Big Bear, CA, August 9, 2014 – Just a few miles south of the Big Bear Valley is the highest peak in Southern California. San Gorgonio Mountain, or as it’s known locally, Mount San Gorgonio, was named by Spanish Missionaries in the early 17th century after Saint Gorgonius, a Christian martyr who died in 304 AD.
At 11,503 feet, it can clearly be seen from the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, which is 190 miles away. Mount San Gorgonio is a large, broad mountain that from a distance only appears to be an extremely high hill, earning it the nickname Old Greyback. Hiking to the summit is very popular and is technically an easy class 1 hike, however most routes are quite strenuous and require well over 4000 feet of elevation gain.
Unfortunately, the mountain has claimed a number of lives due to airplane crashes. In 1953, thirteen people died when a C-47 from an Air Force Base in Nebraska struck the mountain at the 11,000 foot level at night in the middle of a storm. A month later, the Marine Corps helicopter that was recovering the victims of the earlier accident also crashed, but the three crewman onboard survived the impact. The wreckage of both aircraft still remain on the mountain. In more recent years, the mountain claimed the lives of Frank Sinatra’s mother in 1977 and Dean Martin’s son in 1987, also in plane crashes.
To access the peak, the easiest route is the trail leading from the Fish Creek Trailhead and has about 3400 feet of elevation gain which is less than the routes from the South Fork and Vivian Creek trailheads.