Monday, January 17, 2022

Lost Palms Oasis

Hiked: 1/16/2022
Distance: 8.6 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 3130' (at the oasis)
Elevation Gain: 1200'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.9
Round trip time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: $30 National Parks Fee (one car for one week)
Difficulty: Moderate

Leisa and I camped at Cottonwood Springs in the southern part of Joshua Tree. It was suprising cold, even for January, and we burned more wood for the fire than planned. We accidentally left some food out over night and the coyotes took advantage. We heard loud yipping at 4 AM and the food was gone in the morning, packaging dragged 25' from the site. There was a spur trail in the campground that connected to the rest of the trail system. We had arrived the day before and did a warm up hike to Mastodon Peak. Since it only adds about a mile, Mastodon is often combined with the Oasis hike. The trail was sandy and smooth. It passed by dozens of giant boulder piles and Eagle Mountain was visible to the north. With cool temperatures, we didn't see anything in the way of desert wildlife other than an occasional lizard. The trail seemed flat, but there were numerous small bumps as we moved in and out of washes and adjoining ridges. At the end of the official trail was a sign with a warning about descending into the canyon to reach the oasis. You can't see much of the oasis from the sign, so you have to either partially descend or continue past it to look down on the palms. It was about 100' down to the oasis, and there were a couple of use trails, one much better than the others. I didn't find the best way down at first. Much of the descent path was covered in tiny pebble scree, making footing a concern. Leisa was unsure it was worth descending into the canyon at first, but followed a couple just behind us who did find the best way down. My own scramble down was class 2 and I met up with her at the bottom. The oasis was filled with dozens of beautiful palms and we followed the canyon another thousand feet to some comfortable rocks. We rested for a while as other parties began heading back up. We were able to follow the best use trail on the way back and footing was less of a concern going up. It was quite a popular trail on this MLK holiday weekend.










Sunday, January 2, 2022

Eisenhower Mountain Loop

Hiked: 1/1/2022
Distance: 6.6 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 1952'
Elevation Gain: 1730'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: $27.95 admission (adult) to Living Desert Zoo
Difficulty: Moderate (cross country scramble)

I celebrated New Years Day by getting Eisenhower Mountain, another peak along the La Quinta ridge. The approach was a trail in the Living Desert Zoo. Admission was not cheap, but this was by far the easiest route to Eisenhower. I got to wander around the Zoo after the hike as a bonus. I was customer number three on the day when the park opened at 8 AM. I stayed left from the entrance to reach the start of the desert trails. I planned to do the complete loop, up the Canyon Trail and down the Ridge Trail. The Canyon Trail dips in and out of a wash and the second exit was not easy to find. I had to make a course correction. Somewhere along the trail that cuts across Eisenhower, I planned to leave the trail and scramble up. I almost went up the first major gully I came to, it looked like it could go, but the trail climbed a little higher before I needed to leave it. I continued all the way to the picnic table, about the half way point on the loop.

Eisenhower on the left



Looking up the rocky ridge

I picked a line left of a big outcrop and took that to gain the north ridge. The ridge rose 950' in about 0.4 miles. It looked steep enough to hit class 3, but remained class 2 all the way. I was surpised to find some useful cairns marking a path up. The summit was flat with a couple of competing boulders, one standing a few feet above the others. There was some black PVC tube that had fallen down and some broken boards. I didn't find any marks or a register. I took a short break on top, but it was cool and windy so I didn't linger. I did look down the other side where a trail heads down to a private golf club (shown on Openstreet Map). The view down the ridge to LaQuinta BM looked fun, but would have taken too much time to get there and back the same day. Also, there was no good bail off point from LaQuinta without coming out in a private gated golf club. There may be a way to leave the Living Desert trail and approach LaQuinta. Research for another day. I returned down the north slope the way I came up. It was slow coming down due to loose rocks and the angle. Once I got back to the trail, I continued around the loop on the Ridge Trail. I stopped the GPS when I got back to the Zoo, then roamed around looking at animals. It was a fun hike to start 2022.






Snowy San Jacinto



Looking back at Eisenhower

Cheetahs



Monday, December 27, 2021

Estimated Energy to hike Rabbit East Ridge Loop

I stumbled on an article at Outside Online about an equation developed by the Army for estimating the energy expended while walking on level ground, uphill, and downhill.

