From ‘Mount Baldy Boys’ to ‘Cactus to Clouds Crew’

Palisadian Hiking Crew Climbs to New Heights

By MARIE TABELA | Contributing Writer

Back in May, the Palisadian-Post reported on a group of spirited and determined young men and their fathers who summited the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains: Mount Baldy. Henceforth, they were known as the “Mount Baldy Boys.”

Never to be limited by prior successes, they have reached new heights. Now, Phil Johnson, Pierce Bendikson, Michael Larson, Graydon Larson, Jonathan Lischke, Aidan Stuempfig and Alex Stuempfig have completed a new goal: reaching the top of Mount San Jacinto, which hits a whopping 10,834 feet from a starting elevation of 520 feet on the Cactus to Clouds trail.

There are a few ways to get to the top of San Jacinto, including the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the Marion Mountain Trail near Idyllwild or the Cactus to Clouds Trail from Palm Springs, which is known as the most difficult option.

The Cactus to Clouds trail is regarded as one of the steepest trails in the world for its length, as well as one of the most difficult hikes in the world. Water is hard to come by, and temperatures are known to swell well into the triple digits.

Without breaks, it takes many hikers up to 13 hours or more to complete this epic journey.

For these Palisadian boys, however, it took them just under nine hours, and they even beat their dads to the top.

To prepare, they trained rigorously on Palisadian hills, ran the Santa Monica stairs and of course, slammed out Mount Baldy.

When asked if Mount Baldy prepared them for this arduous journey, the boys told Post, “Baldy was hard and very vertical, but honestly nothing prepares you for the punishment of the San Jac climb.”

Punishing as it was, however, the boys enthusiastically agreed that doing it all over again is absolutely in the cards. As if completing this hike was not enough of a Herculean feat, the boys who did it are all between the ages of 9 and 11.

To stay motivated, they kept in mind that they would be making history as among the youngest kids to successfully complete the climb. In doing so hours below their initial time goal (between 10 and 12 hours), their motivational thoughts clearly paid off in spades.

The next goal for these climbing enthusiasts is to “get radical” and climb either the Yosemite Half Dome—which reaches an elevation of 8,842 feet and takes anywhere from 10 to 14 hours—or Mount Whitney, which reaches 14,505 feet and takes most hikers anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. They plan to climb Mt. Whitney in spring 2019.

Their ultimate goal? “To climb Mount Everest, some B.A.S.E. jumping, big wave surfing and radical heli-skiing off cliffs,” said the boys. If any group can check these off the bucket list, it’s this crew.

For now, reporters at the Post will stick to hiking Temescal Canyon.