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Cornell Peak

10 September 1994

By: Alan Coles

Leaders: Alan Coles, Charlie Knapke

Several years ago, Martin Feather and I wanted to climb Cornell Pk, but it was at the time of year when the Palm Springs Tramway was closed. We decided instead to do a loop hike from Humber Park over Wellman Divide to Round Valley, then return by Hidden Lake and Willow Creek. It turned out to be a very nice trip especially since we had all of Round Valley to ourselves.

Charlie Knapke and I wanted to repeat the same hike but were unable to schedule it when the tram was closed (this year in August) so we decided on the week after Labor Day. Interest in the trip was less than overwhelming, but a few people sent in SASE's and there were several phone calls a day or 2 before the trip.

On a brisk Saturday morning only one other person, George Wysup, showed up at the trailhead around 7 a.m. We waited about 15 minutes but no one else arrived, so we started up the familiar Devil's Slide Trail under cloudy skies that beckoned of winter. A good pace was assured and we reached Saddle Junction in less than an hour. We switched onto the PCT and climbed up to lush Wellman Cienega where water was oozing out among the Skunk Cabbage and Bracken Ferns. We continued climbing up to Wellman Divide before dropping down to Round Valley and passing the tram hikers on the way to San Jacinto who mistakenly believed we were speed demons descending the peak.

A short while later we entered Tamarack Valley and left the trail for a steep climb up to the summit. A few stretches of upper class 2 brought us to the chalk stone just below the summit, as far as our leadership ratings would allow. Less than 4 hours after starting, we had gone 8 miles with 4000' of gain.

After a 40 minute lunch break, we descended back to Tamarack and Round Valleys, then turned onto the other trail that goes over Hidden Lake Divide. This is a very pleasant route, evenly graded, shady with many meadows along the way. A modest gain over the pass and a steep descent brought us to Willow Creek. From there the trail is nearly flat through a sea of bright green ferns to the intersection back at Saddle Junction. We put our feet on overdrive for the long descent back to Humber Park and arrived around 3:15. A very nice trip in all.

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