The equation takes into account the mass of the walker, the gradient (G), the speed (S), and converts that to an hourly energy expenditure (EE) in watts/kg. Notably, it takes into account downhill or negative gradients. Downhill walking requires less energy up to a -10% grade, then it starts taking more energy as you have to spend energy to control your descent. The somewhat complex formula is:

EE = 1.44 + 1.94*S^0.43 + 0.24*S^4 + 0.34*S*G*(1-1.05^(1-1.11^(G+32)))

This was a unique loop going up the Rabbit East Ridge, then down the trail toward Villager, then descending a wild ridge with no trails over 3 benchmarks, back to Barton Canyon and the start. I used three segments, Start to Rabbit summit, summit to descent ridge (800' gain), descent ridge to start.

I carried an average of 174 oz of water on the way up, 78 oz on the way to the descent ridge, and 32 oz on the descent ridge. I ran out of water on the way down.

Gradients were calculated using (rise/run)*100 to get a percentage. Downhill uses a negative gradient.

I converted everything from English units to metric, then converted the metric result, (watts/kg * mass), into calories (kilo-calories).

Here was the data:

Segment 1 (Start to Summit)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.4768426667
Gradient 13.24968434
EE (watts/kg) 5.002098962
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 77.5076
Watts/kg/hour (burn rate) 333.3644344
Calories burned 3000

Segment 2 (Summit to Descent Ridge)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.89408
Gradient 15.15151515
EE (watts/kg/hour) 8.04202677
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 74.78604
Watts/hour (burn rate) 517.140734
Calories burned 517

Segment 3 (Descent Ridge to start)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.54395076
Gradient -11.83712121
EE (watts/kg/hour) 2.305600338
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 73.481965
Watts/hour (burn rate) 145.6758242
Calories burned 1748

Total Calories expended: 5265


The giant loop we did over Rabbit was one of the most physicaly difficult hikes I've ever done. The east ridge and the descent ridge were cross country, easy for the most part, but required attention to avoid cactus and agave. The first few hours and last few hours were all done in the dark across Barton Canyon. The canyon was filled with 20' ruts, boulders, and brush. It looks flat on the topo, but really isn't. So far, the Rabbit loop has the energy expenditure record, but I have a few more hikes to calculate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Estimated Energy to hike Iron Mountain #1

I stumbled on an article at Outside Online about an equation developed by the Army for estimating the energy expended while walking on level ground, uphill, and downhill.

The equation takes into account the mass of the walker, the gradient (G), the speed (S), and converts that to an hourly energy expenditure (EE) in watts/kg. Notably, it takes into account downhill or negative gradients. Downhill walking requires less energy up to a -10% grade, then it starts taking more energy as you have to spend energy to control your descent. The somewhat complex formula is:

EE = 1.44 + 1.94*S^0.43 + 0.24*S^4 + 0.34*S*G*(1-1.05^(1-1.11^(G+32)))

I decided to test the equation against a solid benchmark hike, Iron Mountain #1 in the San Gabriel Mountains.

I broke the hike into 4 segments. Heaton to Allison Saddle, Allison to summit, summit to Allison, and Allison to Heaton.

For mass, I started with my body mass, then added 15 pounds for base pack weight, then added water based on my hike from 2012 when I consumed 224 oz. I took the average water mass at the midpoint of each segment, assuming I drank steadily down to 0 oz at the end. So, the average water mass for the segments was based on 196 oz for segment 1, 140 oz for segment 2, 84 oz for segment 3, and 28 oz for segment 4. I ignored food.

I calculated the speed for each segment using GPS data from that hike, obviously much slower going up. The speed includes all breaks along the way and rest time at the top. Including rest time should net out to zero for total energy because it results in a lower average speed, and lower calculated burn rate which is added back by the extra time.

Gradients were calculated using (rise/run)*100 to get a percentage. Downhill uses a negative gradient.

I converted everything from English units to metric, then converted the metric result, (watts/kg * mass), into calories (kilo-calories).

