Davis about this and it really resonated with me and it is how I made peace with it.
But, I also decided this was not the end for me. I went up Wednesday morning and made it to the top of Baldy to finish. I am really not one to quit, fail or execute poorly. So, to throw in the towel that night was an awfully hard thing for me to accept which is why I kept it going and made the summit of the 3 peaks on my own and different terms than originally planned. To me, there is no such thing as failure… at least, thats what I tell myself. I don’t regret having not made it or putting my body through such a battle, because what I learned will certainly help me again on this hike or other hikes and hopefully will help some of you too plan for this hard, treacherous but epic adventure.
If you would like further information on the 3 Peak Challenge visit, https://www.adventure16.com/info/3-peak-challenge
And feel free to email me, Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details, advice on the challenge.