No matter how old you are, or what your situation is, chances are you know someone who has been affected by a disease. Such is the nature of modern life. Despite the horror diseases cause on victims and their friends/families - the suffering of a loved on can also bring people together, causing them to take on challenges or rally round a "cause." Such causes/challenges often are often undertaken to spread awareness or raise money for research toward medical treatment or hope for a cure. They normally entail pushing limits - whether dumping ice water on ourselves, walking for a whole day, or running long distances - we push ourselves in order to encourage other people to sponsor us or share our stories.
Over the last thirty years as hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail-running, and other outdoor activities have become more and more popular, the number of races, challenges, and other activities that package elements from more than one trail have also increased. Some of these challenges have set days, like the Phoenix 7 Summit Challenge; and some of these challenges can last over the course of a year, like my friend Jeff Hester’s Six Pack of Peaks challenge. And, as of November 7, 2015, Mission Trails Regional Park inaugurated San Diego’s own trail challenge, the 5-Peak Challenge, which can be completed in a day, or over the course of a year.
Out of all the continental United States, Southern California offers some of the greatest variety in terrain. What it does not offer on occasion on certain trails is serenity, and solitude. While popular trails face heavy traffic nation-wide, popular trails in Southern California sometimes resemble a human version of the region’s congested roadways. Despite these problems, hikers of all skill levels in the region – especially in 2016 – know where to go and when to go to avoid crowds, thanks in part to the internet, and thanks in part to a greater interest in hiking generally. One of the routes in the region that has always been popular has been the Aerial Tramway to San Jacinto summit, due in part to the moderate distance (11.5 miles roundtrip), moderate elevation gain (2,190 feet), unique aerial tram ride experience, and possibility of summitting one of Southern California’s highest mountains (unofficially now known as the “Six Pack of Peaks”).
If I was to tell you that there was a race that involved climbing five to seven mountains in one day, for a total of twenty to twenty-six total miles, you’d probably assume that this race was going on in Colorado. While that’s a good guess – you’d be wrong. This race is actually in Phoenix, Arizona, and it’s called the Phoenix Summit Challenge.