Here was the data:

Segment 1 (Heaton to Allison Saddle)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.7663542857
Gradient 21.77906029
EE (watts/kg/hour) 8.927773714
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 85.04857
Watts/hour (burn rate) 759.2943876
Calories burned 1523

Segment 2 (Allison Saddle to Summit)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.3988972308
Gradient 22.19794828
EE (watts/kg/hour) 5.763360009
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 83.34478
Watts/hour (burn rate) 480.3459721
Calories burned 1342

Segment 3 (Summit to Allison Saddle)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.5439507692
Gradient -22.19794828
EE (watts/kg/hour) 2.612379286
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 81.75478
Watts/hour (burn rate) 213.5744938
Calories burned 437

Segment 4 (Allison Saddle to Heaton)

Speed (meters/sec) 0.7502769231
Gradient -21.77906029
EE (watts/kg/hour) 2.737320404
Mass (body weight + pack + water) 80.16478
Watts/hour (burn rate) 219.436688
Calories burned 449

Total Calories expended: 3751


It was counter-intuitive that I spent more calories getting to Allison Saddle, that from Allison to the summit. However, I was carrying more water at the start over a longer distance. It was objectively much harder to go from Allison to the summit, but it took more time over a shorter distance. Plus, it was warmer which is something the equation does not take into account. It took less than half the energy to descend each segment, which seemed right, though my speed coming down to Allison was not very fast due to the gradient. I was also tired coming down. The total calories burned appeared reasonable, though my data was somewhat crude (for example, I used averages for water while it was actually a continuous curve. I suspect the Army's formula is a good enough estimate of the energy required for a hike. I am looking forward to additional calculations on some of my other "black pin" hikes.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Chaparrosa Peak Loop

HPS Star Emblem Peak
Hiked: 12/3/2021
Distance: 7.7 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 5541'
Elevation Gain: 1462'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.1
Round trip time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Recommended water: 40 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Pioneertown Mountains Preserve
Difficulty: Easy

Chaparrosa Peak is north of Joshua Tree in a transition zone between desert and the San Bernardino foothills. I got a late start arriving mid-morning. There are two trails to the summit. I decided to go up Pipes Canyon, the longer trail. There was a stream of water in the canyon that nourished enough small trees to create a good bit of shade. After wandering upstream a couple of miles, I reached the Owens ruins. Information on the cabin ruins were sparse. The trail cuts back to climb a gully, then rollercoasters over several bumps before reaching the intersection with the summit spur trail. Everything was signed and well maintained so there was little chance of getting lost. I was ready to be unimpressed, but the summit revealed wonderful views of granite towers, cliffs, and red lava rock. The only break I took was on the summit. I tried to push my pace on the way down, completing the loop in just over 3 hours. I made it more of a training hike than one ticking off an HPS peak. There was one other car in the visitors parking lot, but I didn't see anyone all day.



Owens ruins

Approaching the low prominence summit

Giant San Jacinto in the background



This area looks a lot like the San Ysidro mountains in Anza-Borrego


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Thorn Point

HPS Star Emblem Peak
Hiked: 11/19/2021
Distance: 7.3 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 6920'
Prominence: 560'
Elevation Gain: 2002'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.6
Round trip time: 4 hours
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Thorn Meadows Campground
Difficulty: Moderate

I got up at 3 AM to prep for a long day of driving to Los Padres, pretty standard. I always curse the drive, but never end up regretting it. The target was Thorn Point (HPS #25), home to an abandoned look out tower in the heart of the forest. The start was at Thorn Meadows campground, an 8 mile drive on a bumpy dirt road (7N03B) with one stream crossing. High clearance recommended. The top of the stream was frozen when I crossed and the temp at the trailhead was a shocking 27F. I got started with 3 layers and gloves and was cold for about 30 minutes before body heat and patches of sunlight warmed me up. The hike was beautiful from the start with a mix of large deciduous and evergreen trees. The first mile was fairly flat along a drainage, then gained a ridge. The slope was steady passing cliffs and randomly scattered boulders.







I was pretty close to the top before I spotted the tower. The trail took a somewhat indrect path with plenty of switchbacks to keep the gain in check. Scenery opened up behind as climb unfolded. Below the tower was the Sierra Club register in red cans, and a USFS register book that was in pieces. Next to the tower was a shack littered with debris. From what I gathered online, the tower has not been in use since the 1980s. The structure was made of steel girders while the tower was made up of decaying wood. It wasn't locked so I climbed up an poked around, carefully testing the floor as I went. The tower had a book with a story written by son of a ranger who used to man the tower in the 1950s. A few tools were lying around and a few people wrote about their interest in restoring the tower. The whole vibe was cool. I don't always agree with the Sierra Club, but Thorn Point deserves the emblem badge. After loitering for a while, I started down the trail, taking my time to soak in as much as possible. I had the entire mountain to myself. Nothing better to reboot the soul.