San Gorgonio

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San Gorgonio Trip Report (#9058)

  • Signed By: Joseph Pontisso
  • Date submitted: February 01, 2004
  • Date(s) climbed: 31 January 2004

A day with the hand of God around us. Judy Hartman and I went to climb Mt. San G. up the Vivian Creek trail. 2 weeks ago, a 25 year old hiker by the name of Eugene Kumm became lost in the same area. The search for him ended this past thursday. Judy and I had his soul on our minds as we hit the trail. Up above Mill Creek, alongside Vivian Creek, we first hit ice on the trail. I foolishly abstained from putting on crampons until we hit a stretch of trail 60' above the creek, where I fell all 60' down to the creek. I now sit on very painful reminders of that fall. Fall aside, I changed pants, patched a few cuts, and, with crampons ON, ice axe in hand, clambered back up to the trail. Beyond halfway camp, we hit the switchbacks that climb above Vivian Creek to high camp. The switchbacks were totally iced over on the north side of the ridge jutting off of Jepson/Dobbs Peaks. The 'trail', which was nothing more than the path of the search and rescue teams from the past few days, was incredibly exposed in places. One slip, and there'd be an uncontrollable slide into Vivian Creeks' drainage. In one spot in particular, at the foot of a rock monolith, things were scarry. We made it to high camp in good order, the last place anyone had seen Eugene. After having a hot lunch, we dicided to go back. The thought of climbing San G. and returning to those switchbacks in the dark, exhausted, didn't seem prudent. Just as we were starting off, we ran into 3 very well equipped young men. They were out on their own, 2 from the San G. search and rescue, to look for Eugene. They showed me on my map were the had searched before. All seaches were made on the assumption that Eugene had left high camp to go to the summit. We left high camp to head back down. As we descended the swithchbacks, we kept commenting on the incredibly exposed nature of the spot. When we came upon the monolith once again, Judy almost went down headfirst climbing over the boulders at the foot of the rock. On looking back at her, I could see 'slide' marks downhill from her exact spot where she wavered. So, we made it safely off the ridge, and, as soon as we got to where the trail hits relatively level ground, 100' from Vivian Creek, we ran into 6 well equipped people. They had found Eugenes' body, directly below the rock monolith, 100' from where we were standing that moment. 'They' were a family, husband, wife, and daughter. They were the people who had last seen Eugene alive, 2 weeks ago, and had come back yesterday on their own to search for Eugene. For his parents in Nebraska, for his girlfriend in Seal Beach. They suspected the Vivian Creek drainage below the switchbacks, and that is where they found his crumpled body. There were no signs on his patheticaly battered body that he had survived the slide and impact. To make the mood all the more somber, on a day where the forcast was for clear skies over all of sountern California, at noon, as the Harris family closed on his remains, a cloud crept up the valley of Mill Creek and settled over the Vivian Creek area. We were surrounded by a strange, still fog that was truly ghostly. No, Judy and I didn't summit yesterday, but we experienced a measure of winter mountaineering that encompassed the pleasures of cramponing up high in fresh snow, to a poignant reminder of what can happen if the cards turn on you. It was a day I'll never forget. I just wish to say to all who are connected to Eugene Kumm............The scene had all the appearance that God came and took Eugene. It was his time. Be safe on the mountains, everyone.

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